Living away from home is never an easy prospect. One misses the camaraderie of family life, the comfort of communicating in one’s own language and the ease with which one can access familiar foods. Though numerous people make their homes away from their countries, the longing for one’s homeland and familiar experiences remains deeply embedded. One way to channel this nostalgia is through art, which is a medium of expression that transcends language and other communication barriers. Therefore, showcasing one’s art to the larger community of the new place one has made their home in, is a way to connect and find a unique place for oneself.
This is the reason behind the unique annual art exhibition ‘Just People’ held every year in Delhi to display the work of European artists who live in India. The exhibition is the initiative of Russian socio-cultural development centre Atlas, which is a forum that brings together the vibrant Eastern European expatriate community. The exhibition this year is set to take place from November 1-5 at the Open Palm Court Gallery at the India Habitat Centre. Ekaterina Semenushkova, Russian expat and Founder of Atlas took the lead to organise this exhibition when conversations with fellow members of her organization made her realize that each one turned to art as therapy during the difficult months of pandemic-induced lockdowns.
Ever since her arrival in India over six years ago, Semenushkova has worked to enhance the social and cultural ties between India and Russia. Towards this end, she launched the organization Atlas in 2020. Through her efforts, she was introduced to numerous emigres from Eastern Europe, who shared both her vision and her love of creative pursuits. Lauding her fellow members and their artistic ability, she explains, “It was amazing to discover that without any professional training, people can create such beautiful art works! We are not used to thinking of artists as normal people like us. We do not realize they are just people who live, work and practice their hobbies. This is why I named our exhibition – Just People.”
This edition of Just People will showcase paintings, photographs, embroidered works, handmade jewellery, handicrafts, and Russian lace work, among other offerings. Semenushkova explains, “The exhibition is a showcase of the creative work of expats – non-professional and young artists living in India. The purpose of the exhibition is to gain support for young artists living away from their home countries, as well as to encourage the development and support of contemporary art.”
Embroidery artist Mila Supinskaya who participated in last year’s exhibition, is excited to do so again. “Amateur artists are not bad artists. Their amateur status is only a way to signify that art is not their primary occupation. In fact, without the pressure of pursuing it professionally, there is greater scope for growth and more freedom. Exhibitions like this one are great because they make us more confident to showcase our work publicly,” she exclaims.
Natalia Verma is a photographer who had a long-held dream of being able to show her works in an art exhibition, and is most grateful to Atlas for the opportunity provided to artists like her. “Every creative person needs exposure. Participating in Just People exhibition is a great chance for amateur and professional expat artists to show people their art, to be noticed and be given an opportunity to grow in this field. I also love the fact that it brings together talented people who can meet each other and be inspired by others. It is an event not to be missed! Everything was organized so well last year and with so much love. All my works were sold in last year’s exhibit.”
Marria Medunica is an artist, dollmaker, jewellery designer and art educator. She has been working with sheep wool for fourteen years and her work is part of numerous private collections around the world. As a regular participant in international art dolls exhibitions in Russia, Germany and Japan, she believes that anything can be made from wool and there is no limit to its possibilities as a medium. This is her first time participating in Just People, but she is looking forward to interacting with the twenty-odd other artists whose works will be on display alongside hers.
Once Just People wraps up, Semensuhkova has other plans in place. Speaking about her forthcoming ventures, she says, “I am developing the Art Space of Compatriots project, which will be a festival of creativity in Russia in the summer of 2023. We also hold regular meetings of the Russian Book Club in Delhi, where every two months we discuss the books we have read.”
If you are in Delhi, do mark your calendars for the Just People art exhibition set to take place from November 1-5 at the Open Palm Court Gallery at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.
Noor Anand Chawla pens lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com.