S Giri, Art Protector Extraordinaire

S Giri at his studio

As he leads the way into his studio and gently lifts the veil off some beautiful works of art , S Giri tells us the story of how he went on to becoming the only art conservator in Pune. “It was by choice, temperamentally I’m a scientist. I studied science and graduated in physics but I had a little creative streak,” smirks Giri. Having already enrolled himself in an M Sc in Astrophysics course, his dilemma to “ditch the creative bud blooming within or continue science” was finally put to rest when National Museum in Delhi had announced the masters in conservation of artifacts course. This was his chance to combine his love for science and art. He goes on to compare his profession to that of a doctor’s; “My office is a hospital for artifacts. The way we practise our profession is just like a medical profession. We exercise preventive conservation, to make sure nothing goes wrong with the objects right from handling, storage, framing, display conditions of the artwork.”

Just as the myriad shades of art are seen to dull with age, Giri’s passion for restoring that lost touch has never dampened his spirits for the past 28 years. Part of his profession also includes suggesting how to make the artifact and that sometimes poses a challenge. “There is always a big debate between the artist and conservator as to where to draw the line of interference. To work without hampering their creativity but at the same time I believe if you take little care the object will go a long way. Artists often tend to mix materials to create their paintings which may not be sustainable,” explains Giri. That’s where the role of a conservator gets important, it’s not only for the artist’s benefit but the one who purchases it as well. “My clientele has been changing over the years, now a lot of corporate houses purchase art as well as individuals for the sheer love and appreciation. Therefore, it becomes important that the artist creates the product that can be sustained.”

Beginning his journey as an art conservator with Indian National Trust for Art and Culture Heritage (INTACH), Giri now works with a number of private institutes and is also a consultant with City Palace Museum in Udaipur since 2008. “There was a time when people did not know about a career like this, including my parents. They didn’t know what I was doing,” reminisces Giri.  “But now this is changing. There are more institutions, more avenues that have opened up,” he adds. India with its rich cultural heritage needs to be protected as well, and despite the government taking several initiatives to preserve our culture, the importance given to this is always in question. “All over the world safeguarding culture is not always on top priority. In India, at the moment we have a lot of other priorities such as health care, education and therefore conserving artifacts and monuments gets side tracked,” explains Giri. But, he adds with a positive smile, “we cannot see it from one dimension only. There is no point in playing the blame game, I have observed tremendous change over the years with regard to the increase in awareness. Sensitising kids about this is the way forward.”

Zeenat Tinwala

Zeenat Tinwala

She’s our Employee #1 and is often the first to come in and last to leave office. And she’s an accomplished kickboxer. Stay clear! zeenat@pune365.com
Zeenat Tinwala