Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day Two with Manjunath Kamath- Music of Brush Strokes

(Manjunath Kamath into the second day of his project Conscious-Sub-Conscious)

New Delhi, 21st August 2010

There is a celestial music in the cosmic sphere where the planets move in the orbits of notations.

Scientists have heard it. Artists have and musicians too. When lunatics listen to this music their love overflows on the full moon days, as the poet puts it.

Artists listen to music; from Indian classical to the rib ripping rap. But there is another music that no one else listens but only the artists are privileged to enjoy.

The music of brush touching the canvas, the music of chisel touching a piece of marble or wood, the sizzling of molten bronze and the music of clay thrown at the wheel- artists listen to this music in isolation.

We too do it, not the trained ones alone but the mortals like us, destined to be permanent viewers and readers, meaning-smiths and the alchemists who turn Microsoft words into a world of golden memories.

When do we listen to it? When you first feel the rustling of silk like the murmur of a cloud, from which the beloved’s body reveals itself by your touch, part by part, then like the moon on a full moon night. When the first drop of a long expected rain falls on the blade of grass and reflects a universe in its tiny, tender and temporal body, before consigning itself to the gaping desire of a parched earth.

In the lower ground floor of Gallery Espace, where even murmurings reverberate as royal bellowing from distant forests, Manjunath Kamath dips himself into a deep silence and takes his permanent marker. And he makes the first stroke.

(The Dead Tree: Manufacturing a Reality- Manjunath at work)

Yes, I hear the music of it; the sweet ripple that passes along your spine when long fingers play hide and seek at your nape. Had the wall been a living organism, it would have sung the songs of ecstasy, heaved the sigh of a sea.

(There Manjunath is listening to the music of his soul)

But the wall remains firm. At the far end, Manjunath makes a circle, which imparts the illusion of a hole. Now, a hole and a long stroke across the middle of the wall; what is he going to make out of it. Soon, with G.R.Iranna and Pooja Iranna as witnesses, Manjunath turns the line into the stem of a tree. Slowly branches appear around it and the viewer realizes that it is a fallen tree….but with a typical Manjunath-ian (or –esque? You choose) twist- the branches are dried and broken, they are tied together with pieces of threads.

(G.R.Iranna, Pooja Iranna and their daughter watching Manjunath working on the Dead Tree)

(Is that final? A Tree under construction)

A fallen tree, a dead tree with the branches tied together and the main steam getting into the hole on the other end of the wall. I am reading Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. And I think like Robert Langdon. Yes, it could be a tree pulled out of the wall, or it is going to be pulled in. In its dead weight grows like a corpse. A growing corpse. Pure Ionesco imagery.

Manjunath resists meaning and his resistance, I find quite meaningful. The moment the author weighs the image down with a meaning, it becomes a dead image. Or something like a tree artificially created out of twigs; manufactured sense of reality. Like iconic vagabonds, I too imagine that the tree sprouting in leaves. But Manjunath leaves the top end of the tree unfinished.

Later while ruminating on the image, Manjunath says, “I don’t want to hold on to the image like it is the last thing I have. I want to let it take its own shape. When I did the first stroke, I knew a tree is going to come out of the hole that I made on the left end of the wall. I feel possessed, you believe it or not, I am just a holder of this permanent marker.”

(A Pondering artist and an artist to ponder over)

I don’t have any reason to disbelieve him. I am a writer, word-smith, meaning-smith and will-smith. I can also be possessed like my beloved. I can also be possessed like any viewer, any reader and any visitor. I can be possessed and spirited like Manisha Gera Baswani, who has been clicking on Manjunath’s moment by moment actions since morning. Manisha is the documenter of friendship. She registers the moments of spirited action and she does it with an unparalleled spirit.

(Artist Manisha Gera Baswani documenting Manjunath's action on the second day)

(Isn't good? Artist Shantamani showing her prowess at lens to Manisha and Manjunath)

Michael Angelo had once said, “I don’t see a marble block, instead I see a sculpture and I chisel away what does not belong to the sculpture.” When Manjunath makes a stroke at the huge rectangular pillar at the lower ground floor, I could see him seeing the image and he is contouring out the rest.

