I love buying books with visuals that provoke my own imagination to take a roller coaster ride. Our library is divided into the theoretical section at Surendran's studio and the visual section in my studio. Of course since my studio is in our home, Surendran can rummage at leisure whenever he fancies! On the other hand when I need something specific, he becomes my official librarian, and when whatever I need is located (during a coffee break of his, in-between painting), our driver then ferries it across to me!!!
I have all sorts of books in my section of the library, and one of my recent favourites (to look at) is a children's book edited by Kanchana Arni and Gita Wolf, and published by TARA publishing titled Beasts of India. Magical drawings by tribal and folk artists of animals leap off the pages at you! Exquisite and intimate to hold, I have it on my water colour table. And if I do not open it then I just tenderly touch it's cover some time during the day, and feel it's delight from the bold orange snake on the cover that bristles back at me, as though disturbed, by this silly act on my part!
Another favourite from my library is my section of books on miniature painting and Indian bronze sculptures. Flipping through the pages of these books I feel reconnected with myself. As a student the discourses on pictorial language were centered more specifically (in Baroda) to the narrative traditions in painting. It was not that this did not engage me, but I think that I learnt to understand and comprehend my own journey as a painter more accurately, when studying in London : where I would walk through the Indian section of the Victoria & Albert museum and began to know that artist's like Kitaj and Bonnard were not the aesthetics that held my soul.
It is here that the teachings of Jyoti Bhatt and K.G Subramanyan came back to me. In the many sessions in my studio at the Royal College of Art with Prof. Peter De Francia, I found my own cultural map more clearly visible, and holding more meaning for me. But the process of this understanding taking root with clarity, to evidence itself in my pictorial language, took a while. I needed time to purge the imprints of an expressionistic device of communication. But the magic of discovery is a beautiful thing, and it slowly came to me through a process of problematizing my own work and to find answers for myself.
When I read, many years ago, the famous remark of Souza's where he said in an interview that he used to paint inside his mother's womb; I did not really absorb the poetic beauty of his statement. Today I think I know what he meant. When you are so completely in unison with what you do, then it feels as though you could never have ever been separated from the delight of it's nasha!
As the tigers and lions roar out from the book Beasts of India and the bulls lock horns as they fight one another, the delicate intricate lines that give these creatures their spiritual life in these paintings place me in my own wonderland of imagination. For me, this is always the best place to be.