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Ten years hence…

Indian memoirs- How long is so long?, acrylics on canvas, 30″ x 40″. (faded text in English, Hindi, Urdu)

27/02/2002, a day crystal clear in my mind’s eye- the weather, the subject I studied (preparation for my A levels), the food prepared for lunch, the colour of the jumper I wore and the exact spot where I stood in the house when I saw the news on TV… it has now been 10 years since the riots broke out in Godhra, an Indian city in the state of Gujarat.

I remember the train journey with my father to Bombay (2 months after the riots). There was a brief halt at Godhra station and I could see smoke charred buildings in the distance. Later that week we travelled to Baroda, another city in Gujarat and I remember someone showing us an area where shops were burnt and told us about the curfew timings… that day we also met a young man who had no remorse whatsoever for the carnage and proudly admitted that he would vote again for the same chief minister in the next elections, even though the CM and his administration did nothing to curb the rioteers. This minister, our ‘modern day Nero’ still runs the state as of today and could now be a potential prime ministerial candidate.

Later in 2002, I joined art school in Bombay and for five years took innumerable train journeys back home and every single time the train halted at Godhra, the images of the burnt buildings would flash across my mind.

“Saints, I see
The world is mad
If I tell the Truth
They rush to beat me
If I lie they trust me

Hindus claim Ram as the One
Muslims claim Rahim
Then they kill each other
Knowing not
The essence

With prayer beads and caps
And brows of holy paint
They lose themselves
In sacred hymns but
Know not their own souls

Many holy men I’ve seen
Teachers of holy books
Who acquire disciples
Venerate graves
But know not God

The world goes on
Like this and yet
They call me mad
But Kabir says, listen
Who’s the one insane?”

– Kabir, 15th century Indian poet.

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Memoirs series and Sandhya’s installation.


The wedding, acrylics on canvas, 30″ x 40″.

Part of the Indian memoirs series, my painting is based on the traditional craft of ‘phulkari’ (‘flower work’ embroidery on cloth). This particular style of embroidery plays a major role in punjabi households and is mostly seen on shawls, traditional dresses and as huge decorative pieces hung on walls. The bright silk threads can light up a dull room and a dull mood! I myself own a lot of phulkari pieces, my personal favourites being the stoles! ūüôā Phulkaris are extensively used in punjabi weddings (cermonies, attires, tokens for relatives, gifts for the bride) and having attended so many of these weddings (two recently, back to back!) since a child, how could I not be influenced by this wonderful craft?

The painting took over a week… layer upon layer playing with yellows and golds, some parts showing relief… bright colours focusing some forms, underplaying other forms… slowly achieving my desired result.

Series progress- so far, so good!


Other interesting news on the art front, Sandhya Pai (my friend and ex-JJite too) starts her installation show tomorrow at the Noble Sage Gallery, East Finchley. Sandhya has been working on the concept and the intricate work since months and yesterday, finally installed the show! It took a whole day to install and both of us enjoyed setting it up. I have never worked on an installation project before and it was a great experience for me to help Sandhya and see her transform a circular bare space into something magical! The show aptly titled, ‘Grass Roots’, focuses on the themes of rituals, memories and history. The ‘soil’¬† is newspaper pulp, the “stuff of words and letters that together makes up our living recent history made into a paradoxically non-recognisable, non-readable, natural soil-like surface.” The cut out pieces (Sandhya and her family members playing major characters in these drawings) emerge from the ‘soil’ like “little idols of real life for us to worship in this extinguished pyre”.

It was great to see the installation first hand and I’m happy I got the opportunity to set it up with the artist. I know how it feels when you see your work finish and the joy that it gives you and seeing Sandhya at the end of the day with a happy and content glint in the eye was heart warming… wishing her luck for the show and hoping her preview party tomorrow is a huge success!

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Lalit Kala Akademi art exhibition.

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The Lalit Kala Akademi, Chandigarh (India) held it’s annual exhibition this month and my work was selected to be displayed, an old print of mine done in art school, titled ‘All Alone’.

The exhibition was covered by the local media and on 5th February, The Hindustan Times published an article about the exhibition and lo and behold my work could be seen in the pictures (bottom right-hand corner, next to the lady)! Well, the exhibition was a great success and to my wonderful news, my print got sold too!! ūüôā A kind gentleman residing in the hills is now the proud owner of my work… such a great feeling I tell you, well chuffed!

