Winter has its own charm up in the hills. On a cloudy morning, I decided to explore a rather unexplored part of Himachal Pradesh. On traveller’s radar because of the art events organised by The 4tables Project, Gunehar, a small art village had me intrigued. By Radhika Sikaria
As I walked around the village I noticed beautifully painted wall art, which perfectly contrasted and yet blended with life around it. The irony of it made me curious to know everything I could about the art culture of the village. As I entered The 4Tables café, I knew I was in for a treat. Apart from the view from the balcony and the well flavoured spaghetti, and zucchini coconut soup, what made me spend hours there (apart from the heavy rain) was the tranquility.
I had so many questions in my mind for the man behind it all—Frank Schlichtmann. “I started this nine years ago, just by chance. When I moved to Gunehar, from Germany, there were certain things that I missed,” he informed.
After a quick Google search the night before, I had learned about the various art events held at Gunehar. Right from ShopArt ArtShop, a month long conceptual arts event, to In The Woods, an open exhibition held in the forest above Gunehar, to the Gallery Of Arts in the village that houses all the artwork from the events. I wanted to know what made Frank develop Gunehar as a hub of art high in the mountains. You could see the love he has for his project in the way he explained it to me.
“The hospitality side of me says that if you start associating a place, not with cheap thrills but with something that is different, like art for instance, then you also get different kind of public coming in, who are not looking for cheap beer or bad burgers but rather for art, which is in no way cheap!”
But what kind of art are we talking about here, I quizzed. Are we talking about paintings and sculptures? With a loud and clear ‘no’ Frank expressed his disinterest.
“It is like a mission statement to not have painters and sculptors. Painting has been overrun by photography long ago. Unless you have realised as an artist that paintings are long dead, you can’t revive paintings.” Talking about conceptual art, he says, “Art, for the last 100 years at least has always been conceptual. More interesting than how grand the stroke is, is the idea behind the art. Art is the demonstration of the ideas-it can be done through sound, it can be done through a black screen, it can be done through installations, it can be done through movements, it can be done through letters. It is something that India needs to learn, but it is not something that is unpopular.”
Soon, the rain stopped and I left the café. Frank suggested I check out the mud building they constructed, which now stands as a café called Silver Linings. As I sat there with a hot cuppa and pancakes, I kept thinking about what Frank had said. Feeling artsy myself, I seeked inspiration in the farm outside the café window by my table, and doodled away!