Re-viewing Activism and Art via SPACE Theater Ensemble (STE)

 

(Published in Indie Art Zine, August, 2016)

Looking into the possibilities of art-activism symbiosis

STE is a branch of SPACE—The Society for Promoting the Arts, Culture and Education, based in Goa. It functions as a travelling theater troupe offering workshops and performances, featuring a varying number of young energetic artists. Content-wise, their areas of interest also fit into the category of cultural activism. One finds that intriguing, because activism and art do not always go well hand in hand. Although both involves, in their own ways, means to reach out to people—the more the merrier. At various levels they need each other too.

A direct information-feed provided by an external agent—in particular an activist propaganda— may sound like a dictation or a sermon if it lacks a physical, emotional and intellectual involvement of the audience. Because it becomes either decontextualized and uninteresting due to lack of exposure of the audience to the corresponding history (hence their lack of identification with the underlying issue), or a drag due to lack of articulation skill on the agent’s part. Whereas an indirect representation of the same information through art may appear more approachable, and thus may be able to propagate that same information to the same audience through an abstract ‘masking’ of the feed. Thus the audience who were at the receiving end of the information turn into an active interpreter of the information and hence an insider—an ‘activist collaborator’. The skill of a good political orator, for example, or even of a teacher is comparable to that of a performance artist.

Artistic representations sometimes may also be able to provide a succinct, self-sufficient background of the context (e.g. through skits or songs or infographics), which then may be perceived by the audience as an abbreviated version of the larger scenario and generate interest in the latter.

On the other hand, art is essentially a faction of semantics—creating meaningful signs that the artist uses to express observations and opinions. Moreover, art too often aspires to talk about socio-political-economic issues in some form or the other through its various tools (forms and techniques) of ‘masking’, and needs to be seen—in order to become worthy of exploration—not merely as whims of individual agents, but a channel of development of communication among growing number of people. In this perspective, art may and does become a parallel documentation of not only culture but history and sociology, economic and political theories.

This is why it is important to understand for every artist where her art comes from. Not just the brain and the soul, but in terms of sources of inspiration, intent, target audience and last but not the least funding. It is equally important for every active member of the audience to demand to probe into the process as much as the product which is being presented to her through art, in particular performances. And this is also why it is vital for the artist to differentiate whether to perceive her creation as a commodity or an expression. Because, even when it comes to commodity products, the audience (or the buyer) is some sort of an insider within the producer-seller-consumer chain. But that is not the same as the ideal of comradery among the activist collaborators.

Speaking about sources of inspiration—it is indeed a performance by STE that inspired me to write this essay. It was not so-to-say a perfect show, nor was it an embodiment of absolutely everything that I would hover on here. But it gave me a very strong starting point to start this discussion. As I try to express in the title, it is not just about reviewing that one particular performance by STE. It is more about some of the above-mentioned aspects in the case of performing arts and activism, in terms of my own understanding revisited through that performance. Nonetheless, I am grateful to the STE performance for representing images and processes of this kind of activist collaboration that has haunted me for a long time.

Par Larsson

STE (Photo: Par Larsson)

Activist collaboration in art via STE

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Notes on ‘Notes on Chai’

 

(Published in Aainanagar, May 2016)

“‘…It’s always six o’ clock now.’
A bright idea came into Alice’s head. ‘Is that why so many tea-things are put out here?’ she asked.
‘Yes, that’s it’ said the Hatter with a sigh, ‘it’s always tea-time, and we’ve no time to wash the things between whiles.’
‘Then you keep moving round I suppose?’ said Alice.
‘Exactly so,’ said the Hatter, ‘as the things get used up.’
‘But what happens when you come to the beginning again?’ Alice ventured to ask.
‘Suppose we change the subject,’ the March Hare interrupted, yawning, ‘I’m getting tired of this. I vote the young lady tells us a story.’”

And then the dormouse tells the tale of the three little sisters who lived at the bottom of a well, living on treacle, and were very, very ill all the bloody time.

