Admiration: The tough road an artist must walk- Sep 16, 2012
I admire art and I admire artists more. Art demands an honesty and level of consciousness that is exhausting while requiring at the same the exact opposite, spontaneity. Anyone who can pull all of that off together while exhibiting magnificent technique and composition and content is a magician of sorts.
I try and bring that sort of almost brutal honesty to my writing, but I do find myself playing to the gallery once in a while or simply exploring tangents that take my fancy without real conviction. Those are also important aspects of the journey of an artist. And yes, I do consider myself a part artist or an aspirant at least.
But at what point does an artist know that she has arrived at a point when she can share her work with the world at large? When does she throw herself bare and invite reactions? Some artists I know say that they knew when they were ready. They just felt it. Were more confident and had more clarity. Others say there was no defining moment. They simply toiled away at it till someone pushed them to share their work. They took tentative steps forward into the public realm and only when appreciation came in did they realise they were on to something.
I guess in art, like in everything else, how you perform is as much a matter of talent as that of the personality of the artist. In this too, there are contrasts. Reticent and quiet people can be aggressive in self promotion and social, gregarious artists can be self deprecating and low on confidence. The training of an artist, therefore, needs to be about art and attitude in equal parts. Which is true for a lot of other things as well I guess.
It’s hard for artists though, because they rely on self discipline and mentoring to learn and progress. It isn’t usually an institutionalised process of learning and progression; and certainly not time bound. Finding the right mentors and having a sense of purpose and balance become critical ingredients to the artists journey.
But balance can often take away from the passion needed to bring out your art, deter you from taking a stand and inhibit expression perhaps. It’s an old joke, that artists are slightly unbalanced, eccentric, crazy. Indeed they must be, for they hold up a mirror to society and human nature, both of which are twisted and complex, and perhaps even unfair.
Kids and the absorption of art and culture: Trip to NGMA, Delhi- Sep 8, 2012
For a long time, I’ve had this idea of having bi-monthly outings for family and friends. And the past few years, I’ve steadily worked to bring the idea to fruition, though the frequency has been far lower than desired! These outings are meant to be opportunities to experience our city and what it has to offer from the point of view of culture, open spaces and architecture, especially heritage.
Today, we trekked to the National Gallery of Modern Art to see ‘Project Cinema City’. Of course, going to Jaipur House, where NGMA resides, is a wonderful roller coaster through the best landmarks of Lutyens Delhi. The Rashtrapati Bhavan and the North and South Blocks, then India Gate are always a treat. Bathed the special light of monsoon, they looked particularly inviting.
The exhibition itself was a wonderful kaleidoscope of experiences. My kids have been dragged to exhibitions before and while Udai is a patient child and truly enjoys art, Aadyaa is much more restless and needs a bit more engagement. This time, I needn’t have worried. The display was wonderfully interactive and innovatively done. Sound, light, movement, color were all used to create a wonderful correlation between all the visual arts- cinema, fine art, architecture, sculpture, photography- against the backdrop of the theme, which intended to study the effects of cinema on the city and how we experience it. The children particularly enjoyed being able to turn a wheel and make a film reel of images move, thereby being able to enlarge specific images at will. They also enjoyed the bit where they could sit atop an exer-cycle and view their self-image on a screen in front, with an exciting backdrop that kept transforming as they pedaled! What’s more, they could change camera angles using a switch and it gave them a wonderful feel of how a cinematic projection can be created and how exciting that process can be! Old telephone instruments on which you could hear recordings of dialogue and song specially put together for this project, recordings that conjured specific themes or eras in Indian cinema. Posters that can make you roll with laughter, though a few were too debauched for the kids to grasp, thank God!
The icing on the cake, as usual, is the wonderful green space outside which doubles up as a sculpture garden. While Nupur and Amma did a quick round of the museum’s permanent collection, Rahul and me watched the kids chase birds, watch ants and centipedes and run around the lawns, every now and then stopping to peer at one or the other metal or stone sculpture. Expressions ranged from puzzled to amused, indifferent to amazed.
A wonderful trip and one that the kids will remember and cherish, I am sure. I hope to do many more such trips with more people joining in. I believe the Delhi NCR region has so much to offer, we should sieze that opportunity and enjoy the explorations with our children so that they grow to be culturally sensitized, with a strong sense of identity. To me, that is a critical attribute that really sets a person apart!
