A couple of years ago, I featured in a magazine article with another artist, Shruti Mahajan. While refurbishing my website, I chanced upon that article again. Her poignant re-creation of her childhood, led me down Sojat Road, Rajasthan- my nani’s home that I used to visit every summer as a kid. I love it when an artist can do that- make you look at their work- very personal reminiscences and make you take a trip down memory lane. In those days photography was not as rampant so I have to re-create this place in my thoughts and maybe someday on paper.
I remember… a large lawn with large trees with small white flowers that we plucked at 5am and wove into necklaces, a deep well that we used to remove water from to bathe in a large steel tub, those cobwebs in attics where everything was a treasure, the large coolers- that gave cool air and humidity, a typewriter on the second floor where we enacted plays that we scripted ourselves, jumping on rooftops playing hide and seek with cousins, trips to the market and hogs in the gutters on the street side, mosquito repellents and nets everywhere to save our tender city-skin. I recall that the first thing we saw when we woke up were peacocks, dancing on the rooftops where all the kids made their beds and the last thought at night being that I have never seen so many stars in the sky before- millions of them, twinkling. I recollect the taste of that early lunch made with fresh home-grown vegetables. I recall a man who came every evening at the same time to sell us fresh malai kulfi ice-cream and how all the neighbors used to gather if we played a movie on the television screen. I remember all the help, who were like family- drying papads, chilies and spices in the sun, cleaning, cooking and letting us children ‘help’ them.
As I walk down this road in my head today, it invades my senses. I know when, if I go back- it will all be different. Some part evolution and some part recollections skewed from reality. Still, I look at kids today who will remember a childhood of IPad and X-box and I know I am fortunate to have what I do- even if it is just in my flailing memory.
Drawing is the most effective tool for an artist and the most often ignored as well. I know this is the most important skill that I will need to consistently develop, no matter what kind of art I make.’Why sketch?’. There are several abstract painters I know who only apply paint on canvas. After all paint is so delicious and gooey and delightful to work with. And other artists who seek inspiration in their surroundings, through fields of color and use sketching to inspire their painting. Sketching need not necessarily be to realistically depict that what is around you, but to interpret through drawings and movement of your arm- what your eyes see.
Here are some sketches that started at the location and were completed with the help of photographs as my subjects are always in motion. I used newsprint paper and any tool that I had at hand to draw with.
One of the best parts of being an artist is that I don’t have a paucity of art in my own living space. I have recently found out, it does not always have to be my own work on my walls. As my art and my network of artists friends develops, I am able to find artists willing to exchange work with me.It’s pretty simple really, find artists and art you love, who in turn love your work; match approximate price points and approach.
2- Emily Rutledge is inspired by the haphazard visual fabric of life. Mangled handbills and posters form accidental collages. Tattered logos, text, and color collide. Marker tags and graffiti give a voice to those lacking one. Fragments of faces on torn scraps hint at the impermanence of life. http://emilyrutledge.com/
As part of the Center Program at the Hyde Park Art Center,the initial feedback I received was- can you say what you want to say through more than just painting? This started me on a path of introspection- What would I make? Which medium? Why? How? What will be my challenges?The painting I was then working on was that of two laborers pulling- pushing a hand-drawn cart- a typical scene from the streets of Mumbai. To bring that ‘Haath gaadi’ to life was my first large-scale 3D challenge.
1- I decided to first make a small scale moquette to see what parts I would need, so that I could fully understand the working of my cart. Using modeling wood strips, glue, ikea wheels, wooden skewers and wire clampers, I built my little prototype.
2- Garland, another colleague in the program, had seen my images of the cart and knew what I needed once I made the prototype. Also an artist, he collects items that he finds interesting. In this case it was a stretcher from World War II- used to haul the wounded for medical aid. He gave me the bars I needed to get started on the Haath Gaadi
3- I sent a picture of the wheels that I wanted and my father-in-law went and found them via a local dealer in Mumbai. The total weight for the two wheels was 25lbs and my sister personally carried them to Chicago.
4- Through a dialogue with my husband, he suggested, “Why not use the jute strings of your scaffoldings to tie the cart together? Will it hold?” The other side benefit of this method of was that I would be able to assemble and dissassemble it at will- without making any permanent holes in the individual parts.
5- A few trips to Home Depot had me learning about wood stains, metal bars, latches, jig saws etc and I was on my way. I took all the parts and assembled the cart at the location I was going to show the work. After hours of labor, my ‘Haath-gadi’ was complete.
I think the lesson I learnt from this project was to think beyond the obstacles towards the larger picture. The more you focus on that, the more easily the small and insignificant hurdles resolve themselves.
|‘Front & Center’ Group show, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago|
As the weeks pass by, I have presented my projects and ideas at the center program I keep hearing similar suggestions. Annie Morse suggested that we ‘Go outside your comfort zone/s. Use unfamiliar media; draw, sculpt, write, or move simply and freely without worrying about producing great work.’ Juan Chavez suggested ‘Your images are space driven- there is a simplicity and suggestion of movement. Can that be shown in another way? Take your concepts further to experiment with materials.’
M4: Building a moquette
Some feedback that I received suggested I try three-dimensional forms. So I collected some odd scraps and gathered some spare Ikea furniture parts and made a ‘haath gaadi’- a hand- drawn cart used by laborers to haul stuff around in India.
Though I am still working on my primary body of work, I find these exercises- trying something new- liberating and exhilarating. My goal is to primarily get out of my comfort zone, teach myself some new skills and simply have some fun.
This month has been an action-packed one. A holiday and long hours to make up in the studio! I feel like I have too much going on in my head at the same time and that results in absent-minded actions. I misplaced some prized possessions and hence have been taking steps to become more ‘aware’ of my surroundings.
One such effort has been to document random lost objects on the streets on my commute to the studio. I just photograph things that people seem to have dropped and forgotten and things that they might miss. Here are 3 of my favorites. I don’t displace the object- thinking that the disheartened owner might carefully try to retrace their route and come looking for it, like I did.
Giving a title to a work can be difficult- don’t want to make it too obvious, so as to take the mystery out of the visual, but at the same time nudge the viewer in the same direction as the artist. This time, I’m going to let you do it for me. This is a sketch made by me and I want you to come up with a title.
Step 1: Like and share my art page on facebook.
Step 2: Send me a ”Title” that you have come up with for the sketch by email
Reward: The title I like best or the one closest to my idea, wins. The sketch will be etched with your given title, framed and sent to you. So, be creative.
Email deadline: Midnight, 31 March11 Winner announced: 5 April 11