In fact, something similar happens in actor/writer Jyoti Dogra’s ‘Notes on Chai’.

d3

It is not a coincidence that since April 8th, 2016, when I watched this one-woman act created and performed by Jyoti Dogra at Max Mueller Bhavan, Chennai, I have been encountering the word ‘Chai’ or ‘Tea’ more frequently than before. Dogra loosely weaves a bunch of narratives together through their relationship with tea. The angst and salvation, sin and medicine, love and hate that the mimicked voices of the protagonists of these narratives pour into their cups of tea are bound to make one look differently at her everyday-life revolving around tea—making tea, drinking tea, watching others making or drinking tea, thinking of tea, not thinking of tea, not thinking of others thinking of tea and so on. These voices—very well-observed by Dogra, thus perfectly catching and exaggerating their characteristic nuances—are political in nature. This very politics is also one of the selling-points of her work as this is what makes it something larger than simple mimicry. The Alices, Mad Hatters, March Hares, Dormice and Little Girls living at the bottom of wells that Dogra draws on the stage, strike many a tragicomic chord in the hearts of the audience. But as her work becomes an overt political statement in certain matters, it remains politically blind to certain others.

Tea, in general, can be interesting to an Indian audience for many reasons—being not just a culinary but more of a social ritual in Indian households at every occasion of laughter and sorrow, get-togethers and getting-away, being a symbol of orientalism, representing status statements, style statements, brand names, art, skill, serving as nutrient, laxative, addiction, anti-depressant, being a source of hundreds of roles and professions distinguished by class, caste and gender, being one of the deeply influential colonial residuals, being one of the most important exported goods and last but not the least being one of the biggest Indian industries possessing one of the most unfair labour policies. These are ‘tea-matters’ that affect our lives—sometimes in remote ways—irrespective of whether we acknowledge them or not. But contrary to what the name of the piece suggests, ‘Notes on Chai’ remains blissfully ignorant of most of these, making the title almost a misnomer. Nonetheless, it is a beautifully done piece. Therefore, I may (and I do) stand up for Dogra at the end of the often-mesmerizing 1 hour and 40 minutes, clap, hoot, cheer, appreciate and exclaim, but cannot totally evade some of the questions that comes to my mind—questions to Dogra as a creator and a performer, to fellow audience-members, but most importantly to myself—as a thinking being, as a woman, as Indian, as an addicted, certified, hopelessly devoted tea-drinker.

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My dear artists – Aabra’ca’Dabra – conjurors of urban street art

April 16, 2015, 17:45. A break between two sax-guitar-sitar jam sessions. Some of them – clothes and palms coated with thick paints – are busy with their brushes on the pitch road along Dhakuria Lake. The two amateur announcers reluctantly get up, once again rub the dust off their jeans and take yet another hesitant step towards the audience. “Here. Look at us once more – two idiots in white – the colour of peace, you see? We are Aabra‘ca’dabra. We like to do art. Art is magic. The space where we live today severely needs magic. We believe that anybody can perform a magical act like we are performing today. And in this time we live, road is the only road leading to that magic.”

They could have just uttered the spell: Aabra’ca’Dabra!

dhakuria4

Dhakuria Lake, Kolkata

The ‘performance’ that they are referring to is urban street art at its purest. It is a nonchalantly crazy blend of paint and music, movement and sound, talent and whim; a deceptively peaceful battle of the arrogance of aesthetic-intellectual elitism (almost annoying, though intriguing) versus the humbleness of rustic-bohemian intimacy (almost endearing, though incomprehensible). Last but not the least, Abra’ca’dabra is a chant about ‘art in protest’ and ‘protest in art’.

8B bus stand: Jadavpur

8B Bus stand: Jadavpur, Kolkata

Street art is often considered to be synonymous to begging – coins all around, a thin circle of half-bewildered half-amused mostly disinterested passerby crowd, an old mangy dog. A’ca’D is all that (except the dog, as of now) and some more. Deeply influenced by certain aspects of the mystic ‘Baul’ way of life, it is not contrary to the concept of begging. Similarly as the Baul, the A’ca’D ‘madhukori’ doctrine uninhibitedly offers its audience a fair share of pleasure, faith, knowledge, experience and realization as well as a promise of an alternate way of life in a coded language of art.

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B. R. Panesar – Passing into Oblivion

What a waste of artistic talent – that too in a medium in which hardly anyone works in India…on B. R. Panesar – collage maker, painter…through memories of his former student Soumadeep Sen.

Panesar (photo courtesy: http://www.artofbengal.com)

Panesar (photo courtesy: Telegraph)

aainanagar

Soumadeep Sen

Soumadeep is a software professional and has spent considerable time delving into the world of fine arts. Currently, he resides in Bangalore with his family and is pursuing his interest in music with a band of his own.  

