Friday, 18 July 2014

A gift of love I received today...

Recently when I needed to redesign The Collective Studio  logo and stationery I could think of no better person to ask than our daughter-in-law Samera Khan. With a professional career that has seen her working internationally in advertising for almost a decade, and as an associate creative director for OgilvyOne Worldwide in the recent past, her sense of design is something I greatly admire. 

It has always been difficult for me to describe what The Collective Studio Baroda is to people. In many ways it completely defies description, and my own role within it is even more difficult to put into words. Perhaps because it is a space that addresses many different needs and adapts itself continuously to evolve to what the various situation we address can benefit from through education, interventional strategies, financial support, curatorial endeavours  and collective co-existence, that I have always struggled to articulate its core essence when asked about its function and purpose..

So when Samera and I spoke about the design brief, I put the ball in her court giving her carte blanche to figure out what would be more appropriate than the existing in-house designed stationary that needed revamping. The professional that she is, she addressed this job with putting a personal brief together herself to view me as "the client". Besides delighting in this as a wonderful methodology to approach work as a general rule, what perhaps deeply impressed me, and what I view as a great gift to receive, was how she perceived The Collective Studio Baroda. And so I thought it fitting to share an extract of her letter to me through my blog.

In the e-letter that accompanied her design layouts she wrote this to me:

Dearest Mum,
I've worked on the logo and stationary as per our discussions. 
Logo: The logo is representative of you and The Collective Studio.
The colours, orange and red, are inspired from you and your surroundings.
Red:  Vigour,willpower, leadership,courage,energy, strength, power, determination as well as passion, desire and love.  
Orange: Enthusiasm, Fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, and stimulation.

If looked at with a simplification, the "C" in the design (which is orange) is you and the circle around (which is red), is art and the artists of the collective. Normally an artist would encompass and in a way control the growth of the younger artists, but I feel, you surround yourself with them and help them to grow into the beautiful world of art. You, being the centre of The Collective, ensure that each part of the collective is bigger than you and is infinitely growing into a circle of education and love.

Thank you Samera for underlining the heart of the matter so beautifully.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Knocking on some doors….

The new venture that The Collective Studio has currently undertaken of collaborating with SITE art space is hard work for me,  but wonderfully rewarding. Doing any initiative that is different as an independent individual  requires lots of hours put into it to realise the project, since it is not part of any institutional framework, and I end up burning the mid-night oil once again balancing my own art commitments alongside my curatorial work. Also as the agenda is to focus on alternative methods of interaction and discourse and to bring multi-discipinary dynamics to generate a wider space of synergies, the audience one is reaching out to has to be from a wide spectrum of professions as well. 

As the curator and architect of all the exhibition projects that this years collaborative program has structured, perhaps the most engaging and exciting area to all of this are the conversations that occur within each studio visit that I have with the artist/s. As an artist myself, one  identifies with the energies that belong within a studio and so the space of meeting also brings a unique specialness to these interludes.  There is an intimacy and vulnerability to such meetings within workspaces which are precious to encounter.

In fact I always feel very privileged to be invited into any artists studio. The stacks of work that  line the walls, or the carefully wrapped art works in bubble plastic, or the smell of paint and other material, and the instruments and tools that lie strewn around or line up on work-tables all spell pure magic for me. It is as though I can hear the silent speak of who the artist really is  from all that surrounds me, and  as I sit embraced by the world of another, I catch glimpses into areas that are quiet secrets or personal quirks, and which may never be on view in a more public spaces of sharing.

Sitting with Jyoti Bhatt in his home in front of the computer to make a selection of photographs for one of the curated exhibitions,   was indeed a special moment for me. He has been my  teacher who taught me more than just painting and photography, but gave to me a world view through which to negotiate my own journey as an artist effectively. Being with him that afternoon as we pored over hundreds of images (some of which I recall seeing way back whilst being a student) brought to light once again the significance of the power of oral and visual histories;  and how they hold the sequence of time and observation as markers of collective  memories.

