A 6-yr old’s take on the India Art Fair

It’s an annual ritual, the visit to the India Art Fair. I’m interested in art, of course, but in a general manner. I’m not into buying or collecting, nor do I enthusiastically follow artists and their careers. It’s a nice event to go to to just soak in the trends, often quirky, the crowds and the experience of being surrounded by art. Even though art is not what you would call some of the stuff there!

This year, we took the kids along. We navigated the fair in two groups: Aadyaa, Amma and me in Group 1 and Udai, mum and mum’s friend Bashabi in Group 2. The Art Fair with Aadyaa was a whole different experience altogether! She’s very artistic herself, always drawing even on scraps of paper she finds lying around and it was interesting to see what she liked and what she found amusing. Bright colours, installations that you could interact with, audio-visual exhibits and sculpture were what really got her attention. And large canvases! Here are some pics to give you a better idea….

The first piece we say by Jitesh Killat I think. At this point, Aadyaa was a little dazed by the crowd and the buzz!

The first piece we say by Jitesh Killat I think. At this point, Aadyaa was a little dazed by the crowd and the buzz!

You can't go wrong with butterflies!

You can’t go wrong with butterflies!

Mumma, is that me?

Mumma, is that me?

Aadyaa posing with Aadyaa :)

Aadyaa posing with Aadyaa :)

This was the biggest hit of all. The TV and the clock were still working and the fact that the minute and second hands stuck out into space between 12 and 6 was rib tickling!

This was the biggest hit of all with Aadyaa. The TV and the clock were still working and the fact that the minute and second hands stuck out into space between 12 and 6 was rib tickling! Artist: Deepjyoti Kalita

Sneaking in one of my amused moments, a whole bunch of pics of homes taken mostly in Kerala representing the urban dream! All paint companies very much in business!

Sneaking in one of my amused moments, a whole bunch of pics of homes taken mostly in Kerala representing the urban dream! All paint companies very much in business!

My angel!

My angel! The dear old man at the stall helped her onto a chair to post for that pic…

Purda hi purda...having fun peering at each other through the lovely curtains by Pierre Legrand!

Purda hi purda…having fun peering at each other through the lovely curtains by Pierre Legrand!

A brief intersection with members of Team 2

A brief intersection with members of Team 2

Beating up Asim Waqif's piece to hear sounds and other auditory and audio-visual experiences were something new that Aadyaa loved exploring!

Beating up Asim Waqif’s piece to hear sounds and other auditory and audio-visual experiences were something new that Aadyaa loved exploring!

Meeting her friend Soha from school and creating textures on an outdoor exhibit was another highlight. The messier the better!

Meeting her schoolfriend Soha and creating textures on an outdoor exhibit was another highlight. The messier the better!

Those boxes were made to jump on! The installation that greets you at the fair is made by Space Matters, an architectural practice run by friends from SPA.

Those boxes were made to jump on! The installation that greets you at the fair is made by Space Matters, an architectural practice run by friends from SPA.

 

The hidden jewel of Dhanachuli #heritage #architecture

It is a running joke between me and my husband Rahul that I’m not really interested in travel destinations that do not involve foraging around among ruins. I vehemently denied this the last time we discussed a possible vacation. I love the beaches and the cruise ships, the road trips and the backpacking just as much as everything else, I said. But I can tell you I was delighted and amused in equal parts when Sumant mentioned a visit to the abandoned ruins of the original Dhanachuli village during the first evening of our weekend getaway to Te Aroha earlier this month!

Our planned excursion was delayed by a day thanks to nightly precipitation that left the path wet and slippery, but we were determined to go. Sunday morning found an enthusiastic group (comprising Vijay, Vibha, Aaditya and me guided by Sumant and a kind and generous staffer from Te Aroha) making its way down into the beautiful valley. Shortly after we had crossed the existing settlement that hugs the road, we got a taste of what was in store for us. An abandoned home, colonial in its proportions and bearing, but with the wooden carved doors and windows characteristic of the original homes in these parts. The stop vetted my appetite for more. I could see from Sumant’s expressions that this was the tip of the iceberg and an excitement gripped me for what was in store further below._DSC2261

Eave detail

Eave detail

Carved door with typical colonial arch

Carved door with typical colonial arch

Exquisite door

Exquisite door

Facade. I find the fusion charming, though the intricate carving doesnt quite fit the robust proportions of this house, do they?

