Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A kaleidoscope of paintings

Winter in Delhi normally gets less severe after the festival of "Makar Sankranti". This is the day when the Sun stops moving southwards at the Topic of Capricorn (this southward journey is called "Dakshinayana"), and starts its northwards journey (or "Uttarayana") towards the Tropic of Cancer.

The international art symposium planned at Karma Lakelands, Gurgaon, was obviously to take advantage of the sunny weather post Makar Sankranti, and have an open-air live painting event.

A visit to the venue was like a kaleidoscope of colours and styles of art.

There was a variety of styles on display. There were compositions with bright colours and bold strokes. And there were some that almost blended with the patterns of nature, and seemed to celebrate them.

Artists came from different countries. Each had their own unique thinking, and things to say. And I had a good time chatting up with them.

I do think we need to have more of these events. Just like music has an orchestra, we do need artists with different things to say, to do their bit independently, and share their thoughts and experiences with each other.

The art works are on display beyond the event, and visitors can interpret the art works afterwards in any which way they want.

The Delhi weather allows outdoor painting only for a few months each year. So it would be great to have more of such events.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A picture worth a thousand words and a film

The district of Morigaon in Assam is known for the place of occult, Mayang, the Pobitora wild life sanctuary, and the ferocity of its floods.

Ritu Raj Konwar, the Guwahati based special news photographer, was covering the floods in 2014, and clicked this photograph for "The Hindu". It showed a little boy carrying his goats to safety in a raft made of banana trunks, using the thin branch of a tree for steering through the flood waters.

While the Morigaon region sees frequent downpours, the 2014 floods were specially severe, with more than 2,00,000 people landing in relief camps. Even the rhinos of Kaziranga National Park were affected and several got electrocuted, and as in the picture alongside, the dead rhino had to be dragged away with the help of elephants. Unfortunately, the remote areas of the north-eastern states of India, do not get sufficient national media attention.

However, the photograph of the little boy carrying his goats, caught the attention of well known Malayalam film maker, Jayaraj, known for his art house films, as well as mainstream ones. He was inspired to make a movie about a little boy, and his grandfather, called "Ottaal", which he based on the Russian story by Chekhov, "Vanka".

Ottaal went on to win the "Golden Gateway of India Award" at the Mumbai Film Festival, 2015.
And Jayaraj recently went on to do what he was planning ever since he first saw the photograph. He tracked down the little boy, Ashadul Islam at his village Kuchani in Morigaon,Assam.

Jayaraj has announced he is going to look after little Ashadul's upkeep, health and education. Ashadul's parents are daily-wage labourers in a brick factory, and this help will go a long way for the family.

Jayaraj's visit also helped draw some attention to the small village of Kuchani, and its desperately poor people. Jayaraj's charity foundation has said it would look after the health needs of the village.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Calvendo: A publishing house for artists

Calvendo was one of the first publishing platforms to enable creative artists to share their paintings, illustrations, digital art or photographs and self-publish them.

You can design calendars and poster books as print-on-order products.

I have to report a very happy experience doing my first calendar with them:


Calvendo uses state-of-the-art machinery to take out multi-coated high-quality prints on order.

I recommend them highly to all artists!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Lending a voice to deaf artists. By design.

Smriti Nagpal learnt to use sign language at home, while communicating with her two older siblings who were hearing impaired. She would often help out with her special ability, her friends and at the National Association of the Deaf, while pursuing her studies in business administration, and then later at work. Apart from her ability in sign language however, she combined rare sensitivity as well as business sense.

So when she met a hearing impaired artist, who was not able to reach out to the art community with his work, because of his disability, she decided to help. The result is an organization called "Atulyakala", quite simply: Art Unparalleled. It bridges this physical gap, and gets the artists to communicate with others in the field, and of course also with clients, customers, employers and suppliers.

Atulyakala sells from its website fine art prints like the one shown here, and also lifestyle products like mugs, bags and wallets. They work with artists and designers who can hear, and with customers of all types. They also hold workshops and events to create awareness about their work, and also because all of us who can hear need to be able to work with those who can't.

The amazing thing is Smriti, now 25, got all this going by age 23! She has got a lot of recognition now, specially with the under-30 young entrepreneurs' award as part of BBC's 100 inspirational women for 2015. She was chosen to interpret the Republic Day parade for the deaf community, on national television early this year.

Well, she has a lot to do. She does have her heart and head in the right place for it. For when asked by the BBC correspondent, on what advice she would give the viewers wanting to follow in her footsteps, she answered: "See few dreams, and follow them with all your heart, and the world will be right there, all yours!"

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A heart warming Children's Day Doodle

India celebrates 14th November as the birth anniversary of its first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and as an annual celebration of all the talent and potential in its children, the nation's future. This year's Google doodle was a great reminder of this talent, and our responsibility to nurture it.

