Sunday, 23 April 2017

Keep real with yourself

Life is simple if you are able to identify what your priorities are and what you hold as a mission statement for your purpose in life. As a young mother I was not thrown off balance at the enormity of shouldering the responsibility of being a single parent and simultaneously studying to be an artist, because I had already found the anchor of purpose for my energies; and so to address life by living it became a natural consequential process that allowed me to experience the journey of living without fear of failure. That life holds all kinds of difficulties is a given, so it becomes important therefore to break down self-constructed doubts that hinder one from moving towards ones goals, whatever these maybe.

In the tutorials that I have lately been having with young art students and artists, I find one similarity that re-occurs time and again which is the perception of how they view the term "future" for themselves. Success seems to be without strife and It appears always as an entitlement without the realisation that hard work is truly the only transport that takes you to success. The idea that an imagined ideal becomes a reality because we desire it to, is the folly of many young people. With the commercialisation of life bringing the rivers and dales as everyone's space of paradise with rainbows and butterflies thrown in for good measure,  we lose sight of the personal space of endeavour as being the real motor behind success  -  presuming instead that success will be available to us because it has happened for others. The norm however does not endorse one being able to trip over success as though it lies waiting to be acquired like a commodity in a mall.

A young  artist who is self-taught visited me today, taking an appointment to do so. When I went down to meet him, leaving my work aside to give him an hour of my time I was astounded by his audacity that he had come by merely for a casual chat ! Now given that he isn't a friend  who believes they may take such a licence but was coming as a young professional seeking an appointment for a discussion on his art, it appeared rather bizarre to me that he was without any visual aids to present his work. There was no PPT or hard copy images of art and his excuse for this was that he imagined that as I had seen his work two years ago (!) it was therefore sufficient that I would remember it, (which I thought was presumptuous)  and therefore that I should make the initiative to structure a discourse (from that memory) two years hence! 

It is important to note that on the occasion of seeing that particular exhibition of this young artist I had in fact spent almost  an hour and a half talking to him at length. When I questioned him today on whether he had followed up on the many points I had outlined that he needed to work on - such as travelling to see art exhibitions in India as well as to visit art events like the KMB in Cochin and the IAF in Delhi, and to visit via appointment senior and young  artists in the city to share his work with,  plus importantly to read up on world culture, art, history & politic -  his reply was that he hadn't done any of these things !

Endeavour is something of extreme importance. The dictionary meaning of endeavour is: (verb) try hard to do or achieve something - (noun) an attempt to achieve a goal. To endeavour within your life places you smack in the centre of your own reality and insists of you to then figure out things with clarity so that you perceive your personal needs of fulfilment without excuse. Focus and attention on work and utilising time effectively offers you experience  and knowledge,  and above all,  a grasp of who you are.

I like to embrace my world of belonging with a completeness that disallows me any route of escape. My mantra is to keep things simple….hold your heart and mind accountable for your deeds and live life from understanding who you are. It keeps you real with yourself. For me that is terribly important.

Friday, 14 April 2017

No wolves down my chimney!

For many years we chose to have blank walls in our home keeping away our small but precious collection of art that has been mostly gifted to us by our artist friends; carefully packed away. It is only since the last decade that we have put up the art works that hold special personal significance to us - to live with and interact with, everyday. We do not see them as precious because of their monetary value but love them for what memories they evoke for us, and the relationship that we have with the respective  artists that gave them to us. The very first exchanges of art was when we were students and these perhaps are the most memorable of all within the treasured works we have  because they were transactions of belief and faith in which the shared journey of discoveries was the anchor of engagement.

As we are not collectors  of art our approach to the art what we surround ourselves with in our home is slightly different.  We believe that at the end of the day what matters most for is that we must love the work that surrounds us. Our very intimate but precious collection of art has works by Raja Ravi Varma, Jyoti Bhatt, K.G Subramanyan, Nilima Sheikh, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Bhuphen Kakar, Vivan Sunderam, Peter De Francia, Amit Ambalal, Nagji Patel, Karl Antao, K.P Krishnakumaran, Vasundhara Tewari, Trupti Patel, Anita Dube, Jyostna Bhatt, Rajashekharan Nair, Manisha Parekh, Kim Kyoungae,  Sachin Karne, Malavika Rajnarayan, Sonatina Mendes and Ankush Safaya to name a few. However not all of these works are on display. For me perhaps my most beloved work is a black and white framed photograph my son Mithun took as part of an exercise during his NID program as a student that I have in my studio proving that not all that is precious comes with a price tag!