Fine arts was not one of my areas of interest. Can’t say for certain whether I still understand or perceive it but staying at YMCA, Calcutta – and the constant exposure to people that were naturally gifted to appreciate art, did raise my interest quotient for finer things in life and so I too acquired a taste I must admit.

The initial few months at YMCA were more of getting through the daily chores – it was mostly eat-work-sleep and the cycle seemed to have repeated itself over and over again. With a few exceptions of course, hitting the movie theatres on weekends, listening to music, reading books or the not so exciting…

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Merriments in cauldron

Again a few older drawings – based on cauldrons. The first two were originally in colour, but my sense of paint sucks.

cauldron and chinese lanterns

The above was the inception, and here is the aftermath –

my merriment in cauldron

When I was taking my undergraduate courses, the bus from the university to my home passed by a fish market. There, some days when the sellers would have just started packing up for the day, sat a most pretty girl on an upside down cauldron, smiling from ear to ear in the background of the clay platform, fish stink and yellow halogen lights. Her father owned the stall right next to the main road. I used to fight for a window seat everyday just to see her.

Couple of years later, she got married. But she would still come to the market, often replacing her father, selling fish, not smiling any more, looking serious.

Eventually she stopped coming altogether.

I planned many times to get down from the bus and talk to her, but of course I never did.

The cauldron series is dedicated to her.

cauldron, meat and fish

Travelogue 12 – what did not exactly happen in Toronto

In the mean time I went for a month’s trip to Fields Institute, Toronto. Amazing place. Amazing conference. Amazing regret at finally not being able to see Art Gallery of Toronto. Amazing thrill to identify some of the Canadian artists by their work from road-side exhibitions.

However, here are the drawings of various semi-imaginary stuff  I picked up there:

Meandering mind, meandering pen:

There were two different types of talks among the ones I did not listen to. Here are the broad representations:

The more happening ones –

meandering mind, meandering pen 1

The less happening ones –

meandering mind, meandering pen 2

The terrible talk week:

I had to deliver a talk myself to earn my travel grant – it was quite an embarrassing business – specially the point where I was rolling my eyes and shaking my hands vigorously with a completely fake air of confidence and serenity, while giving a horribly wrong answer to a trivial question asked by a professor. However like all bad talks in life, the shame of it wore off after a few days (contrary to popular belief,  the week before the talk, though filled with intimidation caused by the unknown fate is often way better than the despair caused by the known fate during the week after the talk) –

the talk week

the talk week

Vagabond city:

Probably like any other big city, roads of Toronto are full of vagabonds, musicians, addicts, peddlers, beggars, sex-workers and so on. Many of them have an ethereal aura around them. At some point I was thinking of drawing something like a parallel city. This one was drawn in that same line – modelling on some of such characters, who caught my eyes –

city of vagabonds

Mathematics in the ancient days:

Bellevue Square Park was one of the fittest places in Toronto for culturing certain kinds of creativity 🙂 . Among other such creative jewels, Carlos came up with this thought about Mathematics in ancient Europe and we could not stop laughing for about twenty minutes due to various reasons –

math anciencia

math anciencia

Going back:

It rained a lot during my stay there in July, and it rained a lot the day I was coming back. Here is one, drawn while sitting in the airport, licking a maple-sugar lollipop obtained for free from a restaurant three days back and watching yet another twisted movie by Wong Kar-wai –

maple-sugar lollipop, wong kar-wai and rain-clouds in the airport lounge, toronto

Two more from Toronto trip are on their way – at least inside my head.

My girlfriends part 5

This is the fifth part of this comics, elaborating more on M. The lady in the third block of the first row holding the stick is St. Dymphna. She is a patron saint of family happiness and incidentally had an extremely screwed up childhood herself, being chased around by her father till she was killed, due to the fact that her father found her features muck alike his beloved dead wife. She is also a saint for nervous folks in the Christian world. Unlike Marx, who holds the red book in the previous post, she hangs around with a green book.

5

The drawings are uglier than usual in this one since I made it in a hurry just to get out of the inertia.

The series starts here and continues here.

My girlfriends part 2

Starts with K, not the oldest but my second oldest girlfriend. How did I miss the first one – was I not so devoted to her? That can not be so. I’ll plunge into my subconscious regarding this forgetfulness and come back to her later. But even before K or the yet unmentioned one, all of it starts with…

2

The series starts here.