The doodle was drawn by a nine year old boy, Karthik, a class III student. Karthik and his sister Ramya, a class IV student, had both taken part in a national level Google Doodle competition on the theme "If I could create something for India, it would be..". Karthik had envisioned "a machine to recycle all the plastic waste from our country and turn it into a material which helps the growth of mother nature..."

Both the children made it to the short list in their own age groups, and then into the final list of twelve doodles being considered.

Karthik's doodle was the final one chosen for the Google page. When the children got a phone call at home with the news, both of them got ready as fast as possible and ran to the school.

They didn't nave a computer at home, and the first thing they did was to put on the computer in the school lab, and check the Goggle search page. and there it was! It was true!

Karthik and his sister study at Sri Prakash Niketan, in Vizag, Andhra Pradesh. Their father drives one of the school buses in the same school. He was beaming with pride and happiness. He said he       couldn't help the children with their homework, but supported them as much as he could.

The school has now decided to reward the children's school by taking care of their educational expenses till Class X.

I had loved the Children's Day Doodle. It was even more heartwarming to read the story about the children behind the doodle. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The second Avatar of Vishnu

After the "Matsya (or Fish) Avatar" of Lord Vishnu which was the first, he next descended on earth in the "Kurma (or the giant turtle) Avatar". What I find most interesting about the Hindu stories of the Avatars of Vishnu is: They seem to be following a natural progression of the species, starting from water, proceeding slowly to land, and evolving towards more human forms (Narasimha, the half-man half-lion; Vamana, the dwarf) to the super-human or godly Avatars (Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Lord Buddha).

Also, each of the Avatars follows a major turning point and crisis on earth, and results in a total transformation of the earth and life on it. The last of the ten Avatars or "Dashavatars", yet to come, is Kalki, who is supposed to descend on earth at the end of the present age, "Kali Yuga". All the Avatars have been interpreted and celebrated by artists through the ages.

 Contemporary artist Sangeeta  Murthy finds the turtle a symbol of  stability and calm. In the story of  the "Kurma Avatar", the great turtle  helps in an epic battle between the  good (Devas) and evil forces  (Asuras), by bearing the weight of  the great mountain "Mandara".

 Sangeeta Murthy believes the  message is about the strength in  slowing down, in forbearance,  patience and strength, as opposed to  constant speed, intolerance and aggression.

She says she finds a lot of calm just doodling black and white images of "the great turtle". The acrylics and oils depict more complex tales and interpretations of Lord Vishnu, and the "Samudra Manthan", or churning of the great ocean.

It is as a result of the churning of the oceans, that Goddess Lakshmi is born. While all the icons and the events of the story have their own interpretations, the artist is at liberty to interpret them in many ways, to combine them, superpose them with other tales and symbols, giving rise to literally several more twists and tales. Sangeeta has used several techniques used in the tribal Gond Art, Tibetan Mandala art as well as Mithila art in her works.

In fact, it is amazing how turtles have found space in some of these traditional art forms, and the uniformity with which they have been perceived across the world as a symbol of longevity, wisdom and stability. Probability as a result of their long lifespan, wrinkled appearance and hard shells, no doubt!

Some turtles migrate large distances across the ocean, adding to the mystery surrounding them. They have even been found in ancient rock art, like this piece from the Baku Museum, where they symbolize creation, fertility and long life.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Street Art to "Make the politicians work"?

Well, that is what happened in the city of Yekaterinburg, the fourth largest city in Russia, named after Yekaterina, the wife of Tsar Peter the Great. The city is the industrial and cultural center of the Ural Federal District, and public transportation in the city includes the metro, trams, buses and "trolley-buses".

The citizens in Yekaterinburg were not very happy with the state of the city roads, particularly the size of the pot-holes and made use of street-art in a novel way. Almost overnight, some of the larger potholes on the roads were used for remarkable street graffiti. Caricatures of prominent politicians in charge of and accountable for road repair were drawn cleverly around the potholes.

     The faces were those of recognizable prominent politicians like the governor, mayor and deputy-mayor of the city. The portraits were also captioned with quotes from past speeches of the politicians promising to fix the roads.

Needless to say, the faces drew a huge response from the general public and the politicians alike. Action was swift, and the potholes with portraits around them were quickly painted over.

The vigilante artists were ready, and had filmed the entire process. Their response, equally swift, was to paint captions saying "Painting is not fixing it".

The artists seemed to have won the day, as the next lot of workmen who came, repaired the potholes. Taking no chances, they also repaired all the other major potholes in the city.

 The advertising agency that ran the street campaign got their share of recognition, winning awards in four different categories at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, 2013. The citizens benefitted too as a special project called "Ura.Ru Roads" was launched, where citizens could upload details of roads that needed repair, and action was now more prompt!