& occasionally about other things, too...

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Song of Silence - Sangeeta Gupta's paintings

Curator’s Note by Meena Chopra

In an ongoing journey with five elements of life, Sangeeta Gupta reveals the hidden realms of creativity by bringing it to the conscious levels through her art. There is a sustained intricacy of mystique, in the entire range of her work. 

The obscurity of abstract forms start speaking to one in a silent melody and a continuous song is created within the limits of space and time through the subjective experience.  Undoubtedly a spontaneous painter, the vision of her inner world is very clearly and honestly depicted in both her poetry and art. 

In her latest works, there is a kind of explosion of forms in contrasting tones and colours which give a powerful sense of free-spiritedness. This instantly grabs the attention of the viewer's eye and draws it deeply into the subtleties of forms and tones, thereby creating a continuous dialogue between the inner and outer worlds. 

What strikes me most in her art is the sincerity, through which the subconscious flows out naturally, impulsively and effortlessly through her art.
Fellow Artist and Curator Meena Chopra

Continued in the post below

Keshav Malik - a poet and an art critic

Continued from above

Guest post by Sangeeta Gupta

It seems only like yesterday, I recall.

I had recently come on transfer from Calcutta and was new in Delhi. My third solo exhibition was to be held at the All India Fine Arts and Craft Society in December 1997. I was desperately looking for someone to help me to curate the exhibition and to inaugurate it.

I met Manohar Kaul, Chairman, AIFACS regarding this and he promptly suggested that I contact Keshav Malik for this who was in the gallery attending some exhibition. Kaul said it was easy to identify Malik as he would be the tallest in the crowd.

I entered the gallery looking for him. He was there in the midst of a large gathering talking to people, yet he did not seem to belong there. I was simply mesmerised by his persona and walked up to him and said I need to have a word with him. He smiled and came out of the gallery and at that moment we were in a meaningful conversation, which went on for long.

At that point of time I was totally ignorant of his stature in the art world and had no hesitation in discussing with him about art and poetry. We instantly developed a bond which grew over the next 17 years. Keshav went out of his way to curate the exhibition of my ink drawings.

Keshav guided and inspired me to evolve as an artist and a poet. I felt anchored in Delhi – a big ruthless city. It was the beginning of a great learning experience and a beautiful relationship. His house became my comfort zone, we shared a lot.

Keshav witnessed my growth as an artist and a poet and enriched my life.

All these years I had the confidence that I could bank on him for guidance; could call him; meet him when I wished. I had immense faith in his advice and wisdom.

His passion for reading and writing poetry and reviewing art was the intrinsic force which made his life not only beautiful but so much worth living. He loved seeing art so much so that he would visit all shows in Delhi. He often said that he drew inspiration from art for his poems.

He translated my book of poems (The echoing groove - 2005). We did a book together, his poems and my paintings (Visions and Illuminations - 2009). One of my exhibitions had his poems and my paintings together on display (Shridharani Art Gallery, New Delhi - 2004). We read poetry together on several occasions in the midst of ongoing exhibitions.

I had this strong conviction that Keshav had so much wisdom and insight about evolution of Indian art that it should be shared with artists and poets of all ages and it would be appropriate to document it in a film. I discussed this with a filmmaker and he gladly agreed to do it.

Even after making all efforts by collecting data and research material the project did not take off. I was losing my patience and peace of mind over it. One day I decided that I would make the film myself. I am no filmmaker, but I made it as my tribute to my mentor Keshav. I scripted, shot the film and then did editing with the help of the professional.

I was keen to have a special screening of the film on Keshav’s birthday and the documentary was screened on 5 November 2012 at I.C.C.R, New Delhi. The first film on Keshav – Keshav Malik- A Look Back, is a reflection on the life of the noted poet and art critic.