But perhaps it is the objects and other items in our home other than the art that has something more particular to say about us and our lives. As an artist my love for objects has seen me collect many things that now, in my personal space of belonging, hold stories about my own life because of what they carry with them as the memories that brought them to belong with me. I also have a love for a particular type of kitsch and for  dolls and toys that can  appear a rather strange fascination to others. My studio and my bathroom are the two places in our home that reflect a pastiche of many differing things that all hold together within an aesthetics that makes up my special brand of delight in many ways. Right now,  perched upon my rain shower is a pink rubber dinosaur that belongs to my grandson Mehran who sits in conversation with a pink plastic monkey, whilst a red  African beadwork rooster sits near my bathmat in contemplation of my old worldly tiled floor that evokes memories of my Parsi ancestry. Each day as I encounter these rather idiotic things, I feel a sense of childlike enjoyment from the landscape of memory it opens up for me….and in that I find that stolen moment of happiness.

But most of all it is the sentiment that prevails around me, like a fragrant aroma that holds my senses, which is embodied in all that surrounds me in my home. I can never acquire anything simply for its style alone or because it is the trend of the day. My vision travels in a way that somehow is always connected to my heart! All things I buy in someway offer me narratives that beckon me to bring them into the larger tapestry of my world - creating a living storyboard of new age personal fables that lead my imagination to come alive. A tin with old white buttons bought in an Amsterdam flea market  sing me songs through the rattling noise it makes each time I shake it and the  zari elephant embroidered by anonymous kutchi women, that is framed in my studio, whispers the  conversations I imagine they would have had whilst creating this beautiful piece of magic that now lives with me, whilst a bust of sculptural paper Madonna with the infant Jesus hangs suspended with serenity.

I love my home because it it like the imaginary dolls-house I had constructed in my head  as a child. That dolls house was a home that I filled with objects that always spoke to me. It was a place I could  find sanctuary within without anyone ever really knowing where I was. Most importantly it was my happy space. So therefore perhaps it is no matter that I am 58 and live in a real home today constructed from brick and concrete,  because  what fills my home are things that create pure magic for me each day, just like that imaginary dolls house  I had all those years ago….quaint but where the truth of my imprint exists.

Monday, 10 April 2017

From the sidelines...

As you grow older you gain a certain perspective that is wider and more comprehensive through experience and the accumulation of knowledge. Age allows you to often view situations from the sidelines and yet know what  the crescendo will be before it actually occurs. This sharpness to perceive  is  because the mind has already been trained to recognise how to anticipate and imagine through the filter of informed experiences.  At 58 it is an interesting perch upon which I sit and view my world of belonging that is patterned by countless experiences that have taught me about life,  and which has produced an understanding to acknowledge the importance of where to fit my energies for myself without  being either wasteful or selfish.

In a conversation I had this morning I was articulating the value I hold regarding responsibility  and discipline as crucial to living ones life, especially as an artist. For most people outside of the art world these two words are perhaps not the associations made in relation to defining an artist, but in my engagement with the practice of art I am  very clear that these are important beads that I string on my personal rosary of reflection; and  which are the most important pegs that  give shape to my life choices at all times.

Perhaps because I know that the body and mind are not limitless  components that can function at their optimum forever, I work very hard to utilise my life as a clock of consciousness by which to hold myself accountable for all that I personally pledge to do; and to make certain I practice and execute whatever I need to without excuse or apathy.  Art is the space to which my life has found its belonging and I feel deeply indebted for the many opportunities that I have had to deliver my ideation for it to be interacted with. Ethics is of  supreme importance to me too, and I have often been taken aback to see artists not able to realise the importance of professionalism and why they need it as the torchlight of focus within their careers.  

Working as an artist and curator has given me an insight into how artists work with art management. In many instances artists can be so chaotic and unstructured, and therefore unproductive of their time and energy. Those who pooh-pooh at  this not being a problem are simply in denial.  The issue in question is finally how responsible and  disciplined do you choose to be.  The core to keeping oneself alert and creative  is to always have a framework/structure that encompasses all your needs and functional practicalities that you can access and work within, with ease. I find I can really do many more things by being ordered because I can then remain focused, and my time and energy has greater usability available for me. And for those that believe it isn't the hallmark of a truly creative person to be this way….well my bio-data certainly tells another story ! So my advice to all young artists  is to  discard old fashioned ideas of being anarchic and bohemian and recognise that to be an artist of significance and purpose comes with certain inherent responsibilities that insist upon discipline being part of the deal! Amen to that!

Saturday, 8 April 2017

To know oneself without fear...

With the pressures of academic achievements being underlined as imperative and peer group pressure to be uber cool, children find themselves lost in the labyrinth of self-doubt and  go astray more easily than we imagine. Its easy to blame parents for everything related to children especially when the child shows signs of dysfunctionality, but perhaps we need to look closer at the prevailing world of influences around us to recognise how much these occurrences disallow for simple values to be viewed as relevant in today's world of violence, power and money which act as as the symbols of success.

So what is the solution if at all we imagine there is one to have…? My belief is that schools play a pivotal roll really because they are the seat at which most formative moulding takes place. The importance that children give to instructions from a teacher is massive. Therefore if educational institutions could utilise this effectively along with in-depth communication with parents on a regular basis that does not deal with academics but with the 360 factor of child development,  then we could actually arrive at prompting directions of purpose and life-style choices of merit.

