Saturday, December 6, 2014

The colour of envy

The Panchatantra tales tell about a jackal who fell into a vat of indigo-blue dye being used by a washerman. When the jackal managed to struggle out of the vat, he had turned a uniform blue! All the animals were wary of this blue jackal, and assumed he was a mysterious powerful animal. The jackal too realized the opportunity this situation presented, and pretended he had divine powers. He managed to convince all the other animals of the kingdom, including the lion who was king of the jungle, that he would protect them from all evil forces. In return all that he asked was that the animals would by turns take care to feed him, and look after him, and pay daily obeisances.

The jackal was really enjoying himself, till one day, he let his guard down. He heard some of his fellow jackals howling in the distance, and forgetting himself, sat up and howled away loudly along with them. Of course all the animals realized they had been fooled, and rushed upon him in anger. And that was the end of the blue jackal.

A different kind of story is playing out on the streets of Varna, Bulgaria. This cat has been sleeping on a pile of synthetic turquoise green paint in an abandoned garage. It is a mystery how as a result of it, he has turned so completely, and uniformly green. Nor does he seem to be shedding any of the paint off!


He is a friendly cat, and the other animals are not getting put off, or at all getting scared by his appearance. However, the other cats do seem to be rather envious of all the attention this cat has been getting, and probably wondering how they could turn a shade of green themselves!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Grasshopper and Metamorphosis

During the seven days of my exhibition at the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, I had a ring side view of the sculpture exhibition on at the Foyer area. A young talented sculptor called Biswajit Bej was exhibiting his works there and his works included several hard backed insects like a grasshopper and a pair of dung beetles:

The grasshopper was sculpted out of wood, and looked ready to spring. With its size, and stance, it would remind me of Kafka's "Metamorphosis", and whenever not busy with visitors to my exhibition, I could just look downstairs at the grasshopper and the pair of hard working dung beetles.

They had totally changed the otherwise drab foyer space into a mysterious one. Children who came to the gallery were particularly fascinated with these "specimens".

 Apart from the insects, there were a few compositions with human figures, which were also sculpted in acrobatic, agile compositions, ready to jump and spring!

All of them added to the fascinating experience I had at the Lalit Kala.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Older than history

There is something changeless and eternal about the Ganges at Varanasi. Mark Twain is supposed to have said, "Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together."

That's how the river looks too, and the sky, at Benares.

This one is again a large painting, 3 feet by 4 feet, oil on canvas, part of the solo art show at my exhibition at Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi.

On view till the 1st of November.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A surprise treasure

A mud hole in arid areas of Rajasthan, or a large crater lake in Lonar, Buldana District, Maharashtra: I guess an aerial view would look a bit like this:

What a surprise it is to suddenly find a treasure house of clean water, in the middle of parched land! This painting shows such a precious find of clear, cool water. It is a 30" X 30" oil on canvas painting. 
Smooth brush strokes have been used to paint the water, and knife and palette work is used to show the different texture of the surroundings.

On display at my ongoing exhibition at the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi till the 1st November.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

How Green was my Valley

"How green was my valley then, and the valley of them that have gone." -  Richard Llewellyn, How Green Was My Valley.

This one is a tribute to all such memories, of calm skies, green valleys, peaceful times. It is a 3 feet by 4 feet, oil on canvas,

On display right now, at my exhibition at Lalit Kala Akademi, Gallery 4, Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi, till the 1st November.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ganges at Rishikesh

It is in the region of Rishikesh that the Ganges leaves the mountains and spreads out on to the plains. I feel the river slows down here, and is cruising along singing quietly to itself.

Well, this painting is inspired by this "feel" of mine:

Rishikesh is quite a center for Yoga, Ayurveda, and several healing practices. I am sure what people come most to get healed by, and carry a memory of, is the soothing presence of the river, specially on the ghats, and during the evening prayers.

This painting among others is part of my on-going exhibition at Lalit Kala Akademi.

For those of you, who have missed the invite earlier, I am adding it here again. If you are in Delhi-NCR, do come over:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Flotsam and Jetsam

I have been busy completing paintings for my upcoming exhibition at The Lalit Kala Akademi. Hence the lull in blog entries.
All the compositions are inspired by the patterns of flowing water.

Water itself forms fascinating patterns, whether we are watching waves on a sea shore, the running water in a creek, or like a little child, stirring the water in a mud-hole with a stick.

Along with the water itself, little objects that float around in the water all form their own complex patterns, and all of them suggest a story.

This painting is inspired by all the flotsam and jetsam you see in the water twisting and turning around, and floating away swiftly, or getting untangled sometimes. They are made up of a medley of objects, and over time, their size and appearance goes on changing. Sometimes they add more objects, and sometimes they shed some of it..