He was a Fellow of the Lalit Kala Akademi. He was an Art Critic of Hindustan Times and Times of India. The film features, several eminent painters, poets, scholars, and their views on his life. The film has been screened at various venues such as Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Sanskriti Kendra, Anandgram, New Delhi and at Kala Ghoda Art Festival, Mumbai 2013.

The other two documentaries Keshav Malik – Root, Branch, Bloom and Keshav Malik – The Truth of Art were screened by India International Centre and by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Delhi in 2013 and in the Spring Festival, 2014 at Alliance Francaise de Delhi.

This film has been selected and is in the archive of Documentary Edge Campus, a resource centre for documentary films, New Zealand, to be used for educational and research purposes. This film was telecast by the TV channel DD Bharati and Lok Sabha TV several times.

My mind is flooded with hundreds of memories of Keshav. He would often curate my shows in Delhi spending hours together, till late evening and then rush back home to change his Kurta and come back to inaugurate the same exhibition.

Keshav wrote most of my catalogues for my exhibitions. He would come to my studio to help me select the works for an exhibition, then write about it, curate the show and also inaugurate it.
He was a complete man who cared for the feelings of all. 

Out of his concern for women artist that it was more difficult for a woman to sustain herself as an artist he would go out of his way to help and promote them.

Keshav often said that poetry is a way of life and merely writing poetry is not enough. His poems were philosophical and abstract and dealt with deep concern for humanity. He never compromised with his values in life.

During his 89 years on this earth he witnessed so much of change happening in and around him, but he remained unaffected by the material and mundane like a lotus in a dirty pond. He was a detached witness to the affairs of this world and lived life on his own terms.

He was modest and humble, sensitive to the needs of others and yet he firmly stood by his values in life. The artist community who were fortunate enough to meet and interact with him would cherish the memory of a man who came on this earth to spread love and compassion.

I salute the man and his spirit who had faith and hope in humanity despite numerous upheavals in the society. While the documentary was screened at IGNCA somebody asked him “Do you believe in God, have you seen him?”, Keshav said “No, I have not, I have only seen human beings and I only believe in them”.

Time neither is, nor passes.

What is, is the world-making womb

where you are born, to die.

Born asleep, born a dream –

dreaming dreams without recall.

These lines of his poem always remind me that we have limited time on this earth and each moment should be lived with a sense of purpose.

Keshav served and guided the Indian art world for more than six decades through his critical yet constructive writings. He was one of the first persons I had met in the art world when I came to Delhi 17 years ago. Keshav was a mentor, guide, and philosopher to me.

I specially admired his compassion for young and budding artists who came from all over India and flocked around him for advice and help. He was generous to all artists who came to seek his advice. He always had something good to write about each artist. He was a poet’s poet. I feel enriched by the long association I had with him.

His passing away is a great national loss and has created a void which cannot be filled ever. An era of art criticism has come to an end. His contribution as an art critic and poet will be remembered by the Indian Artist Community for times to come.


Why this, why now?

Meena Chopra, a frequent contributor to this blog, is curating an exhibition of paintings by Sangeeta Gupta, a visiting artist and poet from India. The opening reception was held on 19 November, and the exhibition is on till 29 November at Heritage Mississauga - The Grange 1921 Dundas St. W Mississauga ON L5K 1R2.

-Exhibition is curated by Meena Chopra - Artist, Author & Poet and Nain Amyn- Lalji

On 29 November 2019, Sangeeta Gupta will make a presentation on Life and works of Keshav Malik - an Indian celebrity poet, art and literary critic, art scholar, and curator

29th at 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm at The Grange
followed by an open mic session in collaboration with Courtney Park Writers' Group
About Keshav Mailk:

Keshav Malik (5 November 1924 – 11 June 2014) was an Indian poet, art and literary critic, arts scholar, and curator. He remained art critic for the Hindustan Times (1960–1972) and The Times of India (1975–2000). He published eighteen volumes of poetry and edited six anthologies of English translations of Indian poetry.