Facade. I find the fusion charming, though the intricate carving doesn’t quite fit the robust proportions of this house, do they?

Detail

Detail. I would surmise this is a relatively newer home and the carvings aren’t as intricate as the older ones. Perhaps the type of wood available changed, perhaps the better craftsmen were no longer available…

Port hole?

Port hole?

Wood structure, slate tile roofing and then lots of grass drying on top...great pic to make a section of the roofing huh, architect friends?

Wood structure, slate tile roofing and then lots of grass drying on top…great pic to make a section of the roofing huh, architect friends?

A glimpse into the valley we were descending into....

A glimpse into the valley we were descending into….

After maybe twenty minutes of walking alongside fields of corn, cabbage and peas, we started seeing the first homes in the settlement below. I was struck by the play of light on the beautiful stone masonry on these homes. Some roofs were caved in and the roofs were overgrown with grass. Hindu symbols like the trishul were clearly visible. Our sense of anticipation heightened and soon we were rewarded with the beautiful sight of the little cluster of original village homes that we had trekked all the way to see._DSC2305

Delightful glimpse of the cozy original settlement

Delightful glimpse of the cozy original settlement

The story goes that upper caste Hindus from the plains, from areas as far as Rajasthan and Gujarat, escaped forced conversion to Islam and moved into hilly terrain. The homes in the village therefore date back to anywhere between 150 and 200 years. Here, they settled down, amassing large land holdings and building these beautiful homes using local materials and the skills of local wood craftsmen from the Jhonsari community. However, they influenced the craftsmen substantially in the motifs they would use, typically snakes, fish, elephant and various other revered Hindu symbols with hints of Islam-influenced motifs as well. And in the shape of the niches, which are exactly like Rajasthani jharokhas. We could see Islamic influences in the types of arches used as well as in the typical geometric patterns of the carvings on some of the doors and windows. We stared, stitching the narrative of this fascinating time in history in our heads, imagining what it must be like for families who made this drastic move and how they must have hankered for small motifs and icons that served as reminders to what they left behind, that became a fragile but intensely beautiful link to their shared history and identity.

First glimpses of these spectacular houses

First glimpses of these spectacular houses

I found the elevation interesting. The bottom floor is for animals, so you ascend the dwelling itself through a single flight of stairs entered through that tall arch. This row of homes are perfectly symmetrical too!

I found the elevation interesting. The bottom floor is for animals, so you ascend the dwelling itself through a single flight of stairs entered through that tall arch. This row of homes are perfectly symmetrical too!

The carvings on these older homes are more intricate and diverse in terms of patterns and motifs

The carvings on these older homes are more intricate and diverse in terms of patterns and motifs.

Love this pic! Thanks Aaditya :)

Love this pic! Thanks Aaditya :)

Sumant...Framed!

Sumant…Framed!

Bare and simple interiors as you would expect in a rural home

Bare and simple interiors as you would expect in a rural home

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Many of the homes are already completely ruined

Many of the homes are already completely ruined

Living heritage!

Living heritage

This particular house took my breath away with the detailing

This particular house took my breath away with the detailing

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Notice the geometric patterns like the floor patterns in Mughal architecture

And this arch....

And this arch….

Delightful nuances of life

Delightful nuances of life

There would have been an archaeologist’s pleasure in walking through these ruined homes, but it wasn’t just history we were looking at. We found occupied homes as well in this little hamlet. Cows tied in the lower level under the exquisitely carved windows. A dish antenna screwed onto one of of the carved panels. This is living heritage, a cultural landscape that deserves attention. The contrast of the abandoned homes, to the ones that were used only for storage and the few that were still lived in told a story of economic change and loss of patience. Families had migrated up the valley towards the road, where livelihoods could be found catering to the tourists that passed by on their way to Mukteshwar as well as to the locals who lived in the village still. These homes still stood because they mean something to these people. Some are even propped up by new wooden pillars in a bid to save the roofs from caving in, but clearly no new investments are being made here.

