Saturday, December 29, 2018

Where Art Happens - Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018 - First Impressions

It's Biennale days in Kochi and one may find art everywhere - every nook and corner - if one has an eye for it (or even otherwise probably). The main venue Aspinwall and the neighbourhood is loaded with people from all walks of life enjoying art in all forms of it. Biennale commenced on 12 Dec and will continue until 29 Mar 2019. I made a short visit, need more time to go around, soak it all in. So here's the first glimpse and let me remind you these are not lasting impressions as you have to make your own and my own may change in the re-visiting(s) as well.

Anita Dube, the biennale’s first woman curator, has worked enormously to put together an array of artists and artworks keeping with the belief that “through the potential of social action, coming together, we ask and search for questions, critical questions, in the hope of dialogue.”

I was pretty excited when the names of the artists' were announced, the name that excited me THE MOST was William Kentridge who is very often described as South Africa's Picasso. I have always loved his works but had never in my wildest dreams had imagined that I would get to see his insightful work - a combination of figurative art, dance, music and mime. To be in the presence of such a work with so much history was is in itself 'a-pulsating-experience' for me! It is a personal response and not a commentary on the work itself. They are more like moving silhouettes that talk about the socio-political scenario of South Africa. His works reflect the aftermath of apartheid and colonialism and his landscapes are usually charred industrial and mining lands around Johannesburg. He uses drawings, erasures and re-drawings and films it. His projects are massive and yet they gloriously amalgamate the different aspects of visual art, theatre and performance, film into one decisive and ultimate work. Here's a small video-clip-

Then there are some other well-known names like Marlene Dumas, Sue Williamson, Anju Dodiya, Priya Ravish Mehra,  Guerilla Girls, Juul Kraijer, Shilpa Gupta, Monica Mayer and so on...

 Priya Ravish Mehra

Priya Ravish Mehra from New Delhi holds a special place in my heart, one of my favourites, for she was a humble human being laden with love and hearty laughter that would make one join in the mirth. I had the chance to meet her personally during the previous Biennale and she even accompanied me to visit our Community project which was part of a Collateral Project of 2016. She sat through my whole video, clicked a picture of mine, introduced a couple of friends to her and then I took her to some of the galleries near-by. I pay my homage to that Amazing Soul.
Priyaji was inspired by Rafoogari and her works were the beautiful testament to the weavers and their amazing craft of darning. She extended the idea of 'invisible' repair in darning by combining fragments of discarded weaves with paper pulp, reconstituting both fibres since they arise from the same source. Duality manifests as unity in her work celebrating the metaphor of 'reet' which stands for cosmic truth/order in the Indian philosophy.

Vocabulary - series of 20 drawings 
Ink and acrylic on paper

Marlene Dumas is a South African artist who now lives in Amsterdam. She is a prolific artist painting in Oils and Ink on paper. She stores all kinds of newspaper-magazine clippings which become the 'seed' of her works. Her subjects vary from children to unfamiliar adults to great personalities and the like. She uses the figurative form which has a phantom-like appearance, her technique more like swift, gestural watercolour washes, stains and delicately drawn images. Marlene's works here depict "small, inconsequential moments, objects and beings as an attempt to quieten our personal demons as well as those of the world around us."

 Messages from the Atlantic Passage
Glass. metal. water, wood. fishing nets

Sue Williamson is a South African artist whose work mentioned above recalls the historical past of South Africa welled up with heart-wrenching stories of the slave trade and apartheid and the reconciliation of the post-apartheid. "First shown at Art Basel Unlimited in 2017, the installation is a visual representation of the accumulated records of vessels responsible for transporting captives from West Africa to the Americas during the 19th Century – a journey repeated more than 30 000 times that was known as ‘The Atlantic Passage’. Williamson’s work recalls a small handful of those voyages. This remembrance takes the form of fishing nets, filled with glass bottles containing traces of earth, suspended above tanks of water. Each net represents one ship’s journey across the Atlantic. Every bottle, in turn, is hand engraved with information about one of the slaves on that voyage, including their African name, the new ‘Christian’ name given by the slaver, the country of origin, and the age, sex and height of the person. The installation is an extension of Sue Williamson’s acclaimed Messages from the Moat (1997), first exhibited on Okwui Enwezor’s 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, which listed the slaves brought to the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East India Company between 1658 and 1762."

 Rehearsal for an Apocalypse

Born in Mumbai, Anju Dodiya's works have been meditations on the artist as the self-referential protagonist. She adopts a wide range of art historical sources from Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, medieval tapestries, and Renaissance paintings to newspaper photographs. In Anju Dodiya's work, the viewer encounters the artist as a calm individual traversing through the infinite cosmos signifying her insignificance as a witness of civilizations past and present. I was primarily interested in her miniatures which I felt were self-reflective and said that they were "based on Bible reproductions construct images of fear that can be viewed as talismans to distance the fear."