This painting is a 24" by 30" acrylic + oil on canvas.

All of you who are in Delhi/ NCR, do come for my exhibition at Gallery 4, Lalit Kala Akademi, Rabindra Bhavan, Feroz Shah Road, New Delhi- 110001, from 26th October to 1st November, open all days 11 am. to 7 pm. entry free. (This is at the Mandi House round about, so you could catch the metro to Mandi House station).

Monday, September 15, 2014

The great pumpkin

The pumpkins that Markandey Jajware from Jharkhand, India uses are not very large. But he has figured out a way to dry them out, carve them, and give them a fine finish. The themes are from his world around him: men, women, gods and goddesses, characters from the great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, animals and birds.

He would not share the exact process he employs, but he says he dries the pumpkins for almost two years, in the open, back in his village at Deoghar. He keeps a studio office in Delhi, for completing the final finish, and of course as a store for his works.

With both the materials as well as the process being low cost, he was able to keep prices low. Also, the sculptures being made out of pumpkin, were very light. All this, Mr. Jajware explained, helped him get a broad base of clients, which included homes and schools, and not only collectors or museums.

I chanced upon his exhibition during a visit to the Lalit Kala Akademi recently. What I liked most were the male and female figures. As you can see, they all had a great "attitude"!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The dance of Shiva

The Nataraja, or dancing form of Shiva is full of mystery, strength and grace. A young artist Himanshu Rai, makes various modern day variations in fiberglass of the dancing form of Shiva, or just small installations by using a few features from the Nataraja.

I saw his works at an exhibition at the Lalit Kala Akademi and found him hugely talented.
What was a distinguishing feature in Himanshu's works was the fluidity, strength and beauty that we associate with the dance, or Nritya of Nataraja.

Himanshu also works a lot on the illustration and animation fronts. One could see the influences in several of his sculptures.

What I also found very interesting were the modern day avatars of Devis and Devatas with all sorts of paraphernalia. They were life size figures and looked straight out of a sci-fi movie!

Monday, August 4, 2014

The story of Madurai

I was familiar with photographs of the facade of the famous Meenakshi temple of Madurai, or photographs of the Madurai skyline showing Meenakshi temple. But for pictures that tell a story about Madurai, you should see the work of Manohar Devadoss:

I chanced upon his work because of an article about him in The Hindu. But I got impressed more and more about the man as I read about his life. Struck by a "retinis pigmentosa",  a degenerative eye disease as a teenager, and hardly able to see now, Manohar

Devadoss has continued his work aided by special tools and strong halogen lights.
His wife Mahema initiated him into oil painting in the 1960's, and supported him in all his writing and drawing, but a cruel accident when the family was driving from Chennai to Madurai, paralyzed her from neck downwards. This was in 1972.

Not one give up, Manohar has produced hundreds of drawings, and also written several books. His wife Mahema continued to support as much as she could in both writing and drawing activities for more than three decades, with all her disabilities.

Manohar lost his wife about six years back, but continues to write and draw as much as he can. The Hindu article came about after the recent publication of his latest work "From an artist's perspective". He has described in the book his understanding of the concept of perspective in art.

As I browsed through his work, I got glimpses of life in the the city of Madurai which is a backdrop for a lot of his work. The sketches reproduced here are to record some of this admiration for an exceptional artist and his work.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Kicking up a storm

"Leaf storm" won for me my second Art Slant award, as the 4th 2014 Showcase winner!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Artists on the street, Delhi

After the scenes of art works creating interesting spaces in old market areas like Shankar Market, visitors to Connaught Place had another interesting brush with the arts and artists.

A flash mob of a different kind, organized by "Cause Art" and "Artist at Work Productions", emerged on the streets of Connaught Place on the 6th of July. About 25 artists participated in the event along with their art works.

Pics from:

Visitors and bystanders, shoppers and shopkeepers, who had assumed this was going to be another of the street protests they were used to seeing, were amazed and stunned to find not placards and posters, but colorful paintings being brought out and held by the team of artists.

Soon the crowds were going around looking at the compositions, asking questions of the artists, genuinely puzzled, curious and quite delighted at this unexpected and unfamiliar experience.

  The event helped both parties. Crowds who had never had the time or opportunity to step inside and explore galleries got a taste of the variety of mediums, compositions and themes being used by young contemporary artists.

The artists themselves got a taste of the different and demanding crowd.They answered all sorts of questions on why they painted, what they were trying to say through their work, and what were the challenges of execution they faced in their work.

The organizers were quite happy with the results, and fortunately for Delhi-ites, more such public events will follow.

