Friday, January 30, 2009

I see red

I wish I could paint the sky red.


I have loved the color red forever. I use it extensively in my work and life. Red has been a definitive choice, right from choosing my first crayon to the new silk scarf around my neck. But its not its beauty but its duality that attracts me. An artist can portray positive and negative feelings effortlessly with just one stroke of red; clearly that’s why it is one of the most commonly used colors by our Indian artists.

Manjit Bawa has created some astonishing paintings using the opulent red backdrop. Simple saturated red background surfaces the spiritual and pure forms to indicate the heightened state of devotional passion. ‘Govardhana’ depicts a mythological scene in red where Shri Krishna saves his devotes from the rain. Even though the painting is predominantly red, it still looks calm and serene.

Legendary Ravi Raja Verma paints beautiful Indian woman clad in elegant red saris making the centre of the many mythological composition. The figures always portray a felling of longing, love and passion highlighted by the intense red attire worn by them. In contrast to the passion evoking red clad ladies is the mythological scene of abduction of Sita by Ravana. The drama and despair of Sita is heightened because Raven is been shown wearing a red loin cloth with fierce blood shot eyes.

Another very famous painting Mahishasur by Tyeb Mehta shows the turmoil between the good and the evil. The red buffalo here is the mythological demon Mahishasur who is been killed by the goddess Durga. The artist shows the victory of good over evil with the demon submitting itself to the divine and embracing the goddess in atonement. The red there symbolises evil inside the demon slowly regenerating the original self..

Saturday, January 24, 2009

See you there..!

Saint John the Baptist by Leonardo Da Vinci has to be one of the most thought provoking paintings I have ever seen in real. It hangs at Louvre, Paris in its Grande Galerie not very far from the famous Mona Lisa by the same master painter. The thick black backdrop with a cross adds another layer to the mystical figure in the front.  The smirk on Saint John's face is similar to Mona Lisa, but there are two more mysteries to this painting which makes it a very interesting subject to the onlooker. The first mystery is the androgynous look of the figure, the strong shoulders and hint of well built back gives a clear signal of a male form, but then all this is overshadowed by the much visible soft face and long curly hair. Its almost like a female head is placed on a male torso, but with a touch of delicate sway in the body, almost like its dancing with the finger pointed towards the high heaven. The second mystery is the teasing gesture of the finger with the risque smile. The picture appears to be saying 'see you there', which might just have a meaning because it is said to be Leonardo's last painting. 

The beauty of this painting is definitely the amalgamation of both sexes, a very controversial theme for those times.
But well Leonardo Da Vinci succeeded big way in mixing androgyny with religion in most of his paintings, which should definitley inspire few of us who still crinkle noses to such inevitable subjects. 

Bad Art Anyone??

One day on my conquest to find the meaning of good art, I stumbled upon a website of a museum which has dedicated itself to bad art. Their tag line said 'Art too bad to be ignored'....mmm well the last place you want your work to be displayed at. But on the second thought the idea was really amusing. I was psyched with the idea that this museum was a actually working towards the collection, preservation and celebration of bad art. The whole collection of 'bad art' was divided into 4 sections: portraits, landscapes, unseen forces and recent acquisitions. The museum MOBA has almost 400 pieces to their collection and they invite people to write very critical reviews about the works. But I think the most amusing part was the process how MOBA acquires the work. They usually ask people to donate bad art, but most of their prize paintings come from the local trash bins. This Massachusetts based museum takes great pride in bringing bad art to a wider audience, by organising shows world wide. 
One man's trash is another man's treasure, are the very words MOBA lives by.

One of my favorites from the portrait gallery is 'Mama and babe'. The grotesqueness of the painting is very evident with the jarring use of colours and the unmistakable missing hand. Now that's what I call bad art.

Visit their online gallery at

Friday, January 23, 2009

Who's Driving Who???

I have been fascinated with Roy Lichtenstein's 'In the car' since I first saw it hanging at National portrait gallery, London. First look at it and you will say to yourself well its another 1960's pop art, its great and all but whats so fascinating? This painting is in Roy's typical style of creating massive artworks out from relatively small sources like comic books. Its a fascinating piece with handpainted dots to create an impression of the halftone effect used in comics. But I got interested in this piece because of the mood, It has a sense of loneliness to it. It make you want to ask the question ....who is driving who ?? The first look and you will say the man is driving because the frame shows only partial hand and its hard to make out if its his or hers. Another important reason is that New york has left hand driven vehicles and the man is sitting towards the left. Anyways what do you think are the chances of a woman driving over a man, that too in 1960's?? mmmm....20:80
But than take a second look and its clear that the woman is driving and the guy is all green-eyed. First evidence would be that the woman is alert and looking ahead towards the road whereas the man just looks a little distracted. And the second reason is bit obscure and requires a little bit of research. It come clear that the woman is driving because the original comic strip included a thought bubble which read 'I vowed to myself I would not miss my appointment - That I would not go riding with him - yet before I knew it...", it says it all.

And my psychoanalysis also says they are not in love and there is nothing lonelier than sitting in the front seat of a car with someone you don't love anymore. 

Art is so deceptive sometimes, and the readings can differ from one viewer to another.