"The Guerrilla Girls are feminist activist artists. Over 55 people have been members over the years, some for weeks, some for decades. Our anonymity keeps the focus on the issues, and away from who we might be. We wear gorilla masks in public and use facts, humor and outrageous visuals to expose gender and ethnic bias as well as corruption in politics, art, film, and pop culture. We undermine the idea of a mainstream narrative by revealing the understory, the subtext, the overlooked, and the downright unfair. We believe in intersectional feminism that fights discrimination and supports human rights for all people and all genders."
I couldn't have described them better. They are a group of anonymous activists who fight against sexism, inequality and racism in the art world.

 The Clothesline

Mónica Mayer is a feminist Mexican artist, activist and art critic whose work includes performance, digital graphics, drawing, photography and art theory. Her projects are always participatory or done in collaboration with other artists. She has continually devoted to bridging the complexities in different places across the globe. Begun in 1978 in Mexico City, 'The Clothesline' is the enactment of an ongoing participatory installation where the participants write their experiences from Kerala's recent floods and of sexual harassment heightened as part of the #MeToo movement and hang them on a clothesline - replicating the domestic act of hanging the laundry that many women share.


One of the artists' that impressed me most is Juul Kraijer as I could relate, feel connected to her frames. It was as if an extension of my own feelings! Juul Kraijer is a Dutch visual artist whose principal mediums are drawing and photography. She occasionally makes sculptures and video-works. It is definitely not an individual's story but expresses a frame of mind particularly that of the feminine psyche - the multitude of emotional and spiritual states as designed through the convoluted and knotted forms without much of a backdrop negating the sense of time and space. She likens them to "the Hydra, the multi-headed Greek mythological serpent," considering them "as vessels for open interpretation within the imaginations of whoever they encounter." And then there are other images where one finds animal and vegetation sprouting and/or mingling with the human form as if indicating the inseparable natural world. 

 For, in Your Tongue, I Can Not Fit - 100 Jailed Poets

Shilpa Gupta from Mumbai has studied sculpture from J.J.School of Arts. Her works are embedded with the message that we are all actors in the political forces that regulate society. Her work makes obvious the invisible threads that bind various factions of society together, often sensorily challenging her audience to occupy subject positions of the 'other', even if temporarily, to initiate an empathetic understanding. "For, in Your Tongue, I Can Not Fit - 100 Jailed Poets" expands on the artists' investigations of political borderlines, and how they exist beyond maps to the invisible mechanisms of control and surveillance. It points to how orchestrated oppression is harder to detect as it renders those imprisoned voiceless and invisible.

Ocha (Louder voice) - Detail
Mixed media sculptural installation

Vinu V V from Kochi is again a favourite of mine in this edition. He instils in us the sense of pride - coming from our own place (I haven't had the chance to see his works before though) - to see him displayed at this mega an avenue. He was also part of Shanghai Biennale. His installation takes you to a different realm - small and big at the same time. While on one end you have life-size wooden sculptures, in the middle of the room are 300 figurines nailed to the coconut tree trunks the reference clearly visible in Chottanikkara temple where women supposed to be possessed by spirits had to drive nails with the foreheads. Born into a Dalit family and having faced the harsh realities early on, Vinu is compelled to engage in discourses of social justice through his artmaking. Most of his works are structured around Dalit interpretations and re-readings of the social reformation that took place in Kerala by the end of 19th and early 20th century. 

Courtesy: have used excerpts from Biennale profiles

Friday, November 16, 2018

Inktober 2018 - the last of the series

Here's the last of my Inktober series. Though I completed it by 5 Nov. I couldn't post it last week. It was a hectic week and I had so many things to manage. If you haven't seen the earlier two posts, please check it out - Week 1&2 and 3&4.

I first sketch it out on an ordinary A5 size paper and when I feel it's right I transfer it onto my A5 Sketchbook and then colour it with my Winsor & Newton or Liquitex inks. I have been doing monochromes in this series.

 Day 22 - “Rati”
Goddess of Desire, wife of Lord Kamdev (God of Love, the Indian version of Cupid). 

 Day 23 - “Gandhaberunda” 
(2-headed mythological bird believed to possess massive magical strength). This particular sculpture relief is in Rameshwara temple, Keladi. It was the emblem of the Wodeyar Dynasty in the Kingdom of Mysore and is still the official emblem of Karnataka.

 Day 24 - “Kalpavriksha”
the divine wish-fulfilling tree. Also called Kalpatharu.

 Day 25 - “Lord Shiva and Apsara”
Kandariya temple, Khajuraho. 

