Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Back in Mid-day, after a long while ...

Out of the blue, Dipanjan Sinha called a few days ago with questions about my paintings for Mid-day. I haven't shown for a while and it's gratifying to be remembered even after such a long gap.
1 Tell us about what inspired the series Bombay Clichés.
The idea was to use simple line strokes to portray the complexity that makes Mumbai an alluring symbol of the realities of the universe: constant movement, relentless expansion, predictable patterns, extremes of all kinds, seemingly precarious but perfectly reliable balance – and continuous change.
2 How long did it take to for the images accumulate and become the collection?
I started working in June 2005 and had my first exhibition of Bombay Clichés water colours at Bajaj Art Gallery, Nariman Point, in November the same year.  In February 2006 I had another exhibition, Love in Mumbai, acrylics on canvas, at the Oberoi Hotel gallery, Art Walk. This was a collection of devoted Mumbai couples working and living together oblivious of Valentine’s Day. My website came up in 2007 and I had a show every year in Mumbai till 2010. Now I paint mostly on commission, though when I see something intriguing I tend to rush home and pick up the paints.
Acrylic on canvas board 12"x12"
Collection of Shanth Mannige
Rainbow City
Acrylic on canvas board 12"x12"
3 What is the thought behind using the Madhubani style?
Decades ago I saw a British Library calendar with Madhubani drawings depicting London and thought how nice it would be to have something like that for Mumbai. I eventually realised that if I really wanted them I’d better get on with it and make some myself.

4 Tell us about your journey as an artist
As a child, my drawing was so bad that my Biology teacher sometimes held up my diagrams, which invariably provoked great hilarity in the class. I was more into stitch-craft, designing and executing needlework art, something I still do.
I can’t remember when my lines started flowing confidently but as an adult I doodled Ganpatis and they were quite popular. When I decided to do the Mumbai scenes, I planned black-and-white pictures on similar lines.
In those days, my three children were exceptional artists. Their early exposure came from Marina Dutta, who runs classes in her home in Colaba, supplemented by books about great artists visits to art galleries. When they grew older I invited art teacher Mahendra Damle to spend two or three days at a time at our home in Pune during the holidays and give them art workshops. It was Mahendra who brought me a book about Madhubani art in June 2005, explained the difference in fundamental concept between Western art and traditional Indian folk art, and then insisted I paint what I had drawn. About two weeks after I started, I went to see Mahendra at the JJ School of Art staff room, with my portfolio. He sat quietly for a while, looking at each painting carefully and then said, “Saaz, what you have done in these two weeks, people try their whole lives and can’t do.” This gave me the confidence to approach a gallery.
Tell me what you're thinking
Acrylic on roadside stone
Over the years, my writing has taken precedence over the painting. A few months ago, I got a call from Gauri Gandhi, a teacher at Flame University, asking if I’d participate in an event at Mandai, a beautiful old market in Pune. On 26 January 2016, a group of us sat with the vegetable vendors at Mandai at sold our wares – I did a basket of faces on roadside stones.

5 A lot of your work is on Mumbai. What about the city moves you?
For the first three years after I came to live in Bombay, from a privileged and cloistered childhood in the Nilgiris, I was in culture shock. Then a time came when I thought I would never live anywhere else. Now, nearly twenty-five years after defecting to more space and leisurely lifestyle in Pune, Mumbai is still the city to which for many reasons I feel most connected.
Part of the fascination is the complexity of so many different communities inextricably and often incongruously intertwined, coexisting in a fast-moving flux held together by the simple Mumbai parameters of goal-orientation, action-orientation, tolerance for discomfort, and straight talk.
Female education
Acrylic on canvas board 12"x12"

When I started working on my Bombay Clichés, I saw that my characters were turning out to be calm and self-contained, so caught up in their private worlds that the viewer was quite shut out. It reminded me of the feeling I’d had when I first arrived, of being an outsider. 

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