Friday, August 20, 2010

Day One at Gallery Espace: We Need a Plumber to Fix Rain Clouds- Manjunath Kamath

(Manjunath Kamath starting the project Conscious-Sub-Conscious with Rain Clouds over Delhi)

New Delhi, 20th August 2010: When heat waves lash across the city and its inhabitants condemn themselves into the baking trays of their dwellings, they deeply pray for the rains. In their nudity under the shower, they try to differentiate between the furrows made by water and sweat on their skins.

Then it rains. Clouds break open and heaven thunders down with rage and fury, and make each citizen in Delhi think about their past sins and do atonement. Delhi comes to a stand still when it rains. Here none curse none anymore. People have learned to take ennui with equanimity, sitting inside their vehicles trapped in traffic jams they look wistfully at their fellow sufferers on the road. Vagabonds take shelter under the half built flyovers, mad men and women urinate in public exposing their private parts to shame the sane ones in the vehicles. Child beggars enjoy the bulldozers and drills penetrating the earth of Delhi, repeatedly raped by the Public Works Department (PWD) and the greedy contractors.

Dead bodies don’t float in waters here; they float in television screens and newsprint wet with water, ink and desire oozing out of advertisements.

If you think about absurdity of life, it is here, it is here, it is here.

And from that thought of absurdity starts the ‘spontaneous drawings’ of Manjunath Kamath at the walls of Gallery Espace, New Delhi.

Rain or no rain, Manjunath couldn’t have missed yesterday’s morning. He was there on time, while his friends including me spent hours in traffic jams.

With no particular thought, Manjunath dipped his brush in a bottle of black poster color held out to him by Krishna Naik, Manjunath’s faithful studio manager and assistant.

From the ceiling of the gallery, a hand came out and it turned a huge knob on. The right hand of God. “Indra has gone on leave,” Manjunath chuckled later on. “Delhi PWD head has taken over.”

(Rain makers- L to R- Murali Cheeroth, K.M.Madhusudhanan, Babu Eshwar Prasad, Manjunath Kamath and Chintan Upadhyay before the Rain Clouds)

From the knob pipes started growing into different directions, jutting themselves into clouds pregnant with rain; some pipes were leaking. Then there was rain, drenching the vast area of nothingness with nothingness. Then suddenly you realize that everything is submerging; a traffic signal post, an apartment building, an upturned car, unidentified objects and the finger tip of a memorial sculpture, showing no direction.

A befitting image for a rainy day has born out of Manjunath’s brush, within no time. One who remembers the videos and paintings of this artist, they would obviously know from where these images come. The real memory drawing.

(Chintan Updhyaya, KM Madhusudhanan, Babu Eshwar Prasad and Murali Cheeroth at Gallery Espace)

Manjunath, however, does not stop there. On the left corner of the wall, he draws a wire plugging into an actual socket, as if the whole scene was electrified or was an electronically manipulated vision. And on the right hand lower corner, on the floor, he draws a bathroom drain cover and paints the ‘white’ water flowing into it. “There may be seeping in the lower ground floor,” Manjunath raises panic amongst the gallery staff, at least for a moment.

Yeh…Dilli hai meri jaan (My dear, this is Delhi)….The Delhi of today; a rain soaked Delhi. “We need to call some plumbers,” pointing at the image of the leaking pipe near the ceiling, Manjunath tells us. Clouds spread all over the ceiling, one by one.

A man with a goat’s mask appears on the left side wall. Then, a masked figure with a dark spot of his eyes, then they multiply.

(The Goat...oh that is not the title or something....but it starts like that- Manjunath Kamath at Work)

Manjunath’s protagonists have come to visit him, finally, not in a retrospective, but in a moment of spontaneous drawing. The characters come in search of the author. We have seen them in his different paintings, sculptures and in videos but in different guises. Now they are here together, collapsing into each other, vying for the viewer’s attention.

(A host of protagonists from Manjunath's repertoire of images come to manifest in his drawings)

Pallavi Paul of CNN-IBN sits silently in a corner and watches a frenzied artist working on. Artist Babu Eshwar Prasad ruminates on the images and tells how Manjunath is spontaneous in his works and totally un-intimidated by the prying eyes. Renu Modi, the director of Gallery Espace admires her protégé’s work and wonders how he could just create a bubble of loneliness around him while working.

(Pallavi Paul of CNN-IBN conversing with Manjunath Kamath)

(Renu Modi, director of Gallery Espace admiring Manjunath's work)

By evening, the rains had subsided, but still it reminded its potentials through the occasional darkening of the sky over Delhi. From Mumbai Chintan Upahdyaya had flown in to see his friend working. From Bangalore, Murali Cheeroth came in to be at Manjunath’s side. Film maker and artist, K.M.Madhusudhanan braved the rains and traffic jams to reach the gallery by nightfall.

