Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Expressive Abstractions

Every time I passed that room, I could see three large canvasses on the walls. They appeared to be abstract expressionist works. The occupant of the room was never there, whenever I passed by. I wanted to take a good look at those works.

One day, I saw a small made, good-looking gentleman in a pin-striped suit sitting at the desk and working. I slowed down and he looked up. "If you don't mind, may I have a look at those paintings", I asked him, standing at the door of his room. He said, "Sure"!

I discovered that there were four paintings, not three. The fourth was on the wall I couldn't see from outside the door. I was enthralled. All of them were of great beauty. One, in particular, in black, bluish grey, ash grey and white, was arresting. It was well illuminated from a window to its right, about a couple of meters away. I looked at them for quite some time, turned to the gentleman and thanked him and was about to leave.

He asked me gently, "do you like them"? I said, "yes, very much". He raised his eyebrows, in mild surprise and asked me, "Do you know what they are"? I sad that they were abstract expressionist works. I pointed to the one that had affected me most and told him that that was the best of the lot.

Since he looked ready to talk about it, I asked him if he had made them. He told me this story.

They were made by the father-in-law of his daughter. He too had worked for Philips all his life and had retired more than a decade earlier. After retirement, he took up painting. After some time he worked only in abstract expressionism. For nearly ten years, he created many works and then stopped. He had presented these paintings to this gentleman.

Those paintings changed my attitude towards abstract art in general and abstract expressionism in particular. While I suspect (actually, I am quite sure) that there are mediocre artists and charlatans out there and gullible culture vultures with deep pockets, I have realised that you ignore or look down upon any genre of paintings at your own artistic peril.

My only regret is that I remember neither that gentleman's name nor the painter’s!

Art Abroad I 

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Unfortunate Fortune Teller

Mysore. Mid-seventies. I would go to the sprawling campus of the Mysore University, flop under a tree and read. (Alas, the compound building mania has struck the university too and the grounds are not easily accessible anymore.)

On one such occasion, a couple of men in dhoti, kurta and Gandhi cap walked by. One of them came to me and started pestering me for business. He wanted to tell me my future. They were itinerant fortune tellers from North Karnataka. In the typical patois of his profession, he harangued me to show him my palm and tell him my date of birth and name and so on, so that he could foresee and tell me what great good fortune awaited me or what great misfortune. If it was the latter, I am sure some money would have to change hands so that he could intercede with the powers that be on my behalf so that the effects of the misaligned stars and planets are nullified and the misery that awaited me is averted.

I kept refusing. What I did not tell him was that my pocket was empty and there was no use revealing to me my imaginary future. He kept at it like a lone house fly on a lazy summer afternoon and droned and buzzed around me.

I sat upright suddenly and asked him, "You don't even know your own immediate future! You don't even know that I am not going to pay you to foretell my future. How do you expect to foresee MY future?"

He either saw the impeccable logic of my argument or the wild look of a cornered cat turning back on a chasing dog, he beat a hasty retreat.