The pictures clearly show that there is value in this heritage–the value of craft, architecture, a slice of history, a way of life. One way to conserve this heritage is to buy these beautifully carved frames and doors from these owners and cart them off, to be lovingly restored and installed in a swank, elegant and even opulent residence or heritage hotel in Delhi, or Mumbai. The other option is to find a way to conserve these homes in their original location, involving the local community in an effort that would not only augment revenue through targeted tourism and a renewable of the crafts, but also renew their bond with their rapidly disappearing material culture. A culture that spoke the language of wood and stone rather than brick and reinforced cement concrete and one that had space in it for art.

Sumant mentioned he would be happy to support, in part, a group of enthusiasts who could get together to showcase this delightful slice of heritage. Filmmakers, conservationists, artists and people engaged with the concept of responsible and sustainable tourism can join hands to save this hamlet from destruction. I think it is a fantastic seed of an idea that we could develop into a more meaningful pursuit.

Father’s Day creations from my enthusiastic children

There is nothing more than an early morning creative outburst. To create this surprise for Rahul papa, behind his back while he was at the gym, we slit apart old used A4 size envelopes, glued them together to create this long strip and then the kids just unleashed their creative juices on them. Dadi (their grandmum) offered them discarded kajal (kohl sticks), lipsticks etc and we used acrylic paints, crayons, toothbrushes, etc.

Aadyaa chose to recreate the mountains we recently holidayed in, while Udai drew a fleet of spacecrafts! Mummy and mausi chipped in here and there. We cut out the words from old discarded brochures. The entire process took us a couple of hours.

When Rahul walked in sometime later, the kids were shouting out ‘Happy Fathers Day’ atop their voices. The house rang with yells and laughter, smiles aplenty and lots of cheer. We breakfasted on a dish of yesterday’s chapati reinvented with garlic, onion and tomato seasoning and another experimental smoothie made with curd, milk, watermelon, beet root, red bell pepper,carrot, apricot and cucumber. A morning of creative reuse and family fun, with good old Furby joining in! Feeling really satisfied!
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The little girl with the artist’s eye!

Sometimes I wonder if it’s just the easy access to technology via phone cameras. Or a narcissistic streak. Or a penchant for documentation.

What is it that draws my 5-year old daughter Aadyaa to obsessively take photos of her art work, random creations or just certain objects? It started with her asking me to click pictures of things that caught her fancy. Now she simply asks for permission and does it herself (she has complete mastery over my iphone).

I look back at these pictures often in an attempt to see the world through her eyes. What do you make of them?

Tomatoes from our kitchen garden, placed on a saree I was about to wear!

Tomatoes from our kitchen garden, placed on a saree I was about to wear!

She sorted out all hairclips of the same kind from a box of assorted hair accessories, arranged them and clicked!

She sorted out all hairclips of the same kind from a box of assorted hair accessories, arranged them and clicked!

At a friend's place, she just made that clothes pin sculpture for a new born baby. Those are Aadyaa's feet as she photographs her work

At a friend’s place, she just made that clothes pin sculpture for a new born baby. Those are Aadyaa’s feet as she gets me to photograph her work

Three colour ice gola at Bikanerwala!

Three colour ice gola at Bikanerwala!

The watermelon ginger fizz at Chilis completely fascinated her!

The watermelon ginger fizz at Chilis completely fascinated her!

Mumma, is mar hui butterfly ki photo lo na!

Mumma, is mar hui butterfly ki photo lo na!

After one hour of watching the ants do their job...Mumma, cheentiyo ne apna khaana le liya, ab phir se butterfly ki photo lo na!

After one hour of watching the ants do their job…Mumma, cheentiyo ne apna khaana le liya, ab phir se butterfly ki photo lo na!

Lego afternoon! Self-clicked....

Lego afternoon! Self-clicked….

Her own drawing amused her endlessly- self-clicked!

Her own drawing amused her endlessly- self-clicked!

Aadyaa made her own roti. Then she placed it in this composition and clicked the picture herself

Aadyaa made her own roti. Then she placed it in this composition and clicked the picture herself…and only then, she ate it!

