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!