I remembered Bhupen Khakkar recently as I looked at a portion of my own painting and felt as though he must have whispered something into my ear as I painted the transparent diaphanous skirt of the women. I have been truly one of the most fortunate artist's from my generation. From the moment I came back in 1984 to India after my studies in London, a whole new world of experiences was thrown open to me that was centered around the engagement with artists in professional spaces. These situations offered discourses and the intimacy of sharing work environments that allowed for an osmosis of the unspoken to percolate, and so much transpired that was meaningful and real.
My memories of the shining grey kota stone floor in Nasreen Mohammedi's home and its shimmering reflections like mirages on a hot summers day, as one ate slices of raw tomato and cucumber as an offering of lunch are spacial flasbacks And of Bhupen huddled over a huge water colour with a cacophony of sounds emerging that ranged from the rumblings of Pandu's drunken outburst to the cricket commentary droning in the drawing room and somewhere in between all this, an articulate conversation would balance with effortless precision.
Where do we really learn all the many things we know as artists? It is these many nooks and corners of the lives of others that we have tucked ourselves into, that has tutored us to know more. Invited to work in Robert Blackburns studio in New York, this four day interlude stays vividly as a memory of a collective where the energy of the assistants was fed on the delight to work with this visionary man.
Working on site at the Ariana Park in Geneva for the 50th United Nations anniversary celebration I conceived my site specific work Songs from the blood of the weary, amidst lunches on the grass with Tadashi Kawamata and Willi Bastur and other artists from different corners of the world. Their names do not become important to list because it isn't about being with the who's who, or believing that their company is a symbol of prestige to be associated with. It is about exchanges with artists who carry the resonance of their own belief of themselves, with a clarity of understanding why their own beliefs are so important for themselves. It is this magic that makes these meetings poignantly special, and spaces of learning for all involved.
Today opportunities such as these that are pegged upon the premises of intimate sharing; of working on site and on location where everyone is a traveller in search of something that can inadvertently belong to the collective energies of involvement, are rare. The art fairs and the curatorial labyrinths that we boast of as the new spaces of collective engagement are soulless because the artist stands at the periphery, and is inconsequential to the process except as a monetary value.
Perhaps this could be one of the reasons that has led to the dearth of anything really special poking its head up on the art scene for a while. Is it because artists no longer know the sound of their own voices in the otherwise loud and deafening din of mushrooming galleries fighting to fix a find, tuppenny curators who are aesthetically challenged, god awful art critics who bask in the infamous stains of their smudgy ink, abysmal writers who distort history, arty-farty consultants who litter your space with their visiting cards, public relations junkies with no credentials, media managers who promise the moon but can't even spell it correctly, auction house mania that whips up mob hysteria over speculative gambles, etc., etc., etc.,.....!!! How many artists have been made redundant by a system that has swallowed them up at the very alter they were once worshipped at, simply because the equations of sanity have been turned upside down.
It is always the artist who will matters most for me. In their studios or in those other spaces where work and ideas come to light; I like to be in the vicinity to stand in the orbit of another imagination, and be held by its quiet magic.