But what is the real scenario today? We watch world leaders demean women and war atrocities that show explicit torture and violence as righteous. We support thuggery by allowing elected members of state and national governance to behave as despots and wield their power for self-gain, slapping people and shooting at them if the whim to do so prevails. We kill people who differ in their religious beliefs despite our constitution defining and upholding secular principles of co-existences. We are a nation that cannot work just on the paradigms of ethical norms but need always for that calling-card of power and clout to get what should otherwise be rightfully owing to one. We are a nation that demands the show of money in order to endorse our status. It is to this and much more that we expose our children  without any filter of counselling to suggest to them that this in fact is not what a morally sound and ethical society should stand for. Tragic but true!

Success is no longer viewed as a simple construct where we target knowing ourselves well and honing our capabilities to yield for us something of self-purpose that offers us satisfaction. Today it is a world where everybody wants to be a celebrity and to be rich to boot! When these dreams don't pan out for all then the disillusionment sets in, and then too often alcohol and drugs take over and other types of heart wrenching situations of despair unfold. 

I see bewildered parents who love their children very much, hurt and confused by their children's behaviour that exhibits disrespect and is often traumatising to the overall peace and stability that parents desire as they grow older. If  grown children cannot nurture a family as a method of reciprocity for the love and attention they have received then I believe that it is an important lesson for parents to learn (hard as it may emotionally be for them) to let their off-springs learn lessons about the truth of life on their own, perhaps the hard way.

I still find delight in small intimate factors of life. I love to hold special the ordinary. I love to honour relationships that have nurtured me and insist of myself to acknowledge all that I have received as being always the gift of the belief others have reposed in me. When I look into the eyes of children lost in their pursuit of life outside of what their natural orbits are, I hope always that somewhere an image or a circumstance can refocus their humanness to allow them to become realigned with the energies of self-purposefulness that in fact each of us possess….if we are willing to know ourselves without pretence or fear, which perhaps is the hardest test of all.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Turn off the bitch-switch please!

I am always a little startled at bitchiness and since Im not a wide-eyed babe-in-the-woods it isn't that I'm unaware of this manifestation of human behaviour as largely practiced by many - yet  whenever  I encounter it or hear about incidents that are underlined by this factor I am always rather appalled and saddened by it. I still find the 24 hours in a day not enough to do the many things I would like to apply my energies to so I find it hard to wrap my head around the idea of human energy being deployed to belittle and humiliate people as a "time-pass" activity.

I don't buy the fact that any human being, saintly or otherwise, isn't without their fair share of insecurities and personal vulnerability. However why do we imagine that in being demeaning of others in thought, word or deed it will balance out our own sense of inadequacy and therefore our meanness be overlooked?

As an artist, right from the time I was at art school, I always believed that inclusion and interaction that offers support and belief is extremely nurturing to all. Long before The Collective Studio Baroda become known by this name, I was working for artists to raise funds and popularise their art  pro bono at all times. This is fuelled by my politics and my vision of what I desire the art environment in India to exemplify, through opportunity and engagements that are democratised and without power play as its calling card.

I believe that good art is found within every society and is what holds the longevity of historical value that no amount of manipulation can ever tamper or alter, even when attempts are made to obliterate and rewrite history. Whether any one of us as living artists can claim a historical pedestal before our demise would really be for others to determine - so in short what becomes much more valuable as a pursuit to desire is to live a life that dedicates itself to excellence, discovery, compassion and purpose…

The human body really is only a container for the pulse of our energies to resonate and perpetuate action and deed as a continuum of human purposefulness,  yet we become obsessed with things that derail our abilities to be enlightened through knowledge and insightfulness. I am always unable to be "light hearted" as the saying goes and join along in cruel laughter that is egged on by humour that is the camouflage for pettiness and vile intent. I prefer being the kill-joy or the wet blanket within such situations because somehow silence within such moments are endorsements of these debased attitudes .

Finally its about making a choice. Much as I am respectful of social media and its applications and  functions especially for communication and usability in education, I still see how damaging it can also be within society at large as it is most popularly being used in everyday life. We have more people socially dysfunctional in communication skills as the touch screen becomes the language through which everyone speaks today - abbreviated  & trunacted, with one-liners as lessons of profundity that ride the cyber space galore. Vicious words of war and calls to incite violence all get floated through this new-age communication that encourages mindless quickies as responses instead of thoughtful reflection of a measured response. 

Bitchiness also holds no space for loyalty. Call me old fashioned but loyalty is a basic requirement for me in my dictionary of what describes human relationships of worth.  I consider myself very fortunate to be surrounded by friends and loved ones who equally hold value to such endorsements.  I make art  because I hold hope and belief in better world. This matters greatly to me.