25 July, 2008

The generally slow-paced life in India, the Delhi heat, and the fact that I am nearing the end of my journey (not to mention the slow internet) makes me more nostalgic, more indulgent, less likely to post on this blog every single day. Things come up, sometimes things so subtle and indescribable you cannot write about them because writing would be expressing it, and that would certainly fall short of the experience.

I have decided not to put up any artwork on this blog until August, because that is when I will be working on that part.

I visited some art galleries on Wednesday. I first went to the India Habitat Center, and saw two shows. The first was called the “Elements” and was a group exhibition of fifteen prominent Indian artists. As I wrote later in the guestbook, I had come to look at contemporary Indian art, and the exhibition was simply superb. Photography was not allowed – I wish you could have seen the thoughtful and mind-blowing sculpture of Sweta, or the expressionism of Naresh Verma, or the whimsical (but truly marvelous) collages of Harpreet Singh.

I asked the artists there how to get to the National Gallery of Modern Art. It seemed only a select few even knew it existed, because the auto driver had been clueless earlier when I got in and announced its name. They explained to me what to tell the auto.

Next I saw an exhibit of photography by Tarun Chhabra. He had documented the life of street children in India, and while there was celebration of love and brotherhood, overall it was very melancholic – a plea for attention and action to the viewer who may have the power to alleviate the dire conditions the kids were in.

I next looked at an exhibit by Bipin Martha, whose watercolors were way more exciting for me than the oil paintings. This is because they were of the common Indian people - fresher, more spontaneous and original. The oils were elaborate and painstaking renditions of Hindu gods. Here photography was allowed.

I went to the NGMA and was a little disappointed because the “modern” art included paintings by British artists in India in the 18th century but there was no M.F.Hussain. I was trying to recall all definitions of “modern” – was it modern as in contemporary (It can’t have been!), was it modern as in Modernism? In that case did 1750s fit in? Maybe it did in visual arts… maybe I was only looking at it from the background of my architecture education.

There was a video about lighting in art to make it theatrical. There was in it something about capturing the vitality of the city in the swift strokes of the pencil or paintbrush. This was interesting to me.

I was especially impressed by the Indian artist Amrita Sher-Gil who had been painting in the early colonial India – it amazed me that a woman Indian artist could have been doing the work she did back then. She seemed ahead of her times, really. Amrita had traveled to Paris and had painted the Notre Dame!

I also really liked the watercolors of Ramkinker Vaij – am I biased or what?

That evening I met up with my friend from Princeton, Aman, who lives here in Delhi. Aman suggested we have dinner at Dilli Haat, this very traditional and touristy market with small crafts shops from all the states of India, and food stalls representing all the states also. It’s a special project funded by the government. It was a really good dinner of paratha, some sort of kebabs, and “fresh-lime soda,” a drink that Indian froofroos love.

We caught up and talked about our lives. Aman’s mother is an artist. I found particularly interesting the story that a few years ago she was invited by the French government for a residency in Paris for three months. According to Aman she had a great time but made little art. He said she claims to have internalized the experience and is just waiting to express it now. I could relate to that so very much it made me really happy. A professional artist was going through the same dilemma as me, it seemed: whether to go out and take in the city, or spend time locked up in a studio working to express. It put me at ease a little. Fortunately I will have time to finish up my artwork once I get back to Karachi.

The other really interesting thing he said was about the Muslims in India. He said he fears that India is not moving fast enough to address the problem of minorities, and of religious ethnic clashes. It made me wonder whether the creation of Pakistan was after all a good thing and whether, if Pakistan had not been created and I had grown up as an Indian Muslim, I would be a Princeton student writing about my painting project right now…

We went to a hookah bar, and because it was late by the time we were done I spent the night at Aman’s place. Next morning I went to see the Kutb Minaar and the ruins around it. It was the perfect place to sit and sketch in charcoal, but I could do little of that because I was disheveled (had not changed since the day before), and the heat of the sun overhead was so intense it made me sweat.

When I got back to my hotel room, I caught up with emails, read about my zees in Forbes this fall, and emailed them. It’s difficult to do all that when the internet is so moody.


Anonymous said...

galouti kababs. and froofroos don't love fresh lime soda; they mostly look down on people who order it. unless they're camping the indian middle class existence.

Waqas Jawaid said...
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