Of Form, Texture, Scale: Exploring Nekchand’s Rock Garden, Chandigarh

I last visited the Rock Garden in Chandigarh in December 1991 or thereabouts. I was born in the city and I was revisiting Chandigarh after my early years there for the very first time. I vaguely remember wandering around the sculptures and there are a few really nice pictures of Daddy, Mummy and me posing in front of the exhibits.

I was, therefore, quite excited to revisit the Rock Garden with my children and see how they react. Nekchand is a legend in the city and beyond. Even as the city was being planned and built by an over-enthusiastic newly-Independent nation along the lines suggested by the world famous architect Le Corbusier, Nekchand was piecing together works of art from bits and pieces he collected from the ruins of the villages that were relocated to create the city. Nekchand was of humble origins and a government servant. He worked secretly at night to create this garden and when it was discovered, illegally built on government land, it took a miracle and considerable civil society action to conserve this wonderland and create it into a public park. It is now a valuable resource for the city, attracting hundred of tourists every day.

Saturday 30th March, the day we visited, was no different and we joined the teeming crowds that ambled through its serpentine pathways, admired its fountains and streams, and were intrigued by the strange shapes and forms crafted from waste material. The park is now a model for environmental conservation, recycling all the water on its premises and even running the waterfalls from recycles water alone.

A new area has been added now and here, the scale changed dramatically. Everything is huge, larger than life. As an architect, I found the effect interesting in some parts but quite ineffective in others. Scale is not always a good thing! Another thing that irked me was the diesel-operated toy train in the park, going against its very philosophy of closeness with nature.

Udai and Aadyaa both enjoyed the Rock Garden, climbing all over the place, touching things. The water bodies attract many colourful insects and Udai was most fascinated with the red and blue dragonflies, and complained repeatedly about the fact that I was not carrying my zoom lens! Aadyaa loves climbing. This place was a dream come true for her and we had to keep stopping her from trying to scale the walls….All in all, a highly recommended outing for families. I only wish they had a better way of presenting the garden’s history and significance, a more interactive exhibit that could involve kids could drive home an important message about the importance of re-use and creativity.

My backpack carrier and my adventure lover were both enamored of the Rock Garden

My backpack carrier and my adventure lover were both enamored of the Rock Garden

Ravone-like walkways- The expansion and contraction in scale makes the Rock Garden a delight to wonder through!

Ravone-like walkways- The expansion and contraction in scale makes the Rock Garden a delight to wonder through!

Textures- From old ceramic electrical hardware

Textures- From old ceramic electrical hardware

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More texture

More texture

Incongruity is the name of the game...

Incongruity is the name of the game…

three of my favourtie people made to pose in an interesting arrangement, offsetting the texture behind

Three of my favorite people made to pose in an interesting arrangement, offsetting the texture behind

Close-up of the happy poser!

Close-up of the happy poser!

The two sisters rocked the trip, the whacky Chaturvedi humor keeping spirits high....yay for Meeta didi and Nupur!

The two sisters rocked the trip, the whacky Chaturvedi humor keeping spirits high….yay for Meeta didi and Nupur!

Soul of the party...

Soul of the party…

The older waterfall...Even on a warm day, this space felt refreshing and cool...all my efforts went to stop my little one from stepping into the water and slipping!

The older waterfall…Even on a warm day, this space felt refreshing and cool…all my efforts went to stop my little one from stepping into the water and slipping!

The new, larger waterfall is over four floors high and rather spectacular!

The new, larger waterfall is over four floors high and rather spectacular!

More texture in the new phase...pretty dramatic ravine-like effect

More texture in the new phase…pretty dramatic ravine-like effect

The new phase ends up in this large, out-of-scale, rather terribly designed space...totally takes the oomph out of the experience...and do not miss the bizarre diesel-powered toy train! Ugh! My kids of course insisted on riding, you see their silhouettes in there...

The new phase ends up in this large, out-of-scale, rather terribly designed space…totally takes the oomph out of the experience…and do not miss the bizarre diesel-powered toy train! Ugh! My kids of course insisted on riding, you see their silhouettes in there…

As you keave the Rock Garden, the familiar Nekchand-style sculptures say goodbye...check this one out enjoying his beer!