He was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India, for his contribution to literature. In 2004, the Lalit Kala Akademi, India's National Academy of Art, made him a Fellow of the Lalit Kala Akademi for lifetime contribution, which is its highest award).
'CROSS CURRENTS - Indo Canadian International Arts' believes in going 'BEYOND BOUNDARIES' both in 'thought and action', 'within and without'

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Fall book launches

For the last eleven years, I have not missed a single Mawenzi House’s fall launch event. It used to be held at the Gladstone hotel till a couple of years ago and now, for the last couple of years at the cozy, comfortable almost homely Centre for Social Innovation at Bathurst.

For the last four decades, Mawenzi (earlier known as TSAR) has become the authentic voice of multicultural Canada, by focusing on providing a platform to authors from different ethnicities who have made Canada their home.

Mawenzi House has introduced me to many contemporary authors, some of whom have supported me in different ways in my attempt to become an author. It has published some of the best books that I’ve read in the last decade.

An illustrative (not exhaustive) list would include Chelva Kanaganayakam’s translation of R. Cheran’s Tamil poems You Cannot Turn Away; Kwai-Yun Li’s The Palm Leaf Fan and Other Stories; Safia Fazlul’s The Harem; Saima Hussain edited The Muslimah Who Fell on Earth; Dawn Promislow’s Jewels and Other Stories; Ava Homa’s Echoes from Other Land; Loren Edizel’s Adrift; Sheniz Janmohamed’s Bleeding Light just to name a handful.

Earlier this month, at the fall launch, Mawenzi again unveiled some excellent titles. I was at the launch and based on the readings by authors, I bought Lamees Al Ethari’s Waiting for the Rains – An Iraqi Memoir and Sohan S. Koonar’s Paper Lions (fiction).

Here’s an extract from Al Ethari’s memoir:

We knew that the Americans intended to erase us; if they had wanted to remove Saddam Hussein, there were less violent ways of taking him out. No one was safe. In the first Gulf War, they had bombed Al-Amiriyah Shelter, which had housed hundreds of civilians, mostly women and children. Father and husbands had dropped off their families there, hoping they would have a better chance of surviving the air raids. Four hundred and eight civilians died that night. Three missiles that hit the shelter led to the doors locking from impact and imprisoning people within the burning walls. I had seen images of the shelter and went to the annual memoriam at the site; the remains of bodies were plastered on the walls of the shelter.

Shock and Awe, as George W. Bush called it, was exactly that. Everything was a target; we saw smoke rising from different parts of the city, until the smoke was all we could see.

You may buy the books here: Mawenzi House


Also, in November, my friend Fraser Sutherland’s collection of poems Bad Habits (Mosaic Press) was launched at the Yorkville Library. Fraser has published nearly 20 books – mostly collections of poems, but also a short story collection and a number of nonfiction titles. He is great editor, who has contributed to turning unreadable and badly structured writing into scintillating and compellingly readable prose or poetry.

Bad Habits has a section titled An Introduction to Fraser Sutherland, which has a page-and-a-half of Fraser’s idiosyncratic observations that are pithy, epigrammatic and memorable. 

Here’s a sample:

“Poetry can’t defeat ongoing ignorance, repetitive wrong-doing, physical deterioration nor persona extinction. But to say a few meaningful words about being in the world in the face of infinity and eternity – well, that’s something.”

“The idea of poetry-writing as therapy is especially seductive; if you’re writing a poem and it’s going well, there’s no better feeling in the world.”

“Somehow a good writer has to work aslant to the existing order. For a writer to be popular, to win prizes, to be feted by the media – those to me are grounds for suspicion. If the trappings of public success, however welcome, began to descend on me, I’d start to suspect myself.”

And here’s a poem from the collection

You may buy the book here: Mosaic Press

Lullabies for Little Criminals - Heather O'Neill

One of the perils of knowing little about contemporary Canadian literature is that I have heard of too few Canadian authors and haven’t heard of too many remarkable ones. The ones that I have read are the masters or those that I have come to personally in the last decade or heard about through friends. 

