Monday, March 31, 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Summer Blues

 The beginnings of summer, Benglurians sluggish due to the heat. We become lethargic, we vegetate, we scuttle towards fans and air-conditioners. I avoid work at my desk by sitting at M’s desk in his studio. He avoids work by sitting in front of his comp, Facebook . I flip through a large book of Picasso’s work. Outside, the sun beats down on the terrace forming blocks of colour against the branches of a mango tree. I feel a surge of guilt. I am doing nothing! I grab an old invitation card and draw the scene in front of me with some graphite lying around. Then I colour it up with M’s expensive Senelier oil pastel. He sprays half a can of imported fixative over it for me.  I feel righteous.

 This is that temple at Ramanagaram. It was afternoon when this was done. P, S and I were sitting in front of the temple in the shade of trees drawing this. We spoke about how happy we felt to get away from the city and sit in the middle of nowhere to draw. We decided that we needed to do one more thing to complete our happiness. We phoned A, who was unable to come with us that day. P spent 10 entire minutes eulogizing our wonderful time to A. Our happiness was complete.

Since we didn’t want to roast in the heat of a village during the month of March, we sketched within the city last week. Some place with a fountain and moth eaten ducks. Too many conversations with P and S about abstract theories.  Lucky for me, S’s wife happened to accompany him. She had been given strict instructions not to disturb us, but she waited  while I finished drawing this ugly mall opposite. I quickly drew, ditched the guys and scooted off with her to shop for girlie things. Wonderful time. “Don’t listen to boys and their bulls*** ” said S’s wife, “they are just showing off”.

This, a lovely fig tree growing inside ITC (Indian Tobacco Company). Thanks to C, whose husband and sister work there, I got a guided tour inside the beautiful green environmentally friendly campus. 

The drawing above and below from my giant Moleskine sketchbook. Playing with organic forms. What is a sketchbook for if it isn't for experimentation?

And this last one above, blue sky against the beautiful red of the State Central Library. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Bloody Chamber

I felt no fear, no intimation of dread. Now I walked as firmly as I had done in my mother's house.
~ The Bloody Chamber

Sometime during the end of 2011, I happened to read that the Folio Society had organized a competition which required participants to illustrate three of Angela Carter’s stories from The Bloody Chamber. As much as I would have liked to, I was unable to participate due to prior deadlines that had to be met, but I did very much want to try illustrating an Angela Carter story yet again and I finally did manage to do that yesterday.

Years ago, for my area of study for my Master’s degree, I chose to explore the representation of women in Grimm’s Fairytales and encompassed into my studies, contemporary literature with fairytale themes. Naturally, this included the stories from The Bloody Chamber, which apart from being featured largely in my thesis also featured in the body of work that I had to illustrate to accompany it.

Traditional fairy tales have been thoroughly diluted by successive retellings catered to children resulting in stories which are as mass manufactured as a nugget of KFC chicken, losing in the process their depth, function and essence. Angela Carter’s stories in The Bloody Chamber, are modern Fairy Tales with a feminist dimension.  Carter describes her stories as extractions of latent content in traditional fairy tales which have been used as the beginnings of new stories.  In doing so, Angela Carter returns to fairy tales the complexities of human behaviour, the nuances of emotions and thought, the strength and energy of sexual desire. She uses these facets to influence the story, hurtling it forward into the unexpected and challenging our gender stereotypes with her feminist point of view.

The Bloody Chamber is violent; it hovers over the boundaries of pornography, it weighs heavy with the pungence of symbolism, it is multi-layered, terrifying and beautiful all at the same time. In her story, Angela Carter borrows from the fairytale of Bluebeard to paint an intense visual experience with words. She leads us through dark corridors of the human mind, beyond secret doors into the forbidden, then she holds up a light, and makes us see and acknowledge what resides within our own hidden bloody chambers performing, in doing so, the essential function of a fairytale – that of making us face our fears.

This illustration above was done during my years studying at Queensland College of Art. I was in my twenties then. It is of course, not to be compared with the more recent illustration done so many years later which shows a different aspect of the story and is done with perhaps far more skill than I ever imagined I’d acquire. 

The look on the protagonist’s face in this earlier illustration above is one of horror at what she sees beyond her. In the more recent illustration below however, I am reassured to see that her face is a picture of calm in spite of the intense environment around her as she walks purposefully towards her goal.

Innocence is a bleeding wound without a bandage, a wound that opens with every casual knock from casual passers-by. Experience is armour; and she felt already clad.
~ Fludd
Hilary Mantel

Gone Girl, Bluebeard and the Meaning of Marriage

Friday, March 7, 2014



Secrecy flows through you,
a different kind of blood.
It's as if you've eaten it
like a bad candy,
taken it into your mouth,
let it melt sweetly on your tongue,
then allowed it to slide down your throat
like the reverse of uttering,
a word dissolved
into its glottals and sibilants,
a slow intake of breath --

And now it's in you, secrecy.
Ancient and vicious, luscious
as dark velvet.
It blooms in you,
a poppy made of ink.

You can think of nothing else.
Once you have it, you want more.
What power it give's you!
Power of knowing without being known,
power of the stone door,
power of the iron veil,
power of the crushed fingers,
power of the drowned bones
crying out from the bottom of the well.

                                   ~ a poem by Margaret Atwood

Perhaps it is about time I finally posted these illustrations here. If it hadn't been for Robyn's email that I send them to her, they would never have seen the light of day. 
I did these illustrations many many years ago after being stunned by reading Margaret Atwood's poem Secrecy. I felt the illustrations needed an abstract approach and I did that. But as sometimes happens, I was unsure about their effectiveness in partnering Atwood's intense and powerful poem so I kept them away. Until that is, I left a comment on Robyn's inspiring blog ArtPropelled for her fabulous post on Book of Secrets that I had happened to make these drawings. Now these illustrations are up there on her blog too, along with those other stunning works of art. 
As Robyn said, 'it was serendipity at work'.