Here are some pics I took today. You can see we had fun!
Renewing my resolve to use public transport to explore my city better- May 18, 2012
So many of us criticize the cities we live in. We dislike the noise, the traffic, the delays, the stress of it all. And yet, we choose to stay on. Because of the opportunities large cities offer us.
Many a times, these opportunities are real and realized by most of us. Well paying and challenging jobs, good schools, and access to good facilities for entertainment, shopping, etc. But often times, we are attracted to benefits that are at best theoretical, rarely used in practice. How many of us fully utilize the fantastic opportunity for exposure to the arts, for instance? Scores of friends I know have never been to a museum or art gallery while living in big cities for most of their lives, missing out on one of the most enriching experiences ever. And while I understand many have no interest in art, people like me who really want to go are so bogged down by the daily routine that it’s hard to make the break and do what you want to do!
Transportation and accessibility play a key role in this. Cities that have been automobile-centric for decades are in the trap of having created a culture of driving to places. So even when public transport does come into the picture, it takes years for people who do not need to drive to use public transport. There is no culture of walking for instance, among the car riding population. Every type of public transit needs some amount of walking and without that walking habit, transit is not considered an option.
Lack of parking is a serious deterrent for those wanting to use the car to get somewhere. I have often cried shy of visiting exciting places in my city because of my anxiety about finding safe parking for my car.
When the Delhi Metro came to Gurgaon, I envisioned these countless family trips into Delhi. I do take the Metro to work often and my kids do love it, but it’s not too often that we all ride it into town to eat out, visit someone, shop or attend an event. We usually end up taking the car, for silly reasons. Finding parking at the Metro station is a problem. Last mile connectivity in Delhi is usually not such a serious issue, but can be if it gets late or during peak traffic. Frankly, we’re just not used to lugging the kids through public transit. Happy visions of being responsible citizens and traveling by Metro melt instantly when I think of carrying my kids back from the Metro to the car park. And if you were trying to take an auto within Gurgaon, most likely your driver would be all of 16 and driving so recklessly, all you can do is pray!
Last summer, we spent a week in Barcelona and used the Metro there extensively. It was exhausting, but we got used to it by Day 2 and factored in the time it would take to use public transit into our packed touristic schedule! The Delhi Metro is certainly a lot easier to use, I can vouch for that!
Even as I write this, I am strengthening my resolve to overcome these seemingly minor obstacles and expose my family to public transport. I think it is an essential if I would like my kids to become aware, responsible and resilient enough to face the urban environment of the future, which will be a lot more challenging!
Exploring nature in the city: Children’s weekend club outing Feb 18, 2012
Dipanwita, a dear friend, initiated a weekend club for children last month (one more in a growing list of hobby clubs in Gurgaon, which is virtually buzzing with community-building activities like this), starting with a theater workshop on a Saturday in January 2012. This month, another friend Ritu, a nature lover and a lady with a green thumb, led the children and a bunch of tag-along adults into an exploration of nature in the midst of our city. Gurgaon, whatever its ills, has a few excellent green areas in and around it and the Sector 56 Tau Devi Lal Biodiversity Park was the centrally located, urban park chosen for today’s walk.
We assembled at seven- eight children and five adults to walk around the park. Ritu asked the children to observe keenly, ask questions and collect samples of whatever took their fancy in a bag. Cleverly, she praised the kids as responsible citizens who wouldn’t do something as base as plucking flowers and leaves, and it worked! The team walked in reasonable order, discovering a variety of palms, bamboos, flowering trees and bushes, a set of religious trees like peepal and ashoka and finally, a small rose garden.
We took a break for snacks and then, Ritu set out two drawing exercises for us all to do. In the first, we were asked to use the collected samples as stencils, trace shapes in an overlapping sort of composition and then shade it in. The second exercise was to draw a tree, not stylistically as children tend to do, but as close to reality as possible.
The experience brought up in a fun way a whole host of topics like natural propagation, conservation, biodiversity, the different uses of certain plants, the importance of green lungs in a city and many more. I was impressed by how much the kids knew and even more so by their curiosity. The drawing exercises challenged us all in terms of focus and helped us internalize patterns from nature. Here are some pictures from our exploration this morning.