That leaves a huge gap that I furtively try to fill every time I go to my local library at Weston.

A couple of months back, I picked up Heather O’Neill’s debut novel Lullabies for Little Criminals (2006). It is a disturbing novel about a 12-year-old girl – Baby – who is smart, sassy, confident, and a victim of utter neglect. A motherless child whose father – Jules – is young enough to be her older brother, and perhaps therefore unable to do anything right in his life, leave alone raise a daughter. 

The novel depicts one year in Baby’s life (12 turning on 13) – a time when she is still a child but is forced to become an adult. During that period, Jules and Baby move around different apartments across Montreal’s seedy localities, populated by drug addicts, drug pushers, mentally unstable women, pimps, and prostitutes.

Lullabies for Little Criminals has no villains. Jules is someone who the reader would automatically sympathise with; he needs help and is unable to look after himself. He has long ago lost the ability to distinguish between real and imagined and prefers to be on the run rather than look after his daughter. Similarly, Alphonse, the pimp, who pushes Baby into prostitution, is abusive no doubt, but he is often reduced to a pathetic state, with no control either over himself and his circumstances.

It would seem that Baby gradually loses the ability to decide what is right and wrong, but in reality, she doesn’t really have a choice. Her circumstances force her to abandon the life that she desires and knows that she deserves – that of a normal child, who is good at her studies, scoring high in her class, and one who would prefer to spend time with children her age indulging in innocent fun. 

Instead, she experiences a harrowing spiral of descent into doom from which it is impossible to return.

All through that desperate journey, Baby doesn’t ever stop being hopeful that she will eventually find a mother, or someone who will be like a mother. She looks in vain for this mother-like figure in the women she encounters, whether it is the mother of the kids with whom she spends a few days, or the Russian landlady or even the prostitute and the drug addicts with whom she traverses the grimy nether world.

The tenth anniversary edition of the novel also has a short interview with O’Neill. The interview contextualises the debut novel. O'Neill is, as I later discovered, a renowned journalist, who produced the documentary Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi.

The novel won many accolades and was nominated for many more. It is so lovingly crafted that nearly all paragraphs end in epigrammatic sentences. 

The phantasmagorical descriptions of Baby’s mind when she is high on heroin flagrantly vibrant, flamboyant. It reminded me of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, which is based on Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same name and depicts the life of down and out Edinburgh dudes hooked on heroin.

Reproduced below are some lines from the novel that I found exceptionally noteworthy:
  • Being judged by society makes you disregard it after a while.
  • Usually I went around with so many ugly insecure things flying around in my head that when a pretty thought came to me, it usually died a lonely death, afraid to come out.
  • Sometimes I wish I was the only man left on the whole planet. And then every day all these different women would come up to me and I’d have to give them a little love. Just a little peck on the cheek or a flower or something. Enough to get them through the day. That’s the way I was born and that’s the way I’ll die.
  • The real first kiss is the one that tells you what it feels like to be an adult and doesn’t let you be a child anymore. The first kiss is the one that you suffer the consequences of. It was as if I had been playing Russian roulette and finally got the cylinder with the bullet in it.
  • When you’re young enough, you don’t know that you live in a cheap lousy apartment. A cracked chair is nothing other than a chair. A dandelion growing out of a crack in the sidewalk outside your front door is a garden. You could believe that a song your parent was singing in the evening was the most tragic opera in the world. It never occurs to you when you are very young to need something other than what your parents have to offer to you.
  • From the way that people have always talked about your heart being broken, it sort of seemed to be one-time thing. Mine seemed to break all the time.
  • I cut through the parking lot, which was filled with men smoking cigarette butts. The ones who were worse off had tangled hair and looked like Moses when he came down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments. From the distant looks on their faces, they seemed experiencing a level of profundity that could kill an ordinary citizen.

Photo credit: https://www.goodreads.com/photo/author/12676.Heather_O_Neill