My girlfriends part 1

The first in the series My girlfriends. All characters are stark real. Any similarity to any fictitious character is purely unintentional and coincidental.

I have been postponing uploading these for ages thinking that I would finish the series some day, but well.

Also, this is my first first sincere effort to make a full size comics.

1

Manole the master mason

This is based on the story of master mason Manole – the Romanian mythological architect. This comes in the 36th page of the book that I would write some day or never. Made the drawing more than a year back. Such a relief at finally having finished it yesterday. No clue how I came up with this, deviating/reinterpreting from the original story, but what the heck. For one thing, it seems I drew Manole with his tongue out and I suspect I was thinking of a gender reversal of Kali when I did that. In any case what do you do when you make regular mistakes in life such as stepping on your husband or incidentally/accidentally strangling your wife? We Bengalis bite our tongue and regret, such as this:

Also Manole is soon going to be a dead man – already is – having killed his beloved wife for a stupid monastery and a cruel prince. The tongue-out, blank look might just be a premonition of the end! Who knows!

.

Drawn with micron pens and later (because the scan quality is sh**) contrast-edited with gimp, using a xerox filter to give it a look of an old book that nobody issues (and nobody will) from the library. Here is the picture without the write up.

Manole

Apparently the wife was pregnant too! Yikes! I wonder whether Manole got time to finish the lunch that she was carrying for him before he got thrashed himself!

Windmill

Windmill. But I was also thinking of calling it Mixie grinder blades screw.

This drawing is dedicated to the Dude, who complains, whenever I draw nudes I give them hanging breasts and cheerless tortured faces. Here is a cartoon of cheerful, non-hanging breasted nudes. With the upwardness of the breasts, the general flow of energy in the composition has literally gone against gravity a bit.

The windmill girls are made up like dolls – their nudity protected in plastic shells, playing little children’s games, happy at being pierced and rotated around, looking up to thank the holy brotherhood of heaven for their good fortune. Asaram Bapu would have liked them.

My dear artists 4 – Soutick Saha

It has not been a while since I came across an artist, whose work I liked. But it has indeed been a while since I felt moderately magnanimous to post about one. It is a syndrome with a name. It is called self-engrossment (see how gross it is just by how it sounds!). There are few necessary ingredients such as collecting some snaps of the artwork, selecting the best few – or at least the ones I like the best (unless it is someone like Tejas, who paints three beautiful canvases and goes back to Mathematics), but most of all finding a free day, when I actually feel that I have some time for people other than myself, whew!

Soutick Saha is an undergraduate student at the Chennai Mathematical Institute (CMI), in the department of Physics.  I met him about a year ago in at a short art-appreciation course. It was one of those hardcore gatherings, where participants including myself determinededly and what is scarier very sincerely listened, chewed, learned, indigested, discussed and spat art all over the space. Soutick, with his many questions shot at the speaker with grave unstoppability, chilled my teeth to the roots within the first half an hour of the first session. But then in a few days I saw his paintings.

Of course this painting is called the divine love and what else can it be, but I will not hold that against it. The medium is oil pastel and soft pastel (and before I confirmed with the artist, I was thinking it was acrylic – so much for my artistic knowledge!).

Are they not beautiful? The one in the right – I think is my favourite! Take a look at his Buddhas too.

Among the works of Soutick that I saw I felt that paint is the right medium for him, or at least he is definitely more comfortable with it. But he has a way with pen drawings too and among many of his drawings this is the one I thought I quite enjoyed:

He has a set of thickly lined, serene but quite emotional pastel landscapes that verge towards the abstract. Some of these I liked instantly and some took a bit of time but eventually grew into me and I finally decidedly to consider myself lucky that I went to attend that art-course.

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Travelogue 10 – I hate children

When it comes to this particular drawing, my weariness at children is outshadowed by my excitement at having drawn this with real fancy drawing pens, if there is something like that. This is the first production out of my new set of Sakura Pigma Micron pens and I am sufficiently thrilled having possessed one bundle of those – finally making me feel all pro (not to be judged by the quality of the drawing but by the leaps of my heart at uncapping each slick cylinder of ink every single time).