Street Art, Delhi

Shankar Market on Connaught Palce's outer circle was once a chosen destination for cool fabrics ad dress materials. Over time, it has become a rather forlorn, and paan-stained, ill-frequented place. The move this year to restore some of the footfalls has been rather an innovative one.

The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has joined hands with the Delhi Street Art (DSA) movement and commissioned a few artists to refurbish the walls of Shankar Market with their imagination.

 If the Delhi Street Art's work in Hauz Khas is anything to go by, we should soon have some interesting walls in Shankar Market as well.

In fact, there are a few other such old favorite haunts in line for the beautification drive, and the next one to get a facelift will apparently be Gole Market.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Rob Ferrel is a World Cup hair artist. He can draw a master piece using his hair cutting tools, and give you a dramatic appearance, as per your request!

Rob has a lot of images on his phone of football players and other celebrities that people ask him about. He starts off with a trimmer and razor, to create the drawing on the back of the customer's head. He then uses no-toxic eye-liner and lip-liner pencils to fill in his drawing.

After he has finished, he uses hair spray to add a protective layer to his master piece. One can imagine he would have been extremely busy the past few months. Rob has a team to help him now, but he is the main portrait artist!

Looking at the pictures, all we can say is Ole!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Where has the "Jatra" gone?

Till about 15 -20 years back, various Jatra or performing drama troupes would descend on the capital to perform during the Durga Puja. The word "Jatra" itself means a journey, and the troupe members would be on the road in various parts of the country, for most of the year, except for the harvesting season, when they returned to base, presumably somewhere in West Bengal.

 Most of the stories they told would be based on mythology, the epics, or folk tales. The stories would cover legendary kings, gods and goddesses (specially Ma Durga, Kali, Chandi, Ma Manasha), and characters from the puranas. The performance typically started late evening, and could go on for 3-4 hours, stopping just before day-break.

Over time, the Jatra started covering whatever was current in national politics, the literature of the times including love stories (stories from Bankimchandra and Tagore), stories about royalty, and they also made comments on social changes that were taking place.

The clothes, script, dialogue delivery, the posters used for Jatra were all stylized and over-dramatic. The music was semi-classical raga-based or based on well known folk tunes and rhythms. Instruments were usually, dholak, pakhawaj, harmonium, flute and behala (the local violin), tabla, cymbals and trumpets. Songs had to be sung by the actors themselves.

Since the performance was on a stage open on all sides, with practically no sets, and humans sang, or had monologues and dialogues coming in from all sides, there was much commenting, accompanying and merriment in the crowd, which sat on all sides of the stage.

There was another special feature about a Jatra. Apart from a commentator or Sutradhar who strung together various poems, side stories, and dances to the plot, there were a few special characters in a Jatra performance: A figure called Bibek or Conscience would come in at any juncture, pose questions to the audience, give his philosophical perspective, and also discuss future scenarios. Another character called Niyoti or Fate, usually played by a female, would comment on, or foretell the role of time and destiny. There was also sometimes a special actor called Bahurupi (or the one with multiple forms), who true to his name, could take on all sorts of different persona!

I wonder where the Jatra has gone in the days of TV and the internet. I do hope it gets revived and it could then possibly get telecast from a huge arena, with live twitter and messages coming in just like the big games!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Chaos and Harmony: More storms

Exactly a week after the last post, there was a pretty violent storm that hit Delhi, with winds at over 92 km per hour. Well, my fascination with storms meant that my second painting of the "Leaf Storm" series was complete. The colours give a different strength to the chaos, and harmony of scattered leaves, twigs, flowers, nuts and buds. While many old and wrinkled branches fall off trees in such a storm, a few young ones are plucked off before their time:

For people on the road, the storm meant a terrible amount of dust, trees swaying, traffic getting disrupted and things flying from balconies and roofs and hoarding, and hurtling around like dangerous missiles, and then there was darkness at noon!


My exhibition is on at Triveni Gallery, Triveni Kala Sangam, Tansen Marg, New Delhi till the 6th June.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Leaf Storm

There have been quite a few squalls lately bringing down the temperature. One image you often see during such events is a "whirling dervish" of leaves.
A little wind stirs up all the leaves, scoops them up, and whirls them round and round. Sometimes the leaves settle down temporarily, and take off in a more energetic whirl, and sometimes they go around in smaller circles. Or they may chase each other playfully down the road.