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Indian memoirs

A pocket full of memories; acrylics, patience, love on canvas, 30″ x 40″.

My first painting in 2012. As promised, started work on my Indian memoirs series- 3 works painted so far. Now, it was only when I started living in wonderful ‘cockneyland’ and over a period of time made “back home” trips, I happened to see and observe the real India, in all it’s glistening colours, motifs, sounds… so this series talks about all my warm feelings for the country.

When I’m painting, so many images flash across my mind and give me ideas for the next one! Needless to say, I am thoroughly enjoying my new works. Even as I write this post, a new canvas beckons me, slowly drying it’s first layer of yellow/green in a corner of the room… won’t make it wait long so, off I go.

PS: Was going through some of my last year’s works, I noticed all of them in bright palettes… I looked out of the window and wondered on the choice of colours and then I saw a white garden, a grey sky, nude trees, a hint of blue in the magpies and only a few green strands of grass breathing out of the snow… hmmm!

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2012- a new year for new works!

Reminiscence, oils on canvas, 8″ x 8″ each (set of 4), 2011.

2011– In flashback mode,

Work wise- FINALLY quit a boring job for my love, painting! June onwards; one local art fair, one solo and two group exhibitions. A lot of new works painted, experimented with new mediums, new concepts, new techniques… many new’s in short!

Motivation wise- met artists/sculptors, attended art fairs and talks… visited local galleries and museums, saw new and old works by contemporary artists and old masters… travelled and observed the finer details in people and nature.

Income wise- haha! The less said, the better! ūüėČ Money shall come, has been slowly… at the moment churning out works gives me more satisfaction than seeing the balance of my bank account.

2012– new year, new beginnings, new work, new feats to be accomplished.

The past two months in India, travelling and attending colourful weddings had been fun, sometimes chaotic and tiring but inspirational at the same time as an artist.

There’s always a constant vibe in India… the colours in people’s outfits (including bright and fluorescent oranges and greens), the constant sounds (there is never a pin drop silence moment, not even in sleep- my dreams had various sounds and noises too), the odours (from railway compartments to walking down on foot in the Bombay bazaars– one is bombarded with all kinds of smells- the place, the people, the food). Even when I was sad and leaving for the airport (yes, 2 months is a long time to re-attach yourself to a country once your home) to board a flight back to systematic and polite mannered England- an expressionless Akshay Kumar with Kung Fu Panda advertisement billboard (Indian film actor and a comedic animated panda- don’t even bother to ask the relation between the two) had a sense of vibe and a feeling of belongingness!!

I would be foolish if I did not capture this Indianness in my work- the people, the ambience, the finer details which we tend to overlook as we approve or disapprove the bigger picture. So yes, I have new ideas floating in my mind thanks to my India visit! I need to sketch these ideas, jot down concepts and get my work started.

The year starts on a positive note, new and better paintings from me… the rest shall automatically be taken care of. Cheers to that!

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To the unknown artist…

Step into my world, acrylics on canvas, 30″ x 20″.

Somu Desai, an artist based in Gujarat, India once shared a letter¬†written by the Delhi based art critic, curator and writer; Johny ML on a networking site. The letter is addressed to an artist who has just stepped into the professional art world after passing out from art school. I’d like to share some lines from that letter, a letter so inspirational- any artist or creative soul can indentify with it and pay heed to the beautiful advice given.

“… life must be looking different in shape and colours… Once you are out of the academy you are an independent man, potential enough to make or break your future. Suddenly you feel you are blessed and cursed in one go. And what a feeling it is!¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

It is good to have shows lined up. That makes your energy level high and hopes too. Always try for the best and be daring enough to experiment. While doing daring and best works, have conviction in yourself and also in the works that you do…¬†¬†¬†

…look around you as if you are seeing them for the first time. Feel that you are blessed to have all those things around you, whether it be poverty and struggle or it be wealth and luxury. Be intelligent enough to receive everything with a philosophical happiness…

Being intelligent is very important. It is not about working with a gallery or a curator. It is about being responsible and responsive. These days artists are losing their sensibility thanks to the involvement in money management. They are becoming more and more cautious. Just be free and be less cautious. Be open to consequences for we don‚Äôt know what reactions our works of art will eke out from people. Some people will hate it and some would love it. Love both the parties because work of art is all about love and hate with our times. An intelligent work of art will always talk about the artist’s time, even if the artist does not want to talk about the times quite overtly.