Coming back to the drawing…

suitcase-small

Ettupede – for sale

Here goes my freshly made set of four pagemarks based on Ettupede (eight-legged). They are Rs. 15/- each. Since no one is really going to buy, I could have put any price on them of course. But one must be fair even in dreams!

et1-small

The above is my first-born in this series and my favourite too. Here goes the rest:

et3

et2-small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

et4-smallIf you can find all the eight limbs in each of the pictures, you possibly get one pagemark free, or may be not!

Frogville

One more parody of popular fairy tales –  loosely based on Grimm’s Frog Prince.

Incidentally, and it has got nothing to do with the cartoon here, it seems I didn’t know the end of this story in full details till I uploaded it here. Apparently the Frog Prince had a faithful servant named Henry, who waited for his master with his carriage and his eight horses, and with three iron belts laid round his heart so that it didn’t fall apart. Love this. This itself calls for another cartoon!

By the way the name is inspired by Lars von Trier’s superb film Dogville, a real shame if one has not watched it yet.

Performing “Life and times of Mr S”

Day before, there was a basement 21 book-launch of poet Vivek Narayanan – his second collection of poems named Life and Times of Mr S.  Performing poetry – the event was called.

Listening to poetry is not really my thing. If at all I get something out of a poem – it is like a one-to-one thing. Presence of anyone else, even the poet, feels like an intrusion. So I was just sitting and drawing – intending to make a cartoon out of the whole solemn situation.

The cartoons did not happen – just couple of sketches. The situation kind of grew on me. There were paintings and sculptures comfortably scattered all around and they trespassed into my sketches here and there.

Strangely, I also ended up buying a copy of the book.

The following sketch is that of the Short prayer to sound – performance of a poem from The life and times of Mr S – with Maarten at sax.

short prayer to sound

The recitation was followed by a conversation between the poet and Sharanya Manivannan.

conversation – vivek and sharanya

My sketchbook project 2013

It was a lot of fun working on my Sketchbook project 2013. Wish I had some more time, but it felt great as it is, and I’m already so eager to work on the next one, with little less sloppiness about the participation!

Here goes:

Errata

Index

An obsessive’s treasure

An obsessive’s treasure

An obsessive’s treasure

An obsessive’s treasure

An obsessive’s treasure

Fallen angel

Fallen angel

Fallen angel

Fallen angel

Fallen angel

Fallen angel

Fallen angel

Where the evil things are

Where the evil things are

Where the evil things are

Acknowledgement

Just thrilled at the thought of being part of the travelling exhibition organized at Brooklyn Art Library!

Pig

My first formal illustration for a novel (I’m so excited that it’s embarrassing) – and rejected – due to age mismatch between the characters and the real ones in the fiction. So I make a new set for the novel and put it up here instead 🙂

Thanks a ton to author Meera Srikant.

A corporate company employee’s dream regarding her quality manager…

One of Those Brighter Days

I think I have a habit of folding my elbows whenever I am in deep contemplation.

My life these days seem to revolve around my prolonged lower back pain and knee injury. It is not that my body is undergoing a particularly difficult phase due to these mild handicaps, but it is as if my brain has taken them to be vigorous insults on itself. I just went back through some of my old cartoons made during past six months – I simply look obsessed with these anatomical discrepancies.

Incidentally I joined Padmini‘s classes few months back. In the class, my inherent ineptitude, combined with sudden familiar blasts of pain and consequential stupid feelings often result into reveries such as this:

Travelogue 08 – basement 21 3rd Improvisation Session

Date-01.10.2012                                                                                                                                                    

Place-Alliance Francaise of Madras, 24 College Road, Nungambakkam, Chennai

Genre-Dance review

State-Cold (sitting in an abominably air conditioned room for three and half hours)

About-Improvisation in contemporary art.

Contact-mail.basement21@gmail.com

”Preethi pulled Chandana into her circle of obsession and in turn acquired Chandanas’s stable serenity. She countered Chandana’s proposition of an abstract definiteness with a frenzied narrative of familiar gestures”… it was when I wrote this line I simultaneously realized that I was increasingly sounding like a football commentator gone slightly askew in her mind, and that it was really three whole hours that had passed since I came in. It was not an extremely intense technique-based three hours. Rather cornily, it felt like a fun time that allowed both a bit of work and a bit of gobbledygook, and finally seemed to get over before one would like it to. The genre of fun might have had a shade of the obscure, or more appropriately a hint of uncertainty. But that might have been the whole point of the session –one that probably made each participant think, search and improvise beyond the grids of the auditorium of the Alliance Francaise of Madras.

