A place in the clouds

A place in the clouds

A group of international artists depicted their impressions of Meghalaya as part of the Picasso Pupils Art collective, says Shilpi Seth

Pablo Picasso was always keen to make art a form of dialogue between inspiration and reality and believed in engaging the community in the interpretation of free expressions at his many studios and centres. That’s how the Picasso Pupils Art community came up, which is a platform that uses art as a language between diverse cultures.

So it is that painters and artists from different countries came together as part of this project to form their impressions of the northeastern state of Meghalaya. It was a big challenge for the mostly Slovak and Czech artists to overcome drawbacks like language, culture and staying in an alien land but they have put together their version of the “abode of the clouds” as Meghalaya is called.

One of the artists as well as the curator of the exhibition, Jana Bednárová, says she is inspired by  artists like Julian Schnabel and legends like Goya and Picasso. Coming to India for an internship, she just fell in love with the Northeast, its natural sweep, its biosphere and its micro-culture. “We got to interact with locals and students and were able to layer our perspectives with this understanding,” Bednárová tells us. Every artist works in a distinct manner, so each depicted Meghalaya through his/her core strengths. Some adopted a geometric style of painting, some worked with textiles and the others depicted the lay of the land as their personal, intimate space. “There are times the artists may not have many things in common with the context as part of the collective but in the end, they evolve a communicative tool based on exchange with and the exposure to the local scenario. We went around market places, talking to people, venturing into the forests, forming ideas of how tribals lived in sync with their environment and then put out our takeaways. From forests, animals, destroyed houses to churches and graveyards, everything has been showcased as part of the artist’s personal space. Some got fixated by the places that amazed them, some tried to depict the spirit of a place, bringing out small nuances on the canvas,” says Bednárová.

Gabriela Valls Schorr, a professional musician, venturing into a comparatively new artform that is a hybrid of the ancient and the modern times, presented a collage of the Maharajas and present  time, linking historical context with prevalent socio-political situations. She says she has been inspired by life-size stones and the ritual of worshiping them, feeling like the enormous rocks are alive. She shares the excitement of painting on the spot and how passers-by were amused seeing her stand under a double-decker bridge to finish her piece.

Moinuddin Moni showcased destroyed houses co-existing with their ever-changing scenarios, a relic of beauty amid the chaos. Other paintings included aerial views of agricultural land and forests, done mostly in blue and green. Juhi Devi Bhanjdeo used textiles to depict the grass of the place. Her “textile sculptures”, as she calls them, were done by stitching and using textiles in different manners.

Michaela Vrbková showcased her geometrical pieces, depicting the windows of the church and the gates, using a language of lines and symmetry and reflecting on an architectural tradition.

All the paintings were curated in a circle where the first and last pieces complement each other. The exhibition has already been showcased in Shillong, Meghalaya.

On an end note, Bednárová says that India has taught her to have patience and says that searching for the new in the same place keeps her going.

(The exhibition is on till June 18 at IIC)



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