(Boxes start appearing on the Pillar)

The pillar soon turns into a jumble of boxes; some say empty and some say full, as per their soul status of the day- pessimistic or optimistic. Manjunath moves back and forth and he draws the images of several books strewn all under these boxes. Manjunath’s perennial critique on bookish knowledge. His iteration on inspired awareness of an artist. This image has appeared several times in his paintings and videos; stack of books supporting a broken table, man balancing books on his head, hooded man reading book etc etc.

(Manjunath contouring out the space into form)

Books.. some of them are to be tasted, some are to be swallowed and some are to be chewed and digested, says Francis Bacon (16th Century). Manjunath often tramples books and he smiles at those who take out text book and note book when they hear the word culture.

I am reminded of Joseph Goebbels who said, ‘when I hear the word culture, I reach out for my gun’. Zizek added to it later, ‘When I hear the word gun, I reach out for culture.’ Then he modified it into, ‘When I hear the word culture, I reach out for my cheque book.’

Manjunath belongs to the world of Zizekian thinking though he does not read Zizek like an academic would do.

The foliages from Manjunath’s childhood memories were left unfinished yesterday. Now he moves on to that part of the gallery where the foliages were done. Then he works on it, the creeper grows towards the top and at the ends it sprouts electric bulbs. The memory is turned into a farcical object, decorated memory and electrified memory. “People say they hate plants that produce plastic cans as fruits. What can I do, now it grows electric bulbs also,” Manjunath laughs.

 (The Electric Plant in the making)

At the wall facing the landing of the staircase, Manjunath makes a curvaceous stroke. Now you hear the music of it. You see the wall becoming something else. A few more strokes, it turns into a pot bellied bulky figure crouching and he grows into the folded wall towards back. And it becomes a headless image and the folded hands hold a divine mouse.

(A Curve can make all the difference)

God of Small Things, Manjunath calls it. Perhaps, what you see as a pot bellied image is not the actual god. He is going to be someone pouting from the innards of this body. Manjunath plays between the religious and the secular, the political and the personal. “No provocative images, please,” Chintan Upadhyay shouts, intentionally for the gallerists to hear.

(God of Small Things)

(God of Small Things and Friends)

Visitors pour in the way it rained yesterday. Students from Jamia Millia Islamia, Ravinder Reddy, M.Ramachandran, Santhamani, Manoj Kulkarni, Siridevi Khandavili, Sana Afreen, Mrinal Kulkarni, Bhavna Kakkar, Murali Cheeroth, Chintan Upadhyay, friends and well wishers of the gallery and the artist.

(Renu Modi, Ravinder Reddy and Manisha Gera Baswani)

(Murali Cheeroth, Bhavna Kakkar and Babu Eshwar Prasad with Manjunath)

(M.Ramachandran, Deputy Secretary LKA, New Delhi, Manjunath, Shantamani and JohnyML)

There are two final images of the day. A man lands up from nowhere, only exposing his abdomen, folded hands and the languid legs with two un-identical pair of footwear. Who is that? Some of them ask. Somebody from the other floor, Manjunath quips. True, they have been in the other floor for long, in Manjunath’s paintings, where chair play a great role not only as a recurring image but also as a recurring image of power and one’s funny efforts to hold on to it. Kissa Kursi Ka (It’s all about a Chair).

(Man from the Heavens taking shape)

(Kiss Kursi Ka- Man from the Heavens)

It is almost night and Manjunath still has the energy to go on. He draws the image of a heap of feet with different sort of foot wears on them.

(Last image of the day)

(Chintan Upadhyaya drawing on Manjunath's T-Shirt)

During the day, his T-shirt with a two wings etched behind had become a canvas for the visitors. How to auction a T-Shirt that Manjunath was wearing that day, when all luminaries came and drew on it as a gesture of appreciation of his project? Washed or dry-cleaned? 


layered said...

absolutely fascinating... both your narratives and remarks and Manjunath's expression. Thanks Johny for giving such a vivid and gripping account. look forward for tomorrow :)

somudesai said...

somudesai said...

writing blog by johny and youtube upload is bringing the event more clear for follower at distance. this is the best way. congratulations to you both