Sunday, February 26, 2017

"Want Girls? I have Models." The Bangalore Way- The Journey 5

Shibu Natesan
Waking up from a comfortable bed could be a desirable experience for a traveller than finding one. In Bangalore we wake up early morning from a very cosy double bed which had been given to us by the receptionist with an apology around midnight; sorry we don't have a room with separate beds but you have been upgraded to larger room, the receptionist who looked as fresh as a day even at that odd hour had told us. The booking has been done by Chithra Kala Parishad, Karnataka and Shibu is their guest and myself in this phase of the trip is just an accompanying friend with no particular role, which I find a great job itself which has been paid handsomely with good accommodation, food and a lot of productive time in hand. On the previous night we had driven a long way. Somewhere along the road that went on like a soulful symphony with toll plazas for pauses we had found Bangalore a mere hundred and fifty kilometres away. A quick calculation yielded an average of three and half hours driving time. We had our sleeping gears ready in the car but we found it futile to spend a night in front of a way side in inside the car when we had a standing booking in a hotel three and half hours away. Shibu stepped on the gas and when he got tired I took the charge of the wheels. A well travelled artist though it was Shibu's first visit to Bangalore. Somehow for me Bangalore was just another art city that I had visited several times.

A rigorous and vigorous morning walk is like a doze of rejuvenating medicine for both of us. We hit the side walk of the road  along the golf course where we see a lot of old men hitting small white balls hard and  young men carrying the old men's clubs tediously. I have never understood this game. Like many other games that simply killed time for the rich and powerful golf too appear to me as a sheer waste of time. But someone who enjoys a game and someone who watches it without knowing it's rules and points from outside the fence and net the game should be felt differently. I have walked the same sidewalk many times in my various visits in the city. Surprisingly I find out that I have stayed in almost all the hotels in the area. As we walk further we come across the CKP and the artists Sujith SN and Mahesh Baliga walking towards the building from the other side. We wave at each other but I am not sure whether they are waving at me also or exclusively at Shibu for I am not an official guest here which Shibu is as they are. I know both of them as they had started their artistic career professionally in the shows curated by me between 2006 and 2009. 

Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath
Shibu hardly attends camps as his temperament as a person and as an artist does not suit to the general boisterousness of the art camps where artists prefer to do a lot of merry making than doing real work. In fact art camps are good relief for artists from their regular studio practices and family situations. And most of the camp organisers do not ask artists to work in the camp because everyone knows that creativity cannot be productively used or manipulated within the stipulations of art camps. Most of the organisers encourage the participating artists either to relax and enjoy or help them travel to important and historically relevant places in and around the camp site. Camps are also occasions for the artists living in different places to catch up with their contemporaries working from elsewhere. Camps if used positively are such platforms where artists could mix up in real time. But all the artists do not have camp tolerance- they prefer to be aloof. Shibu is one such artist and hardly go for camps therefore his rare appearance has been seen with much excitement and anticipation. Besides the news of him driving down to Bangalore seems to have  been discussed already by the other artists. I could see it in the face of Sujith and Mahesh. When we reached the dining hall of the hotel for the multi course complimentary buffet breakfast some other camp participants have already been there. Shibu exchanged pleasantries with all of them and I noticed one of them pretending not to have seen me. I went upto him and said hello. With practiced expression on his face he said he was surprised to see me there. 

Johny ML  - extreme right
Though I am not supposed to go to the camp site which lay spread in the CKP galleries I accompany Shibu and meet the other camp participants; Abir Karmakar, Prashant Sahu, Sunoj D, Reji KP, T.V.Santhosh, Manjunath Kamath, G.R.Iranna, Sarat Kulagatti, Devaraj and so on. As the organisers have already told the artists that though their works would go to the permanent collection of the CKP museum they want to make the camp beneficial to the students of the CKP fine arts college. So they expect the artists to work in situ and inspire the students. I see most of the artists working quite diligently with their own mediums and engaging with the students and visitors. As many artists work in the same location with a lot of walking ins and outs (though the organisers have made public hours only after 2 pm) the works well into the fourth day of the camp still look half finished or haphazardly finished. Soon I am told that almost all the artists would get these half done works back to their studios and would return a finished work to the organisers from their studios. As it is for the permanent collection of the forthcoming CKP Museum everyone wants to give a good work though the remuneration is comparatively less. 

Shibu does not want to paint in the gallery. At the same time he does not want to deprive the students a chance to see him working on canvas: so he derives a compromise formula- he would work from the hotel room, later he would speak to the students in their classrooms and would give a live demonstration if need be besides doing the illustrated lecture for the general public which he has already agreed upon. The organisers are happy to go by Shibu's suggestion. They give him a canvas and he collects the colours that he needs. As it is natural with the camps many friends come by to say hello to Shibu and they are all surprised to know that it is Shibu's first visit to Bangalore. They all welcome him with a great warmth. They are not surprised to meet me for they have been seeing me around since 2010 when I had come for a seminar at CKP itself. There has been no looking back ever since and I find it quite karmic. My first visit to Bangalore was in 1990, twenty seven years back and I was with my college friends and the pack was led by Ajayaraj. The purpose of my visit then was to wear a jacket, drink beer from pubs, eat corn and experience unbridled youthfulness away from home. Then I came back to the city several times after two decades. I look at the galleries where the artists work. It is here in these galleries a year back I had curated one of the biggest shows that the city has ever seen: It's Big was the show and the artist's were from the Po10ntial group that operates from Mumbai. Galleries when used for working purpose look differently from what they are in the context of an exhibition; in a show they look like brides and otherwise tired housewives devoid of all decorations.

There is party tonight. But we are not going. We are not going because both Shibu and myself do not drink or smoke. The socialising has already been done in the day time. Now what we need is some sleep. But when Shibu and myself are together we do not sleep that quickly; we have a lot to talk, about art, about people and about life in general. But tonight Shibu talks only about the work he is going to do. He needs a model. He needs something to work on. He is faintly restless but contains it. Soon a city friend calls me up. He is in the party. Why we are not there, he asks. I tell him that we are too tired to attend a party. He says we should make it for his house party next day; I promise. We go down to the car to pick up something for Shibu's work. We see the bottles of unconsumed toddy. Shibu asks me to keep it somewhere outside in the darkness. We are not going to use it anyway. Nor do we know any potential users of it there. So I keep them near the back tyre of the car, beside another car so that it is partially visible. As we move away from the car a young man walk upto us and asks where we are from. We say, Kerala. "Want woman? I have models with me. Good choice." We are shocked as we are not anywhere near a seedy place where we could expect an offer like that. "No," we give him a curt answer and walk off. He recedes into darkness; we into the hotel lobby, towards the lift and to a balmy sleep.

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