The ongoing rant is about the 3rd Improvisation Session that took place on October 1st, 2012, organized by basement 21, a platform presenting the ‘contemporary’ in art. It involved a group of musicians, dancers, theater-artists and painters –encouraging them to collaborate in arbitrary pairs and later in larger groups, to connect and communicate through their personal tools, techniques and temperaments (be it a violin or a body, a text or a canvas, a voice, a wish, a reluctance, an itch…). The broad goal was to smudge down the lines between those unfamiliar forms. But more locally, it was about learning to watch, hear, or just sense the presence of another person, irrespective of the apparent gap in their performance languages, to the point of being able to instinctively predict what the other person had in stock to express –a joint exploration of mixed media.

af

Not that one always had the right amount of time. The 3rd improvisation session allowed a pair of artists three minutes for a basic initiation and a mutual appraisal of style and temperament, followed by a short discussion and possible corrections, both by the artists and the audience (each of whom was encouraged to participate in the performances). Finally it was a full five minutes for them to explore where they left it, or to build something afresh. The time was not always practically sufficient for the duo to settle in, have a feel for one another’s responses and then fully explore the extent of that partnership. But in some sense it brought out the need for crispiness and quickness of thought for an improvisation to click -it was a research of the present, not supported by, thus also not burdened by a compulsive past or a future.

For me it was the first of that sort, for whatever I had composed till then as a part of a group of performers, unless it was an accident, always lacked a spontaneous common language within the group. They had either been blind pursuits of a mastermind, or juxtapositions of several isolated singly-processed fragments, since it had been easy that way; but as is known, and as it was mentioned and seen repetitively during the October 1st session –what was easy was usually what was to be avoided.

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Travelogue 07 – Mermaid’s Grave

I don’t know why I call this Mermaid’s grave – probably to emphasize the fact that I indeed drew a dead mermaid (more like an ugly merkid) in a grave or whatever in the picture and people often tend to miss it.

mermaid’s grave

An old drawing made during my extremely short stay in Nashville, which is a city with a river and a fake Pantheon somewhere in the US. All I remember about that city is, it becomes beautiful when it rains. It was a statue sitting under a tree in twilight that inspired this one.

Creative

These days I’m meeting a lot of creative people, who strongly believe in ‘alternate ways’ to make this corporatized world a better place via sympathetic collaboration and sharing ideas. Artists, academicians, administrators, administrators, administrators,…., administrators,…

Drawing description: a little frustrated, but nothing serious.

Gods Must Be Bored

These days I’m too busy trying to make myself important and useful (hence hardly any time for drawing), poking my way up through holes here and there in the layers of the professional pyramid, trying to connect and correct and what not. I’m bored.

On the brighter side, I’m still failing – to connect or correct or whatever..

Gods too must be bored, time to time, being constantly made important and useful by the devotees. They also must be in the need of peace, a private space or at least, some cheap entertainment…

gods-must-be-bored

Drawn on a holiday.

The Revenge of Mara

Mara attempted to tempt with promises of glory and pleasure only to get scornfully rejected by the young ambitious monk, who was clearly well-aware of all the weapons that the King of temptation could have thought of using against him. Mara shrugged helplessly and went on with his old tricks, appearing as a hideous demon and sending an army of likewise revolting and terrible creatures, as he did before many times, and failed once. The demons dutifully launched a volley of arrows at the trainee, but as those projectiles approached they were transformed into flowers and fall harmlessly to the ground – all the while the hideous smile of internal peace never fidgeting away from the boy’s shiny lips (it was not for nothing he was the top student of his monastery). The daughters of Mara, Tanha (craving), Rati (lust) and Arati (discontent) tried to coerce and seduce him, but he, who have had much stricter practice of not being seduced by prettier dames and handsomer men during the more vulnerable time of his life, just kept chanting, sending powerful radiowaves through the fistful of hair on his bulbous head as he turned the prayer wheel in his hand, and then …

The Revenge of Mara

(Drawn on a thin paper with pen and pencil).

My Dear Artists 3 – Octavio Arizmendi

Octavio is one of those totally involved hardcore mathematicians, with whom the first handshakes are always heavy with the weariness of having to touch a super intelligent alien from the ultra whateveritis galaxy. A PhD. student in Saarland, Octavio is on the verge of submitting his thesis within an obscenely short time period of two years since he began.