 Day 26 - “Goddess Meenakshi on Kamadhenu”
Kamadhenu is the wish-fulfilling divine cow. From a photo of a carved temple chariot.

 Day 27 - “Sage Agastya” 
Revered and influential sage, a scholar well-versed in many languages and the celebrated author, among others, of the hymns 1.165 to 1.191 in the Rig Veda.
I found it a bit funny and interesting to see how he is portrayed with a pot-belly! Many of them are done so when in fact in reality that may not be true. 

 Day 28 - “3 men and a baby”
I am not sure about what the story is behind this sculpture but I loved it. The fear, the uneasiness, the discomfort is all so evident and the baby is someone important and has to be saved from the enemy hands!! 😊
I love working in this color - Peat brown from WinsorandNewton; it works beautifully as you want it!❤️

 Day 29 - “Lord Vishnu in yoga nidra.” (cosmic sleep) 
The sleep focuses on the infinite reality of his own identity. 
I loved working with the “knots”! As much I used to feel uncomfortable drawing serpent, I am getting the hang of it now. 

 Day 30 - “Pashupatinath” 
(a rare depiction of Lord Shiva) 
Many of the photo references show half-destroyed and some in ruins...a lot of history and lot of grieving there.

Day 31 - “Matrika Chamundi”
10 or 11c - Khajuraho.

And I complete my Inktober 2018 !!!! 31 drawings!!! Thanks to every one of you who followed my Inktober journey, cheering and supporting me!!! Looking forward to more of your love and support.😊❤️

Hope you all could complete a body of work too and even if not, no can go on at one's pace. There are no hard and fast rules, it's just to work on our skills, right?!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Inktober - Week 3 & 4 - Temple Sculptures

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Inktober has reached mid-way and I am lagging 5 days as I had to travel to Dubai, just 3 days; the fourth day we were travelling back before my visa expired. By the time I got back, I was down with fever and severe allergies! But I lost one day because of my health but tried to go with it even though my posting time got delayed. So here's Week 3 and 4... (In case you haven't seen...Week1&Week2 )

I first sketch it out on an ordinary A5 size paper and when I feel it's right I transfer it onto my A5 Sketchbook and then colour it with my Winsor & Newton or Liquitex inks. I am doing monochromes in this series.

Thank you so much for all your wonderful comments here, in FB and on Instagram. It really inspires to do more! Love you all!

 Day 13 - “Kaliya Daman” 
- Taming of Kaliya (many hooded venomous snake) by Lord Krishna. 

 Day 14 - it’s a sculpture from Pala, Bihar. 
Looks like a scene from the war front. There’s something in here that I like it a lot; must be how one form fuses into the other particularly in the vertical format! 

 Day 15 - “Shiva-Parvathy Kalyanam” 
(Marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathy)

{*Aside - "I find working with purple and pink inks difficult in this series...they have a mind of their own!"}

 Day 16 - "Naga-Nagini" 
(mating snake couple) from Belur. 
Belur and Halebidu are twin cities in Hassan district of Karnataka known for the exquisite and intricate temples carvings which are UNESCO world heritage sites. They were built by Amarashilpi (‘immortal’ architect) Jakkanna Acharya under the Hoysala Dynasty.
One of my personal favourites!

 Day 17 - "Varaha" 
(the boar avatar of Lord Vishnu) with Bhudevi (Mother Earth). 
This avatar, according to mythology, was adorned to save Mother Earth from Hiranyaksha, the fierce demon. This sculpture is supposed to be from the 8th or 9th century!

 Day 18 - “Yogini” 
- from Uttar Pradesh, 8th Century. 

 Day 19 - “Avalokitesvara” 
(earthly manifestation of the self-born eternal Buddha Amitabha; the bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas). The bodhisattva is depicted in different cultures as either male or female. This is referred from a photo of a 10C sculpture found in Pala, Bihar.

 Day 20 - “Vrishabha” 
(bull, here the female counterpart of Nandi - the gate-guardian if Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva and the vehicle of the Lord), Yogini temple, Khajuraho, 10c.

Day 21 - "Mahishasuramardini"
Goddess Durga slaying the buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasura.

Just 10 more to for me while only a week is left for the Inktober to be officially over. I am going to finish it but maybe I will run a little into the first week of November. But that's ok, right! The important thing is to finish a body of work! 

"So how's your Inktober going??"

Friday, October 12, 2018

Inktober - Week 1 & 2 - Temple Sculptures

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Inktober is here again and yes, it’s pretty exciting!! I took part in Inktober last year for the first time and fortunately I was able to complete 31 drawings in 31 days. Hopefully this year too! Like last year I am again not going with the official prompts and I have my own theme and I am sticking to temple sculptures, our very own centuries-old traditional Indian sculptures. I have references from google images and Pinterest. Most of the information is unavailable though like where it’s from and when it dates back to. I am concentrating more on the forms and shapes and the feel of it.