As you leave the Rock Garden, the familiar Nekchand-style sculptures say goodbye…check this one out enjoying his beer! Appropriate indeed, as the rest of this day was dedicated to celebrating my birthday…party time!

Urban themes galore at the India Art Fair

Of course, as an architect, my eye gets drawn to works of art that express themes that are urban in nature. But this time at the India Art Fair in New Delhi, there was no escaping the fact that artists are thinking of urban issues and concern, romancing the city, and expressing the nuances of urban life like never before. Not only does this mean that our urban identity as humans is now perhaps mainstreamed, at least for art appreciated by city folk, it also means an increased focus on urban issues that need urgent attention. Art contributed to enhancing awareness about these issues among a wider audience and we need all the help we can get to fix our cities if human life has to be sustainable for the future.

Here are a few glimpses of the fair.

The facade augured well for happy viewing. I loved the colours...

The facade augured well for happy viewing. I loved the colours…

The skyline and the streetscape were the most common representations of urbanism and featured in the work of many artists, even those who were prolific in the ’60s. However, new forms of expression that used mixed media, digital art, recycling of waste etc was interesting to see. Some of these works moved into the realm of activism and highlighted issues related to migration, urban identity, ecological concerns, etc. I was tickled to see that many of the artists exhibiting here were trained as architects.

Sachin George Sebastian is an architect and his work clearly reflects the skills and sensibilities of one

Sachin George Sebastian is an architect and his work clearly reflects the skills and sensibilities of one

A close up explains more clearly what I mean....

A close up explains more clearly what I mean….

Hema Upadhyay’s work ‘Mute Migration’ particularly impressed me. Firstly, migration is my area of research and I am passionate about the need to accomodate migrants into our cities. Her mural highlights that informal settlements are where migrants get absorbed, where the type of mixed-use lifestyle flourishes. Certainly, we need to learn from the amazing tenacity of these self-evolved informal settlements rather than constantly shun them in a bid to redevelop and relocate!

'Mute Migration' by Hema Upadhyay makes a mean point and is spectacularly large!

‘Mute Migration’ by Hema Upadhyay makes a mean point and is spectacularly large!

A close-up to show the kind of materials used. This was first exhibited in Japan

A close-up to show the kind of materials used. This was first exhibited in Japan

Suhasini Kejriwal's enormous pen and ink drawing depicts the teeming vibrancy of urban life. I loved this one!

Suhasini Kejriwal’s enormous pen and ink drawing depicts the teeming vibrancy of urban life. I loved this one!

Sheba Chhachhi's Moving image Lightboxes highlighted the plight of the River Yamuna and made a mute appeal for help

Sheba Chhachhi’s Moving image Lightboxes highlighted the plight of the River Yamuna and made a mute appeal for help

And on a humorous note, another architect Gautam Bhatia brought tears of laughter to my eyes through his sculptural commentary on the Indian politician. The text on his sculptures uses his classic tongue-in-cheek over-the-top style to push the point through. The Minister for Public Health has to leave for New York for a stool test after gas build up post a meal at Parliament Annexe. The Minister for Women’s Rights sells his wife to the private sect…you get the drift!

Lok Sabha Rajya Sabha by Gautam Bhatia...a humorous but cynical view of Indian politics to be sure!

Lok Sabha Rajya Sabha by Gautam Bhatia…a humorous but cynical view of Indian politics to be sure!

It’s always a fun experience to see this Fair. I have watched it grow and it’s great to see so much interest in India both as a nation that produces great art but also for its buying power. I watched many deals negotiated, haggling and also the satisfied smirk on some faces after buying a Chagall or a Raza in the original! As for me, I had no urge to buy. I was here for the visual treat…..perhaps some day……

The exhibits outside were interesting too...

The exhibits outside were interesting too…I clicked this for the colour effect!

Paresh Maity's 'Delhi 7' did not inspire

Paresh Maity’s ‘Delhi 7′ did not inspire

'Triple Gandhi' by Pakpoom Silaphan- Quite an interesting concept

‘Triple Gandhi’ by Pakpoom Silaphan- Quite an interesting concept

An absolutely lovable idea with old books!

An absolutely lovable idea with old books!