For me an intelligent artist is one who has a great sensibility towards life and its all ups and downs. An intelligent artist is one who knows and feels things deeply. An intelligent artist need not necessarily be a scholar but he is a one who gives materials for the scholars to do their research. So be a source and stream rather than a shore. Yes, you become a shore when you are complete with your source and stream. And it is a good feeling to see life from its source, with all its science, logic, beauty and feeling.

And do believe that you can cry whenever you want. Crying is a blessing. Imagine yourself breaking down in front of a flower. Imagine yourself crying and laughing at once when you are totally alone; when you are alone with your self and core. All science and logic, all beauty and richness will reveal themselves unto you, when you are ready to take it without hatred and venom. Make the works the celebration of your life, its pangs, its doubts, its problems and its all dissatisfactions.

I may be sounding a bit old and odd when I talk like this. But for me the best contemporary art is something that respond to the things which do not have much history, but have the potential to generate history.

…also, you are aware of the need of money now. But I am sure that money is going to come. What is between you and money is just a thin line, a line that separates from you from the apparent success in the market place. Let it take care of itself. The dynamics of ecomonics is something complicated. When it happens it might look very simple. And once you achieve that simplicity with material success, then you would obviously want to make things complicated again.

Now charge up and work and may be you will have the courage to discard all what you have done or you have the strength to hold all what you want to do…

Believe in yourself and love.”

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The “happening”.

 

Aboard the Central, acrylics on canvas, 36″ x 24″.

First things first, some people have been asking me the same question everytime I speak to them, when am I going to make it “big”, when will I be in the “happening” scene, when will I start making “millions”. The most recent one being, when would I be exhibiting in “Kensington/Mayfair”!! I know some of these well meaning people ask out of concern and curiosity but artists don’t work like that or do they?? I for one, chose to pursue art for the love of it and because I express myself best when painting (sometimes writing). I could do something else (like I did in my¬†job previously) but how long would it make me happy and give me a purpose to live for?

I really don’t¬†want to think if I can make millions or a few quid when working on a particular canvas… if I start doing that, I know my work will suffer because I¬†would want to¬†paint to please someone else. Yes, I want to make money from my work but with my own artistic sensibility and on my own terms and conditions. It gives me immense pleasure that if someone¬†accepts¬†my work for what it is- no fancy frills and buttering up gallery owners/buyers for it. It has taken me a lot of courage to pursue my dream and I shall make no compromises on that front.¬† So if my colours are too¬†red/green/yellow for one’s¬†liking or my painting doesn’t match someone’s curtains, too bad- don’t like, don’t buy.

Otherwise my artistic “happening” life these past two weeks- attended two major art fairs (Frieze & Affordable Art) ,¬†one wonderful lecture series (Devi- The Goddess and The Modern Indian Woman at SOAS), two works finished, one work in progress. Not to forget frustration, when not getting the work right visually as I had imagined it to be (re-work with a huge amount of patience) and self doubting my skill at times- part and parcel of my life in general!

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Mirror, mirror on the wall…

“Mirror, mirror on the wall; how beautifully tangled I am afterall!” Acrylics on mirror, 6″ diameter.

Saw last of the 3 part series of ‘Mixed Britannia’ on BBC 2 last night- loved it! Since my current works are based on identity, this documentary¬†seemed like an extension of my works.¬† http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b015qms8/Mixed_Britannia_19101939/

Though there are no mixed race genes in me (Alas! I know my family tree 9 generations¬†up but then who knows who my ancestor was before that!?),¬†I can proudly say I have imbibed various cultures and their influences- starting from home where my family celebrated¬†different religious festivals to¬†living in Bombay where I had friends/roomies from ‘other’ Indian¬†cultures,¬†who spoke different languages to¬†marrying into a family with a different culture altogether and having beautifully learnt to adapt (and cook some lovely family dishes!!). And now, living in a wonderful city like London, living in a¬†country like Britain which is one of the most multicultural nations on this planet! ūüôā

Mixed-race, mixed-religions, mixed-nationalities, mixed-cultures, mixed-castes (places like India where one may belong to the same religion but may belong to a different caste!!)¬†… why the whole hullabaloo?? We live in a free and a beautiful world and one can choose where to live, who to marry, what religion to follow… never did and never will understand people who oppose it. I for one, am very proud of my mixed cultural (religion, food, language, country) identity.