(Murali Cheeroth comments on Manjunath's works while Chintan Upadhyaya looks on)

(Babu Eshwar Prasad, JohnyML, Pallavi Paul and Renu Modi at Gallery Espace)

By that time, Manjunath had progressed to other walls with the images of foliages that obviously came from his Mangalore memories. And a huge figure appeared in another walls with hydra like hairs.

(My memories begin here...amongst these foliages......Manjunath Kamath)

Like Delhi’s topography, at present Manjunath’s drawings look disparate and non-narrative. But any trained eyes could see how it is going to develop into a narrative on the city of Delhi tinged with colors and smells of a beautiful childhood spent in Mangalore, Mysore and Bangalore.

(Man and the Masters of the Universe- Manjunath at work)

If I say, it feels like Istambul by Orhan Pamuk, oh my dear Lotus Eater, will you be offended? Or will you laugh?


vantage point said...

Dear Johny,
It did cross my mind a couple of times yesterday that it was the big drawing on the walls day. The city clearly was not not in a mood to be navigated across.
So we are grateful for this blow by blow account of of what happened at the venue. Ofcourse we have all seen drawings on walls before but to be able to witness that as it progresses still ignites a very primitive instinct of childlike wonder and fascination and engages one very differently in comparison to seeing the end result of an artists effort. Perhaps it has something to do with the sharing a moment of creativity with someone .
Anyways for those of us who missed its great you shared the experience . But I suspect one will have to walk in there physically one of these days to actually feel the effect.

JohnyML said...


Thanks a ton for that wonderful comment.

It is a great experience to see an artist working.

Please do drop in the Espace Gallery and meet the artist and see him working...

I will be around...



Fingertree said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the city as well as Manjunath, almost as is you were mirroring in your writing the same exercise that MK was undertaking...

Reading your post was a bit like listening to a cricket commentary, so what if one were distanced in place and time, you brought Gallery Espace home...


JohnyML said...

Hi Punam Zutshi,

I am so happy to read that comment...

I do my level best to remain faithful to the words that I write...

best regards


LotusEater said...

Hi J

I am very sorry i am not able to engage you about Istanbul(l). You see, i have "readers block". Had it for many years. It happened years ago after i read some work by Albert Camu(s) "The Myth of Sisyphus and other essays"( no relative of Riyas Komu i must add, or, on second thoughts, - after seeing some of his works - i must say, as they always do on Wiki-World - "reference required" :-) )

But you did mention about "Absurdity" - now that's a topic close to my heart. ' all great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning...The absurd world more than others derives its nobility from this abject birth'

Wait a minute i have the book somewhere, *"Absurdity" oh! you bastard - you aren't following me are you.*

Ok: what follows are a few quotes from the book. It's absurd - to say the least.

On second thoughts, there is too much to talk about. Page 93 " Absurd Creation"

But this should whet your appetite : 'For an absurd work of art to be possible, thought in it's most lucid form must be involved in it. But at the same time thought must not be apparent except as a regulating intelligence. The work of art is born of the intelligence's refusal to reason the concrete. It marks the triumph of the carnal...It will not yield to the temptation of adding to what is described a deeper meaning that it knows to be illegitimate...the problem for the absurd artist is to acquire this savoir-vivre which transcends savoir-faire.'

Your writings are driving me to re-read... if only to catch up with you!! ( which is not such a bad influence - on balance)

Cheers Bro

JohnyML said...

Dear Lotus Eater,

That is a fantastic mail....Yes...Camus had grown into my mind almost twenty five years back when I first read 'Stranger'. Myth of Sisyphus has a special place in my life as I grew up listening to the myths of a local 'wise' madman, 'Naranathu Bhrantan' (the mad man of naranathu).

This guy used to push a huge boulder from the bottom of a hill and by the evening he reached the top. From there, he pushed it down and laughed at the stone rolling down. By night he went to cremation grounds and slept there.

One day goddess Kali appeared before him and tried to frighten him by showing her ten heads and other paraphernalia. Naranathu Bhrantan started laughing. Puzzled goddess asked him for the reason behind his glee. He said, whenever I have a running nose, I really have a very tough time and now I see you with ten noses.. I just thought of your condition with running noses.' Goddess was pleased with him and asked him to ask for a boon. He said, 'Shift the elephantiasis of my right leg to the left leg'.

I grew up listening to such stories. Then in college, I studied Samuel Beckett, the master of absurdity.

So I could connect it with the works of Manju.

Riyas Komu and Albert Camus? Are you joking? They are poles apart. How can you compare cricket with a horse?

Thank you very much....