Monday, 30 January 2012

Dream Text: Presentation at the Art Fair -2012

My work Dream Text at the Art Fair 2012 was conceived in October 2011 in my studio in Baroda.

Presentation of the work at the Art Fair
by Sakshi Gallery Mumbai

 Dream Text

Make no mistake that the night will fall as dark as yesterdays, and that the moths that die may lead you to your light.  Carry with you on your journey that garment that camouflages the vulnerability of your identity, so that the corpse that lies unattended is not yours.

I bury my soul in my choreographed dreams. I am awake as I sleep.

Rekha Rodwittiya - Baroda 2011-12

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Peter, my friend and teacher.

A big burly man, my very first encounter with Peter de Francia was when he introduced himself to me on the narrow corridor of the painting department at the Royal College of Art, in the twilight of the afternoon, on a rather grey day of October in 1982 in London. In the preambles that followed I called him "Professor de Francia" only to be lifted into the air and commanded in a booming voice to call him Peter! I chose the RCA  out of a number of admissions I had secured because I wanted to study under this legendary teacher, whose reputation had reached the class rooms where I studied at Baroda, all those miles across the oceans. 

Peter loved all that was Indian. We shared a very special relationship during the years I was his student because he recognised that I was my own person, unwilling to secede to the conformity's of traditional norms, nor seek to adapt to the prevailing ideas of ethnic belonging as constituted by the Asian immigrant communities in Britain. He was a non-conformist too who cared very little for the acceptance of others if it interfered with the truth of his own beliefs.

Not a man to suffer fools easily, he demolished many a false ego amongst the posturing attitudes of those art students whom he perceived to be lacking in substance.  Dressed in his self appointed uniform of a blue serge jacket and trousers coupled with a blue and white checked shirt on most days, this man of many seasons despaired over  my pedestrian tastes of drinking coke with fine French cuisine! I smoked cigarettes and he smoked a pipe....and both of us had strong beliefs that governed our personal politics. He packed a punch when he needed to with me,  and I stamped my foot and stood my ground on many occasions, making him smile behind the portrayed severity that he loved to wear as his mask. 

Coming from a learning space in India that had done very little to encourage the journey of my feminist enquiry, both as a woman and as an artist, I was taken by surprise by his  immediate comprehension that never required of me any explanations or validation. Insistent that I must expose myself to the art and culture of Europe in the two years I was a scholarship student; I would find detailed travel itineraries in my letter box, before each vacation approached, that virtually sent me back packing without further ado. Hand written and with notes on the art  that he thought was significant for me to view, I was obliged on my return to have  discussions with him that would often turn out to be  feisty argument on perception and philosophical interpretations. His provocation to scratch at your conscience never destroyed your spirit if you were not yellow livered, and Peter loved nothing better than brains and guts as a combination in his students. 

He always protected the foreign students from the subtle bigotry that being an outsider can sometimes attract; and he felt personally in need to apologise to us on our arrival at the RCA that the British Government took triple the tuition fee from foreign scholars.  It was these attitudes that gave shape to his politics. Sometimes it also led to rather embarrassing situations in the 80's, where because of his marxist beliefs, he priced his art at ludicrously low prices, and as a result his students works were almost always more highly priced than his! But he just puffed on his pipe unperturbed, as he lived life on his own terms. 

On an occasion when we had had a rather combustible discourse over David Hockney and Philip Guston's work that ended in me flouncing off in a temper tantrum of sorts; I returned to my studio a few hours later to find a drawing of a woman reclining and a male attendant fanning her! This was the delightfulness of this amazing man who possessed such a vast wisdom from the sharpness of his intellect, and carried a belly of rumbling laughter; that together formed this towering figure who held you accountable to your own conscience at all times.

Peter de Francia died a few days ago in London. However for me he has always lived in the spirit of who I am and I know that he will continue to live on even after I pass away; because his legacy is part of a history of learning that has no end. 

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Snippets from Saturday the 21st 2012

I was at a friends home for dinner the other night and met up with an Indian artist (who has recently shifted base to Baroda from Bombay), who had just returned from a residency abroad. Interested to know what work the artist had done on this residency  (which is at a very beautiful location in Europe and which is very conducive space to do work at), and curious to know his experiences as an artist within a different cultural space, I asked him about his trip. I was informed very proudly without a blink of an eye, and I quote : "I only had fun, I did no work"! Well go figure....this is unfortunately the sort of unstated trend that is prevalent with so many artists these days; and the end result :  opportunities that can challenge and open the mind are squandered for a bottle of booze and some weed! Well the sixties seem to have been cemented forever with ponytails and psychedelic fantasies come alive again!!!

I am on a weeks chutti from work! It feels good but the dreams of lazing about haven't taken shape with the   management of the Collective Studio and domestic demands absorbing time. However I am getting my roll on the carpet time.....with Begum our cat silly.....! Much fur flies as I get royally pummelled into knowing what my place is by my fiery cat with attitude!

