Tuesday, November 17, 2009






We share a common cultural history, troubled past and a hopeful future. This is an opportunity to establish “people to people contact through visual artists’ wit our neighbors.

This is another attempt to bring two countries and individuals together to foster conversations across cultures. The significant aspect of this program is to create conducive situations for artists to have conversation, learn from each other and get to know social and cultural contexts.

1Shanthiroad studio will open a new window to know BRITTO, two organizations with similar objectives. We will connect and nurture friendships and artistic collaborations for the future.



Melting Pot

The notion of movement is not unfamiliar to me. The place I live in is a picture blurred by never ceasing activity- a melting pot of various cultures and traditions brought by people who have come far away and made this place their home. When I was invited to be part of this KHOJ Project with a Bangladeshi Artist, the first thought that occurred to me was about the place I live and work in, where several migrant goldsmith communities live. They come here bearing their unique skill, the use of delicate hands to turn a piece of metal into fine jewellery; a craft which has been passed down over generations. They come mostly for survival; I wonder if it could also be for survival of their craft. Some are also Bangladeshi immigrants who conceal their identities to merge into our society.

In the Shanthiroad Studio, I chose to work in the kitchen which was almost empty. I moved out the few things that were there; the space carried the resonance of absence.

Every year the pot used to melt gold in my father’s workshop would be discarded for a new one. The old one was used to grow plants by my mother – krishna tulsi, nishagandhi, hibiscus, marigolds…thus taking on a new form. Hardened by the fire, it now held a living thing; plants which reminded her of home, the fragrance of the cinnamon tree in her backyard. The cinnamon is also reminiscent of a colonial past.

My grandfather, a goldsmith, came here in search of work many years ago, like so many others. This part of the city is now called ‘old city’. For people who have lived here for years, it is the only city they know. From here the city grew, I wonder if I have become a stranger to it, or if the city is unrecognizable now. Cobblestone paths have given away to concrete roads; what is left of the old architecture is now but a pile of rubble.

I picked up these pieces of flesh, which contain several fossilized layers- smell, touch, sound, memory and loss. I etched on them with my goldsmith tools, marks like a prayer and placed it in the kitchen.

2) Mohammad Hasanur Reaz

The opportunity to come to Bangalore was exciting for me. I wished to explore Bangalore and the contemporary art scene. I was ambitious and planned to work in local stone and later tried to look for objects and materials that resonates my concerns.

My interaction with Prabhavathi, the collaborating artist, was an interesting situation to locate myself in a context of Bangalore. Prabha comes from a traditional goldsmith family was a fascinating experience I visited her studio and interacted with her migrant Bengali neighbors who have made Bangalore their home. I was questioning the reasons for the migration of labour and the struggle for livelihoods.

My concerns include the political reality in our countries, the struggle for survival and the constant hope for utopia. Like many others I wish to dream of a new utopia. I visited Pondicherry and was inspired by the Auroville and the charter for the global village. This is reflected in my representation of the idea of Matri Mandir. I want to know if this was a solution for a new reality. My visit to the Golden bridge pottery was another inspiration to acknowledge the triumph of labour and craft skills. And the ability to create a sustainable model for creative studio practice.

Can we move away from the dominant discourse of globalization and the logic of development? In our own south Asian context I wish to be part of the search of a new universalisms and world view, which sustains our traditions and cultures that, are rooted in the vernacular.

I quote:

“…it is here in the cosmologies of cultures, here with peoples on the peripheries that we must seek the beginnings of an alternative discourse. It is here perhaps, that the notion of the sacred survives. to return the spiritual to the material and the ethical to the political. The one central mountain”

-Corinne Kumar, Universalisms In Political Discourse- in “Asking we walk”-the south as new political imagery.

Urban memory with the smell of cinnamon

-Suresh Jayaram

We visited Prabhavathi’s studio in the old part of Bangalore. Here the sounds of last surviving silk weaving homes and gold jewelers survive amidst the bustle of the city. Prabha lives in a close net family with living traditions of making gold. Her Father migrated to Bangalore and was the first among the Malayali jewelers who established themselves here. The craft of the jewelers “thatans” in Kerala is much respected for the intricate designs that adorn women and men. They continue to use time tested patterns to fashion jewelers for many communities that believe in the custom of buying jewelry as a ritual necessarily and an investment.

Prabha has been passionately exploring the revival of panel painting with gesso; she patiently layers wood surfaces with limestone to create a surface that becomes her canvas. Line drawings have been her forte, a language revived from the many traditions of miniature painting she has researched. Her lineage can be traced to the Bengal school and the contemporary adaptation by well-known artist Nilima Sheikh. The artists draws from the pan Asian tradition of lyrical lines and patterns that trace the elements of nature and the fragments of female subjectivity that suggest desire, loss, hope and personal narratives that are more poetic evocations.

Prabha takes her drawings and mark making to another level, she believes in subtlety and suggestion, “dhavani” an important element of Indian aesthetics that believes in suggestion rather than statement. This device becomes the essence of her recent installation at the Khoj collaborative project at 1Shanthiroad. She chose a minimal space that is used by artist as a living space with a small kitchenette adorned with local grey granite. The bed hangs above like a loft, a series of concealed cupboards open up another world of storage and mystery.

The artist’s intervention is subtle and dramatic. She makes marks using charcoals to suggest soot from the kitchen. The empty kitchen is adorned by a terracotta pot that is used to smelt gold by her father. It suggests other urban uses like pots for plants that line her terrace garden tended by her mother in memory of the verdant backyard of her Kerala home. All this is accentuated by the smell of cinnamon that wafts in the room. The artist suggests through absence and recollects the smell of cinnamon trees and its colonial history in the spice route.

The most dramatic and bold gesture is the spill of debris that has been collected from the old city. These are palimpsests of homes, painted with sweet colored distemper of middle class homes. Prabha looks at them as fragments of bodies that bear witness to the change and conflict of a city that struggles to grapple with its new found global climb. Now citizens cling to rituals and traditions of livelihoods that are gradually erased by rampant migration. Prabha assets herself by using her fathers chisels to embellish these fragmentary walls with delicate abstract patterns. These are her haikus without words, she leaves marks to claim her identity from the by lanes of the city she lives and loves.