I first sketch the image on an ordinary A5 size paper and when I feel it's right I transfer it onto the sketchbook and then I ink it. It's a bit of tedious process though and it is consuming a lot of time but then I am enjoying the whole process though. I have limited my colours to one and a couple of times two, to have the feel of monochrome. I had intended to begin my Inktober post last Friday but unfortunately, I couldn't. So this is Week 1 and 2 together.

 Apsara (celestial singer or dancer) or *Shalabanjika
...either of these.

"Garuda and Naga"
Garuda is the “King of birds” and the vahana (vehicle) of Lord Vishnu. According to Hindu Mythology, Garuda has a synthesis of an eagle and human form; symbolic of birth and heaven while Naga represents death and the underworld. It could very well go with the prompt ‘poisonous’ as well.

“Mother and Child”
I think this could go well with the second prompt “Tranquil” too...look at the child's face.

11C from Khajuraho
- a woman’s sculpture with stylised features often seen holding a branch of a tree, sometimes mirror or lamp. They are often in poses of dance, music or even grooming themselves. They have complex hairdos and adorned with lavish jewellery. Shalabhanjika holding a tree is also a symbol of fertility.

Shalabanjika in Markanda temple in Maharashtra, it is also called Mini Khajuraho. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

A grooming, adorning Shalabanjika. 
This is a simple one. I am mesmerised by the complex ones that I have seen in many temples with gorgeous intricate work. Now that I have warmed up enough, I am starting my hand at that. 

Shalabanjika on Eastern Torana (gateway) of Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh.
The colours are more peachy orange than the red that shows here! I loved this pose and the way she intertwines herself with the branch of the tree.

"Goddess Saraswati"
-goddess of knowledge, wisdom, creative arts and learning of all sorts. She’s part of the Trinity, along with Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Parvathy.

From Meenakshi Amman temple, Madurai. 
The temple dates back to 1st century CE and finds mention in the earliest Sangam Literature. The temple has withstood the test of time and many foreign invasions and lootings. It was rebuilt and restored by Nayaka Dynasty and by various other rulers. It was again degraded during the British rule and was completed only in 1995. The temple is famous for Ayirakkal mandapam (1000 pillared hall) built by Ariyanatha Mudaliar is well-known for excellent engineering skills blended with artistic vision. There are several other mandapas too.

Reference is of a 10C damaged buff sandstone from Uttar Pradesh.

A "fanfare" - trying something different! 

Dancing Ganesha-Inktober2018-HuesnShades
"Dancing Ganesha"
One of my personal favourites! What do you think??
I love Ganesha in all forms! 

This is actually a wonderful journey for me trying things not tried before and I quite like the outcome too though it’s consuming a lot of time. I am not sure whether I will be able to complete with some travelling coming up next week!

So which one is your favourite here (if any!) ??

Friday, September 28, 2018

Commission, Inktober and Hopes

The past couple of weeks has been really busy with a lot of stuff to do and not having enough time! I finished a commission work for a dear friend in Abu Dhabi. He had selected a work which was originally commissioned by another friend 7 years back when we were in Dubai. It was a gift for her daughter's teacher. So here I was working on it and it felt fabulous! I could see the changes in my work though I was working on the same painting. It's folk-inspired style as my friend had wanted it that way when I first painted it in 2011. In both pictures, however, the colours aren't true to what meets the eye. I don't know why that is so!

 I have used acrylics with gouache and embellished it with semi-precious stones for the ear studs and the nose-pin. It's A3 size.


I am also preparing for Inktober, trying to select a theme of my own since I feel so restricted with the official prompts. I want to work on my shortcomings and what better way than to chose one's own theme to improve a particular skill or aspect of ones drawing/painting. Last year was the first time I participated and I had a whole lot of fun!!! I drew insects - "Tiny, But Me!" - 31 of them and yes!! I did complete the change! It was a great feeling! In case you want to check it out the rest, here it is - Week2, Week3, Week4 and Week5. I wrapped it up with an Inktober Insect series calendar. I was asked by many friends on why I didn't make a zine at the end of this time I am thinking of making a zine as well. In case anyone is interested, do let me know.

"So anyone here joining Inktober?"

It would be great fun!

Thanks to Jake Parker for Inktober and here's what it's about and the official prompt list:

Currently, I am also doing small studies for potential paintings, projects that need some positive "Go ahead" green flags! Here's a sneak-peek...fingers crossed! 

Red haired woman Study HuesnShades
Detail of a work in progress - study for a potential painting