I am contemplating getting a swish computer chair recommended to me by an old friend whose partner has one. I have an old fashioned wooden desk that is the style of military furniture that I grew up using. Now my dilemma is that if my legs are to fit under the table at the correct height and my neck has to be at the correct angle (and who knows where my brains need to be in all this adjustment!), then I may well have to sacrifice this beautiful large draw that I have in this "get it right-write" scenario of nerve pinching reality, I am living in at the moment!

Am off to see Dirty Picture today. May need a tissue box as I am a horrendous softy over sad stories!

Bought an HTC phone....the android system takes time to adjust to after years of being a loyal Nokia user. Am in a zone of being reprimanded by my Korean Spiritual daughter with looks that could make a glow worm extinguish itself, as she explains and re-explains and explains all over again with fingers that zip about this phone with the practised skill of a generation that knows how to press all the right buttons!!!!!! So much for adaptability at 53!!!! 

Mithun is trying to persuade to buy the I phone just feels too big,  and I do miss the compactness of simple functions put together that aligns with the zen principles of less is sometimes more beneficial for some!

Monday, 16 January 2012

2012....gizmo's.... and life from the heart of Sauparnika!

I don't think I mentioned that I purchased an I Mac 27 inch computer recently. If you are not impressed then it is because you do not know what a duh I am with the gizmo's of technology! Holding a paint brush, and that too not without dropping it on far too many occasions,  is my only claim to some sort of competence  matters of skill and cerebral functions!!! So without further ado, I expect some wah- wahs to come my way please.  From the world of windows as an operating system my brain is now on another trajectory of learning, as I valiantly thump (middle finger only still) on the pristine white key board of Steve Jobs legacy to the world. 

My trusted N 79 Nokia decided that life with me wasn't worth it after all and did lots of hanging tricks, beeping out calls whilst I was mid flow in eloquent speech and making obscene sounding growling noises that no body else could hear, except me! All in all it did act with all the histrionics that would put a qualified actor to shame. So I marched off in a huff after being put through this drama for a week to buy a new mobile phone. Mithun and Surendran who worship at the alter of the I phone S4 kept hissing this into my ear to buy the I phone S4 as though dooms day was around the corner if I didn't! Suffice to say chingoosegiri played a large role in my decision and I opted for a HTC ChaCha that was as basic as I could get without really wearing my dullness too publicly!!!

Life at our home,  Sauparnika,  has been hectic over the last five months. Deadlines loomed and work has over flowed from the four corners of my studio, with dawn and dusk knowing no difference for me.  After returning from the opening of my solo show in Mumbai, family, friends and guests have visited us amidst  a crazy schedule of work, but as always the rhythm of Sauparnika embraces everything without much of a hiccup; and laced within all timetables is a healthy dose of fun. One of our artist 's in residence, Karishma D'Sousa, has gone to Amsterdam to the Rijkes Academy for a year. The Collective Studio seems empty without her! As she grapples with settling into a new existence in the Netherlands, we fill the void in Baroda with memories of her effervescence and recollections of how she could always make us laugh. I miss you dear friend. Enjoy the windmill city and get lost in it's magic so that you can find new and even more amazing imaginative landscapes, with which  to fill your  pictorial narratives.

Our Korean student's mother has just flown back today to Korea after a ten day visit with us. She spoke no English yet filled our home with the humility of her grace and containment,  and most specially her inner peace. Nothing appeared alien to this dignified lady who was led through all the new experiences of Indian family life through her wisdom to accept and adapt. What touched Surendran and me the most was her genuine gratitude for loving her daughter unconditionally, and for teaching her life lessons that she herself was unable to do, from the distance that separates them. Her implicit trust in us, which has not wavered in all the six years of our disciplined strictness with her daughter, was evidenced by her desire to come all these many miles just to say thank you to us. We have taught many children over the last 25 years, but no parent has ever honoured us so genuinely as Kyoungja has.  Thank you Kyounja for acknowledging that indeed we share a daughter with you.

But now on to more trivial and banal factors of Sauparnika hooliganism! The 14th of January 2012 saw the official "kishkinda clan" scream themselves hoarse from the terrace. With the boom-box blaring an old Indian idol CD as my contribution to loud festivity, we enthusiastically flew kites in the blazing hot sun, with only a whisper of a breeze to facilitate our brave kite flying efforts! However the evening sky turned magical as the old traditions of flying lighted candles lit up the horizon. I was reminded of our Australian artist friend Jon Cattapan's paintings that are often nights capes of city lights, ablaze like twinkling stars.

I have started yoga and as my inflexible muscles protest I struggle to contort my body into fluid movements that look easier when others do them! I shall resume my nocturnal walks tonight.....other than angry dogs in our neighbourhood, the city takes on a quite innocence late at night as we pad down by-lanes quietly day dreaming at the wrong time of the day!