My first printmaking work post our return to India is dedicated to the one place so close to my heart - the place where a new path unfolded, a place that inspires me relentlessly, given me my Maa, my Guru, my Karma and healed me from the core - Kalighat. Here are some snaps from the neighbourhood and from the process in the studio.
Medium: Polyester Lithography (9 plates) and screen print
Size: Paper: 38 cm x 28 cm; Image: 28 cm x 20 cm (app.)
Many of you have been writing to me saying that it has been a long break since my last post and that I should get back soon. Here I am, finally! For those who do not follow my Facebook page and, therefore, don't know - I moved back from Switzerland to India in April. It was a lot of work wrapping up 6 years in Europe and now some more setting up a new nest in the mad Bangla land. In the middle of all the chaos, i seem to be exploring a dream, in the city where a soulmate says 'Dithi, this is where your soul is complete' ~ Kolkata.
The skies shimmering happiness, the streets singing red and saffron, am home now!
I did start work at Sir's Kalighat studio (Gravura) in April itself and have just completed a 10 plate Lithograph yesterday (up next). For now, I am sharing with you my little song of coming home, in blue.red.green. Tota has flown back, the dates in the last couple of years that were crucial in finally getting her back are inscribed in Bengali on the canvas. The text says 'Bari Phera' (coming back home).
(Acrylic on canvas, 21cm x 21cm / app. 8 inches x 8 inches)
If this painting sings to you, send me a note at email@example.com
There are some people who come into your life and change a part of you forever.
I found Archana through her blog Rang-Decor, one of India's leading design & decor blogs, that has incessantly inspired thousands of us readers. For most bloggers - this is one blog and one blogger that needs no introduction. For me, personally, she made me fall in love all over again with the daily delights of the Indian life and, more importantly, wake up to the fact that a world of beauty surrounds us every single day.
Archana's cups of chai and the swirls of the steam so alive in her stills kept me warm on many cold Europe days. There was a moment of homecoming every time I saw the Indian Sun, a slice of the Indian life through her eyes. She has mentored me unknowingly, honed my eye and has been a constant, subtle positive influence.
Be it decor and design, art and artefacts, travel and living -
Archana's photography weaves magic and touches the viewer's soul.
Every moment she captures is a prayer in silence and a glorious celebration of the God in the details.
Needless to say, it was hugely rewarding (as well as challenging) to have been asked my my Chai Goddess to work on a commission for her new home in Minnesota. ''Having beautiful childhood memories of Calcutta,
both me and the husband have spent some time growing up there. The big red bindi, the sindoor, the bengal cotton
sari with red border, shank bangles, your trademark 'thotha', the Bangla script,
the divine eyes!'' These were the first few elements that were sent to me ever-so-lovingly and I started building on these. As we discussed further, The handfan, the black & white chess board flooring which is so Kolkatan and the floral Belgian tiles used in ancient Kalighat homes came into play. Earthy
colours : Rust, Red, Maroon, Orange, Deep Green, Hot Pink is what Archana suggested, a palette that worked very well for this composition. The most endearing detail that adorns the painting is a replica of Archana's great grandmother (who used to live in Kolkata)'s antique nose ring that she requested be added to the portrait ''... uncut rubies with a golden pearl hanging in the centre. What's lovely is that you can see the wear and tear on the pearl I understand it hangs on the tip of the upper lip''.
Details in place, I started work and what a 3 month journey it has been!
I am sharing below some shots of close ups and of the painting.
Everything about this work is old Bengal, even the jewellery: earrings, the nose rings, the bangles, the anklets.
The large nose ring with pearls and rubies is a signature family heirloom worn and handed down for generations in many traditional Bonedi (aristocratic) old-Kolkata families, the design of the nose-ring marks the family and it is worn by the ladies of the house on festivals such as the Durga puja.
As the painting progressed, the painting took charge and it was taking on it's own character, it was unraveling to me it's own story. The portrait of a Bengali bonedi lady wanted to be adorned like a Goddess and as I painted the hand-pulled ceiling-fan above Her, She revealed Herself as Durga - standing below the 'Chandowa'(a cloth ceiling that is hung above the idols and the place of worship for Maa Durga).
The tiles are replicated along the lines of the vintage Belgian tiles in my maternal aunt's home in Kalighat.
The handfan with the cross-stitched embroidery and the red pleats is reminiscent of a primitive rural Bengal craft that boasts of the brightest and loudest colours and beautifully naive floral patterns.
The text that goes around the painting is a song by Rabindranath Tagore, a dialogue between a forest bird and the bird in the golden cage. The forest bird sings songs of the forest and freedom and asks the caged bird to come out fly in the clear blue skies, without any restraints. The caged bird, in turn, asks the forest bird to learn the songs of the cage and invites the bird of the forest to its beautiful luxurious shelter. The forest bird refuses to be shackled and taught what to sing, the caged bird refuses to let go of the comforts of the cage and is fearful to set itself free in the clouds. The two birds love each other but can't come close to be one with the other, they look at each other from across the cage but fail to understand one other, they flutter their wings in loneliness and despair. One says to the other : ''come to me'', but in vain. The forest bird is afraid that the cage will close its door some day and it'll not be able to fly out and the caged bird fears that it does not have the strength to fly out in the open sky anymore.
The painting measures about 66cms x 116cms (26 inches x 46 inches).
Medium: Acrylics on canvas, finished with protective varnish.
As an artist, making this for Archana was precious, sharing this journey with a mentor into creating something that has connected us at so many levels - in our love and nostalgia around Kolkata, in our deep adoration for the Durga in all women, in our regard for each other's sensibilities, in how our paths crossed and in how that was something that was meant to be. Karmic connect. Thank you Archana Srinivas, for giving me Maa.
You will see the love and care that has gone into nesting this painting in Archana's stunning new home.
The care and attention-to-detail that has gone into framing and placing the painting has left me overwhelmed and extremely humbled. You will see what a dream collector she is, you will see the generosity and love in her heart. I posted out this painting to her the day I left Geneva to go home for Durga puja in October 2012. We were both waiting for a time when we could post about this journey together (me between my travels and she being in the middle of a move from India to the US) and we could not have given me a better birthday gift, a better Valentine's gift than to be able to do this post together on the 14th of February.