I am reminded of the exhibition I visited recently at INIVA, ‘Entanglement: the Ambivalence of Identity’- an inter-generational exhibition of emerging artists alongside established figures reflecting on the complexities of living with more than one culture. Navin Rawanchaikul (Thai artist of¬† Indian origins, now¬†resident¬†of Japan) had displayed a handwritten letter to his daughter and he summed it up beautifully in a few simple words, “…This may sound strange to you but I know you are facing a similar experience to when I was young, friends poking fun at your foreign-sounding surname. Mari, let me repeat what my mom taught when I asked why we are not considered Thai. She said, ‘Just be yourself and proud of your roots’.”

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Work, events, new artists- fruitful few weeks.

The past few weeks, work wise have been a little slow but at the same time, have been seeing new works of other artists, going to events, getting to know people and places.

So, on the work front- my recent commission project:

 

I have titled it ‘The rise of a new dawn’, acrylics on canvas, 30″ x 24″. This painting has been sent to it’s new home in Bangalore, India. I know I don’t paint many bulidings (especially religious ones) but I had a good time¬†working on this-¬†a South Indian temple and¬†a Goan church (the client wanted both these together- a simple brief- the rest I could do it in my style!). So, I¬†chose to paint it in the colours of the sunrise (to give justice¬†to the thought/brief behind this work). I loved every minute of working on this canvas and I’m now inspired to do some outdoor study at the church near home!

On the other art front,

Went to see artist Somu Desai’s works exhibited at the Thameside Complex Gallery in Grays, run by Thurrock Council. Somu, an Indian artist from Gujarat does painting, sculpture, prints and video art. This exhibition titled ‘Here & Now’ were a few works chosen from his recent collection of ammonia images on canvas- a technique usually used by architects but Somu tried to overcome the limitations of the medium and produced these lovely works- http://artifact-uk.blogspot.com/2011/09/here-and-now-solo-exhibition-by-somu.html. Met some other interesting artists and sculptors at the show, might meet them again in an artists’ gathering later this month.

Last week went to Rich Mix in Shoreditch- ‘a place¬†that offers live music, film, dance, theatre, comedy, spoken word and a range of creative activities for people of all ages and all cultures’. Hasina Zaman was exhibiting some of her mosaic works here, http://www.lovemosaic.co.uk. Loved her works (reminded me of mural classes in final year art school- so much can be done with mosaics and yet none of the professors took it seriously- portraiture was supposedly better so nobody bothered with us mural students!!). The technique, concept, language, aesthetic quality- the works were inspiring- like a breath of fresh air! I say that because there is so much crap one gets to see ‘in the name of art’- so for me, Zamina’s works stood out; a¬†feeling of peace, forgiveness, compassion and to live a fulfilling life. How many artists (including myself)¬†can show that through their works? I think her¬†mosaics were absolutely wonderful and I’m glad I got to know her, her works and a place like Rich Mix.

And yesterday, I went for a talk at Saatchi Gallery- Francesca Gavin (writer & curator)¬†was in conversation with artists Sam Griffin, Lilah Fowler and Charlie Woolley around how contemporary artists are responding to the now. ‘Are we post conceptualism, post-minimalism, post pop? Or do artists working today deliberately avoid a sense of movement and collectivity that was previously branded together as an ‚Äėism‚Äô?’ Interesting ‘new’¬†stuff- the works of these artists and the conversation that followed.

What have I learnt in these past few weeks? Just be true to yourself and produce good art- the rest shall just fall into place. ūüôā

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Newspaper clipping

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Article about my exhibition in the Ilford, Loughton & Woodford Recorder, September 29, 2011.

Happy!! ūüôā

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