The visit to Abir Karmakar home was also very special. His house is a visual treat to enter.  Renovated and refurbished it echoes  his fascination for observing details. Every corner bears his imprint and you almost feel you have entered into a setting for one of his painting. Walking up a green painted wooden staircase which has an atrium that rises above centrally with cascading papier-mâché hand- painted birds hanging down from its roof top; the magic begins during this assent to his studio itself. On the threshold of the studio a slightly high step awaits you, almost as though he desires you to refocus and recognise that you are stepping into his world where all your attention must now be harnessed. 

Abir's work has always been high up on my list of favourite artists. Edgy and infused with observations that are somewhat clinical in their distance and yet satiated in a strange voyeurism of intimacies, this gentle and articulate young man has works that are precious in the devotion with which he paints them painstakingly. He then delivers to you images that are provocative and which in turn require you to negotiate the visuals through your experiences of life, to decipher them. Some communications are created from many words that are exchanged, and some  happen with points of connection that are immediate. With Abir for me it was the later.

I am  excited as the coming week has more studio visits planned and so I look forward to what these interludes open up for me.  I am sure great art and and a lot of heart!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Back in my studio thinking….

Every time I start to believe that popular Indian cinema is getting it's act together (pun unintended), I find I am blown away (again pun untended!) by the mindless violence that attempts to hold together story-lines that are ludicrously stupid and which lack any semblance of plausibility,  to validate 90 minutes of one's life given to it's attention.

Ok I saw Ek Villain….and Ok that was a dumb thing to do….! But hang on, why am I wrong in expecting to be entertained or kept engaged when going for something off the cuff and not relying on a Rajeev Masand to accredit  it for me. The idea is to be able to spontaneously go out and  find entertainment that does just that….entertain! Instead I came back home feeling  taxed and exhausted by what was meant to uplift my energies and be a relaxing  time away from work.

I am rather boggled quite honestly at how financiers can put out money (even if to launder it!) on projects that are so terribly stupid. To use Suhail Seth's favourite  word…are they all "dolts"! There are so many great pilot projects waiting to be funded in the arts and entertainment sector but what do the honey-pots-of-money do…. quite literally, they blow it up (pun intended this time!) on sheer nonsense. And then of course unsuspecting idiots like me go and get phasao-ed into sitting through drivel and giving our money towards supporting fatuous rubbish! What is interesting is that the purse strings of those who are funding such garbage don't always loosen up to fund things that  desperately need our collective endeavours of support to remain sustainable for their creative survival.

Perhaps stalwarts and activists within the film and theatre fraternity in India could invest in making a dynamic centre in Mumbai that supports the revival  of different traditional crafts related to areas like embroidery, jewellery making, toys, furniture etc. which could also become a  location of sourcing for film makers for costumes and set details. It is also time to fund a museum devoted to the memorabilia of film history that is of international standard. Osian founded by Neville Tulli have amassed wonderful collection of film memorabilia  but I don't see it being made accessible to the public at all except via auctions and a few exhibitions sporadically.

I love the craft museum in Delhi but wish that it's shop could be revamped (and dusted!) and a central government endeavour initiated to also reinvent the  Cottage Industries outlets that were my parents favourite haunts when I was a child; and where perhaps I learnt so much from those hours of poking around all the beautiful objects and textiles and pressing my nose up against the glass cabinets of jewellery to keep myself occupied, whilst my parents shopped in earnest.

Today with retro ideas making an appearance as a space of reclamation of "old becoming gold" again, I see many things of the past doing a pop-up through the creative remix-culture of today - but somehow always lacking in the finer detailing of finesse and hand work that displayed true experience in the case of the originals from yesteryear. The trade mark of the earlier days of art and craft items was the authorship of the hand that ruled supreme in executing skill and magic.  I have an exquisite pair of gold earrings that were completely hand crafted  by my little silversmith from the Sardar bazaar in Fatehgunj, where many moons ago it cost me five thousand rupees and a hole in my bank account!!! But today he has closed shop and been ousted out by the machine work that people clamour for, leaving his skills unwanted and dying out.

I wish the old and the new phrased its existence better by our support and articulation of its need,  so that we could ensure a better space for aesthetics to be a common place scenario within life, for all.