He is from Mexico, inheriting a brain full of complicated logic, coming from a family of lawyers. And he intends to learn German by watching German movie every Tuesday evening, without understanding ninety eight percent of the dialogue. But then the ways of super intelligent aliens are bound to vary from the common.

Within a few days I came to know that he was a footballer, and a painter too – thanks to Moritz Weber, a disciple painter under Octavio, working in the same department in the university. And while Octavio’s work in mathematics often brushed past my skull, without leaving a trace of understanding, I was much engrossed by the vibes of the tiny paintings of dark silhouetted buildings against yellow evening sky, made by him as a gift to Moritz. I was curious to see more. It was an ideal opportunity once John and I were invited by Octavio, Carlos and Barbara to visit their sixth floor apartment over an excellent Mexican dinner with chicken cooked in orange juice by Carlos, yoghurt pelted with apples by Barbara and red wine.

cuadro domino

The above is one of my favourites of his. I am worse than a novice when it comes to water colour, but it is not just because of his skill; what attracts me most in this, is the impression of a conversation that just came to a halt as I intruded in it. Once it feels like it was just a mellow correspondence, the next moment – an intense plot…

rino

I wish I had a copy of better resolution of the above painting. If he had told me that he really saw a rhino pushing a dead tree with his horn in a silent marshland, I would have believed him. But then if he had said that he saw in his dream an mountainside river with evening looming in, and later copied a rhino out of a children’s book of animals just to decorate, I would have believed him too. Point is, it did not matter, the effect was overwhelming…

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My Dear Artists 2 – Koustabh Chakraborty

Koustabh Chakraborty and I met through an usual cobweb of innumerable via-media university-friends and drifted away, till I rediscovered him during the celebration of Dr. Binayak Sen’s bail on behalf of united students forum. I had been away from my city for long, hardly knew anyone with whom I could share my part of joy and overwhelm, and halfway through the program I started considering my presence as that of a mildly unwelcome naive tourist trespassing into the realm of intense involvement of thousand souls. It was a small relief finding his familiar face among them. I knew that Koustabh wrote poetry. What I did not know was that he was a painter too. That time I was in search of a painter for designing a website, and it was just out of casual interest that I formally befriended him in Orkut, soon to be bowled over by his “Tomar Ghore Bosot Kore Koijona” (How Many Reside in Your Heart):

Acrylic on canvas is his favored medium. Another masterpiece by him is his Dalisque “An Odyssey from Nature to Cluture”:

I happen to be a proud buyer of a copy of his Untitled Landscape (because it reminds me of my childhood for some twisted reason) and he owes me a treat ever since.

Some of his work that I love just because of the strength of their colors and compositions:

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My Dear Artists 1 – Tejas Kalelkar

The idea of sharing here the random pieces of art that I had loved, is solely and shamelessly stolen from the Global Art Junkie. But fans have their own dirty rights of interpreting/copying/stealing their idol’s ideas. I ardently believe what Mario Ruoppolo told Pablo Neruda in one-of-the-most-beautiful-movies-of-the-world named Il Postino, as the poet accused him of seducing the fiercely pretty Beatrice with sly uses of his verses: Poetry doesn’t belong to those who write it; it belongs to those who need it. However, I cannot at the same time deny that I have somewhat been meaning to do this for a very long time. So many scraps of papers – smeared with paints, strokes, words… Some lovingly presented, some carelessly left at, some taken notice of only by vague chances.

What makes this essentially different from a general post about art is that I know these artists personally. None of them are anywhere close to professionals, but just forced to have sat and produced something out of a sudden whim that has been almost uninvitedly bothering them beneath their pituitary gland for a while. Thus my judgments, or rather emotions towards their work are very personal, as I believe it is indeed so, admitted or not, for any art appreciator living under the sky.

My first advertisement of one of those artists dear to me:

This is “Eyjafjallajokull” (the volcano in Iceland that was erupting just then), the Cracked Skull of Tejas Kalelkar. A unidimensional mathematician, a religious follower of jerky web-comics, a biker, a talker, a trekker, a meditator (specializing in Suryanamaskara that involves bending one’s body in certain queer positions for the entertainment of the viewers), an occasionally-aspiring-but-often-given-up-on-his-talents painter, and a friend. This is his second attempt ever to make a painting. His blog, where he writes down his thoughts once in a while can be found here.