Some of the most powerful and creative work that to come from the kids at Drawing Room has happened when I planted a question in their minds and allowed them to go wild with coming up with the answers.
Sky Colour is a fabulous book by Peter H. Reynold, that explores the thought processes of a child named Marisol, as she and her friends are faced with a dilemma of painting the sky for a school mural. The story traverses their explorations and the creative process of breaking out of the notions of right and wrong, finding one’s own meaning and sense of what we see around us, and most of all it stresses on observation being a key element in making art.
One Saturday, we began our session with the question “What colour is your sky?” and read the story together. Marisol, as well as the children in her class, considers herself to be a true artist and are at first stuck to the idea of perfection and accuracy. But slowly they explore the possibilities of looking at different hues, tones, textures and find a range of different ways to depict the sky.
The story was a great way to introduce observation and critical thinking outside the boundaries of picture perfect art. I observed that even in my own class, they were inspired to work outside of their comfort zone and not stick to colouring within the lines. What I hoped was that this was a beginning into encouraging them to question why something is right and wrong, considering other possibilities and decide why something works for themselves.
The exercise didn’t end there. We each kept a sky journal, recording what we observed about the sky for a number of days to come. Looking back into the journal, it’s safe to say that the kids realized that the sky is not always only blue.
Certain experiences manifest as blessings and one such experience last year was my trip to Varanasi. It was my first time visiting the Ganges, and as I walked by the side of the river for the first time, everything seemed still, yet charming and timeless. The morning was foggy and cold, the winter light came through the clouds greeting the river and the massive flocks of migratory birds flying really low around, all the boatmen played before my eyes like a scene from a film.
As I walked from one ghat to the next, taking in all that I possibly could, I was drawn to an old man sitting by this boat, and instantly knew he had a story to tell me. Banwari Lal, looked at me and asked if I would like to go across the river and offered to take me in his neatly painted green and yellow boat.
Dressed in a blue and white checked lungi and a brown jacket/coat Banwari Lal gently maneuvered this boat and brought it to shore. Asking me to step in slowly while it rocked and lapped in the river. He was such a gentleman and as he pulled the oars of his boat he told me about his relationship with his boats that have stayed on the banks of the Ganga at Prabhu Ghat for the last 32 years. He and his boats have crossed the river, floated back and forth from one bank to the other, witnessing the transforming life of people and moments that pass through the ghats, year after year.
He told me how every season he witnesses new changes, makes a few friends some of them re-visit while some don’t, but he and his boats remain a constant. He told me how he is driven by the art of rowing and that is what has kept him going. He continues to manually row his boat, despite the fact that many boats are now motorized. Banwari Lal chooses to continue to row through his journey with grace.
A packed Suitcase with my essentials and a bunch of art material, and I was ready to begin my month of discovery at Khoj.
Khoj New Delhi 2013.
My work so far has always drawn me into the intricate details of the narratives that exist deeper within the lives of people I see on a daily basis, in the citys i have traveled to over the past few years, I have watched, observed, interacted with and documented the lives and work of practitioners of pre-modern. that dot the cityscape, jotting down ideas that I have later woven into narratives of contemporary urban street culture into my work.
During my time at Khoj, I explored the urban street culture at Shadipur Depot which is home to an assortment of street artists and performers, from singers to puppeteers and magicians.
I interacted with a slew of Shadipur’s singers, puppeteers and magicians, spending my time documenting their work, their lives and their home. The work that I developed at Khoj resulted in a translation of my experiences in Shadipur on to a wall in my studio, which played the role of a page in my visual diary.
Matchboxes, as faded bits of memories help translate the experiences through my interactions with the people of Khirki Village.Marking patterns of my memory on the wall of my studio, was like unfolding stories.