An afternoon of art and nostalgia @ Mandi House, New Delhi

Stolen moments of pleasure are always special. But often times, when you suddenly find yourself at a loose end with time on your hands, when a meeting gets over too soon for example, it’s hard to figure out what to do. I rack my brains to think of all the stuff I always want to do but never seem to have time for, and nothing comes to mind.

The walk from SPA’s archi block to planning block never looked so good in our days….some things do change for the better!

Well, today the cylinders inside my brain fired up at the right time when I realized I was done early at college and my car wouldn’t pick me up for another hour at least. I walked briskly to the other side of the road and caught the first auto to Mandi House. This was a nostalgia trip for sure, for Mandi House was where we went whenever we had a free afternoon, back in the days when we studied architecture in SPA. A sort of culture hub, we were always sure to be able to see a few art exhibitions and would end up catching a play or music performance at one of the 5 or so auditoriums there.

This afternoon, I headed first for the Triveni Kala Sangam. This was always our favorite among the Mandi House venues because it is a Joseph Allen Stein building, beautiful, always serene and quiet. As usual, most galleries were open and walking through the art, both paintings and sculpture, was pleasurable indeed. ‘Polemics of a Soul Catcher’, an exhibition of very large paintings, oil on canvas, by Satish Sharma offered a commentary of the place of modern man, his moral dilemmas, his new increasingly urban environment..thought provoking. A group art show in the open air court offered a variety of techniques and themes and the sculpture court was also full of interesting works.

Triveni has been a magnet for art lovers for years. Now of course, many modern art galleries have opened up in South Delhi and suburban areas too, and the importance of Mandi House has diminished somewhat.

You can’t not be in love with Stein’s architecture

Lallan Singh’s work filled the sculpture garden at the Triveni Kala Sangam. This was one of those endearing spaces where we spent some afternoons sitting around and sketching the exhibited work.

I had but a short time left, but I still tried to dash across to the Lalit Kala Akademi building, where again I know there always is something worth looking at.This ws quite a job with all the construction happening in this area. Thankfully, there were marshalls who were actually stopping cars so pedestrians could cross! I don’t come here often, but since I was a pedestrian today I noticed just how much the vehicular traffic has increased by in Lutyen’s Delhi. It completely destroys the charm, the constant whirring of cars with impatient drivers who don’t really want to wait for the pedestrians to cross! And this is the only walkable part of the city!

This is what the lovely patch of green at the cnter of Mandi House circle looks like now! To think that we spent many hours of one memorable night sitting in that patch of green on our group date as fresh hostelers in 1994! Hope this gets fixed soon…

Rabindra Bhawan’s memorable arches

I had only about fifteen minutes at Lalit Kala Akademi. The building, Rabindra Bhawan, hosts important cultural institutions for literature, fine arts and performing arts and is an iconic building designed by Habib Rehman, one of many public buildings he designed in the ’50s and ’60s. The art gallery here has been renovated and I was entering the renovated space for the first time. Rather nice and uncluttered. The exhibition, and I cannot remember the name of the show or the artists, was an exploration of abstraction using new media. I quite liked some of the works, especially those depicting nature and human form.

An hour or so well spent, in my own company, soaking in art, the city and its spaces….

Imaginative worlds are peppered with idyllic fantasy; should we get real or enjoy the beauty of our dreams? Sep 24, 2012

Sitting in the lobby of Shikshantar’s middle school block, I see before me an array of illustrated poems composed and drawn by children in Hindi to celebrate Hindi Divas, which comes on 14th September each year as that was when Hindi was adopted as the Indian national language. The story of how that has turned out in a nation that speaks and writes dozens of languages and dialects, we all see. But what has struck me this morning is the recurrence of certain themes that inspire children. Nature in many forms- seasons, creatures and flowers- is a constant subject of fascination. Why is that? Considering these are created by urban children who live in a concrete jungle with manicured lawns and terrace gardens as their only exposure to nature. Another recurring theme is raja-rani. The world of royalty- palaces, luxurious lifestyles intertwined with adventure, romance and power. Again, how do kids who are born in a democracy to parents who have never experienced monarchy in any form, keep returning to this theme?
Are we influenced by an idea that there is a certain innocence in themes such as nature and in stories about princes and princesses? Our folklore and children’s stories are full of these themes. For young children, more urban contemporary stories are still rare. Does it then take many generations of a changed lifestyle to be inspired by the changed environment? Or will we continue to dream of a world full of magical forests as we continue to destroy the real forests we have on earth? Are our works of creation or the way we adults inadvertently influence the creative work of children really wishful in nature rather than a reflection of reality?
Many works, of course, among both children and adults do depict the realities of our times. Aadyaa draws multistorey buildings often, not the typical hut. Udai draws planes and machines but is struggling between his need to reflect reality and draw more romantic themes like rural landscapes that he does not really identify with.
Isn’t that the true conflict for all of us. We all spend our entire lives attempting to reconcile the realities (often ugly and unpalatable) with the world of our dreams and aspiration (always in contrast beautiful and serene). I try to see beauty in the reality and find flaws in my dreams at times, but that’s just twisted old me!