My painting "Leaf Storm" celebrates this playfulness in nature. The title is in honour of the first novel of the same name by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Here is the painting:

This and other paintings celebrating the dynamic playfulness of nature will be on display during my forthcoming exhibition "Impression to Expression" at Triveni Gallery, Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi, from 28th May to 6th June, 2014, all days 11 am. to 7 pm. 
All those who can make it are invited. For those of you interested but not in town, or who cannot make it due to other reasons, I will be putting up the images later on my website

Friday, April 11, 2014

An artist's room

The 55th National Exhibition of Art was on at the Lalit Kala Akademi, showcasing award winning entries in visual arts for the year. There were a few films being screened too on works of eminent artists. I was able to see one: a documentary film called "Ram Kumar: Nostalgic Longing" produced by the Akademi, and directed by Laurent Bregeat, which was rather nice, showing the artist at work, and capturing his conversation as he worked.

Sharing an image of a sculpture from the exhibition:

"The Artist's Room in Arles" was painted by Vincent Van Gogh in 1889. It has obviously inspired many artists to show their rooms, because here is one from the exhibition:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Flame of the forest

The flame-of-the-forest, or Palash flowers were in bloom well before Holi, all over Delhi and Gurgaon, as soon as weather turned warm. The Palash trees had shed their old leaves, and one could see the buds on the bare branches, as a curtain-raiser, till suddenly the trees were in full bloom, the branches laden with flaming orange-red flowers.

Dried Palash flowers or Tesu, would be earlier put into huge brass caudrons of water, to extract a thick vibrant yellow colour, to be used for playing Holi. I'm hoping there will be enough people next year to put a stop to the present artificial colours, and get back to the natural colours of Tesu.

Also, maybe this will lead to more initiatives to plant Palash/ Tesu trees along our city roads. The Palash trees look majestic, and as the dry Tesu petals fall off, they make for a wonderful flaming orange pavement, a rare treat for the eyes!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

An Art Factory

Surbhi Mehta, a young Gurgaon based artist has been busy the last few weeks creating an art hub in a large unused space of about an acre. The space was part of her father's paper factory. It came with a big open space, with peepul and neem trees, several potted plants, some factory sheds, and various unused machine parts, spares and paraphernalia.

The place has been cleaned, pruned and organized, the factory paraphernalia strewn around along with art installations and paintings, to form a vibrant creative space. An art-meets-factory workspace area. Complete with a factory style "chai" stall.

What also sets the place apart, is that though it is right in the middle of urban concrete and chaos, once you are inside the gates of the factory, it is a place with large trees and birds chirping, and a creative ambiance.
The plan is to hold art events and workshops and create an "open-space" of art and conversation. A few pics of the open-space:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Light between the trees

I love to look up and see the light filtering through the branches of trees. And sadly one sees the number of trees dwindling at a fast pace in the urban environment, and those that are there are not the old, dense types with a generous spread of branches. The modern urban trees mostly have narrow trunks, and a dismal famished appearance.

So I loved the exhibition of photographs, paintings and videos at the Art Heritage Gallery, Triveni Kala Sangam, New Delhi, by Ms. Kavita Jaiswal, many of which captured the spread of old, wise trees, and the light filtering through them.

Here is one that I loved:

What also appeals to me in her works is the seemingly dynamic flow of materials over time, as in this one - and there were several such - with minimal colours, mostly shades of black, grey and white. These compositions reminded me of the earth's formation through the ages; only the flow was important, not the form :

Friday, February 14, 2014

Then and now - Raja Ravi Verma's women

The depiction of women in Raja Ravi Verma's women were a sign of the times, and as he saw and understood them..

The women were all drawn from mythological characters, the Hindu epics, or from royal households. The artist has either deified them, or painted goddesses themselves, or painted "Naayikas" or heroines: bejewelled and silk-saree clad women of leisure. The women gracefully reclined or rested against pillars, in grassy meadows, well tended gardens and in opulent palaces.

The exhibition at Art Alive, Gurgaon is interesting in its modern interpretations, and is on for the whole month. I certainly found it worth a visit, and have mentioned it here before.
Sharing here two such interpretations: the first is trademark Atul Dodiya.

The second work is by Paresh Maity.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The line, the story and the image

The new and interesting works in painting were to be found in the contemporary art galleries, and in some of the international galleries, at the India Art Fair.

Nissim Ben Aderet sketches only in black and white. Also, his compositions are done entirely with lines of different tones. I was delighted to meet the artist at the fair, and he shared that he uses a single, or continuous line "in one breath" as it were, to create his work.
As you can see in the image, with his "one-line" composition, the artist is able to create entire sets of people, spaces, and relationships. There were several such one-of a-kind artists at the fair.

The established Indian galleries had works of a lot of senior artists on view. There were several gems among them. But one would have wished to see newer works as well. Some of the senior artists had included some of their newer work for the Art Fair as well, like these paintings and installations of Paresh Maity.