Art through the eyes of children- Sep 22, 2012

Weekends are nearly exclusively time for friends and family. We also try and catch events, exhibitions and shows on weekends. Today, we were able to kill two birds with one stone at the Gurgaon Art Mart at Epicentre, where a dear friend’s mother who is also a favourite aunt to us was exhibiting her art for the very first time. Lekha Aunty is a natural and her work was very interesting. It was also fun to see the sheer variety of art work, both in terms technique and sensibility.
Of course, reactions from Udai and Aadyaa were a source of constant amusement and amazement. Where do children get the knack for understanding art? They see and interpret so astutely, it puts most adults to shame. At one point, I heard Udai having a detailed conversation about a particular painting with the artist, who seemed genuinely curious to hear the perspective of an eight year old. Aadyaa went around pointing work she liked rather spontaneously, rather guided by color and form as one would expect from a child her age. Krishna as a theme resonates with her strongly and there were plenty of depictions of both Krishna and Ganesh. I was glad see less of the Buddha, who has become some sort of urban craze and dominated the pop art scene for years.
The icing on the cake for the kids was the opportunity to paint on canvases open to the public. They really went for it, both of them, opting for big bold strokes. Outside in the amphitheatre, Danceworks put up some interesting choreography in the contemporary style, which immediately inspired the kid to perform their own antics.
Cultural spaces like the Epicentre, though a tad too formal for my liking, are a boon to places like Gurgaon. A much needed oasis in a cultural desert. Today, I enjoyed experiencing the space and the art through the eyes of my kids.

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Admiration: The tough road an artist must walk- Sep 16, 2012

I admire art and I admire artists more. Art demands an honesty and level of consciousness that is exhausting while requiring at the same the exact opposite, spontaneity. Anyone who can pull all of that off together while exhibiting magnificent technique and composition and content is a magician of sorts.
I try and bring that sort of almost brutal honesty to my writing, but I do find myself playing to the gallery once in a while or simply exploring tangents that take my fancy without real conviction. Those are also important aspects of the journey of an artist. And yes, I do consider myself a part artist or an aspirant at least.
But at what point does an artist know that she has arrived at a point when she can share her work with the world at large? When does she throw herself bare and invite reactions? Some artists I know say that they knew when they were ready. They just felt it. Were more confident and had more clarity. Others say there was no defining moment. They simply toiled away at it till someone pushed them to share their work. They took tentative steps forward into the public realm and only when appreciation came in did they realise they were on to something.
I guess in art, like in everything else, how you perform is as much a matter of talent as that of the personality of the artist. In this too, there are contrasts. Reticent and quiet people can be aggressive in self promotion and social, gregarious artists can be self deprecating and low on confidence. The training of an artist, therefore, needs to be about art and attitude in equal parts. Which is true for a lot of other things as well I guess.
It’s hard for artists though, because they rely on self discipline and mentoring to learn and progress. It isn’t usually an institutionalised process of learning and progression; and certainly not time bound. Finding the right mentors and having a sense of purpose and balance become critical ingredients to the artists journey.
But balance can often take away from the passion needed to bring out your art, deter you from taking a stand and inhibit expression perhaps. It’s an old joke, that artists are slightly unbalanced, eccentric, crazy. Indeed they must be, for they hold up a mirror to society and human nature, both of which are twisted and complex, and perhaps even unfair.