Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A visit to the TN Archaeological dept exhibits

On the occasion of attending the monthly lecture organised by the state archaeological dept at their office ( Tamil Valarchi Valagam, Halls road) at Tamil Salai, Egmore, i used the time available on my early arrival to check out their exhibits within a small room of approximately 10x10 sq ft. This small room can open a new world to the uninitiated, thanks to the abundant energy and enthusiasm of Mr. Sreekumar, Technological expert. Though this was the third time i was meeting him, he was ready and willing to go all over again explaining the exhibits to me. His energy and enthusiasm for spreading the knowledge conveyed by the exhibits is infectious. 

if one were to walk through the exhibits on one's own, one is most likely to feel let down, thinking that there is nothing but a huge number of pot shreds on display. But with the grace of Mr. Sreekumar, you will end up gaining a whole lot of expert knowledge. To start with, one can not miss the different colours of these shreds even on a casual look. There is the colour that resembles that of the pots that we see today- these could be native- one of these has an interesting embossing of a Lion devouring a deer, with intricate depiction of the hind legs and tail of the deer, as they are about to enter the lion's mouth; then there is the strange black shreds attributed northern India and Mauriyan period- these tend to have develop red blots; then the shining ochre red, with a metallic clang of the romans called roman roulete pottery- due to the designs on it, and the clanging sound attributed to the lack of pores and special way in which it is baked; and finally the browninsh amphorae used for storing wine, fish sauce, etc. 
bull etching

profile of a lady embossed

These Shreds have been found in various places like Maligaimedu, near Cudallore, especially the roman ones and at  Alagankulam in Ramanathapuram district. These potsherds also carry some intricately done graffitis like that of a bull, a hunter on horse(?) back wielding a 'Valari'(?), etc. these graffitis are very important pointers to social life in those times. some shreds also  have some beautifully embossed figures. 
hunter with a Valari?

Talking of graffiiti and symbols, a Seal found in Boluvampati interestingly has the insignia of all the three great rulers of Chera, Chola , Pandya on it.

One thing that any untrained eye can not miss is the beauty of the chain of carnelian beads on display. carnelia is just a variety of Silica reddish brown in colour. Since this is not available in India, it is not clear where this stone was sourced from. These beads were found in megalithic urn found in Kodumanal, Erode. Iron swords of 1.5m length have also been found there along with the beads.

Talking of stones as beads, we then turn to stones as weapons. The madras hand axe- so called to distinguish it from Acheulean, France, though looks very common and ordinary, one cant escape the exhiliration, when you realise that an early man shaped this stone and had held this in his palms thousands of years ago. you can 
also see hand axes slowly transforming in to smaller tools that helped early man's simpler and finer needs and then tools to help him dig probably a root out.

Stones not only acted as tools but they preserve history. welcome to another exciting rendevous with history in the form of leaf imprints on a gondwana shale. a marker for times when the Indian and Australian plates were together. So much geological history in such a small piece of Shale that was discovered near Sriperumbadur. 

Apart from these local finds, one can also have a brush with the treasures of Indus valley civilisation in the teracotta figures donated by Shri Nagasamy, an iconic figure in the department. Though there is a lot more treasure to savour in this small space, i will leave it to your walk around this space with Mr. Sreekumar, when you go there. Signing off wishing every museum had people like Sreekumar to make our visits an enlightening one.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

La Douler- a Play

I was scarcely prepared for the spectacle that was on offer at Alliance Francais Madras on the evening of 14 June. I was witness to some amazing content, form and performance of a very high quality that was on show in the play La Douler, an adaptation from two short stories of Margurite Duras from her collection titled The War- memoir, performed to perfection by Maud Andrieux.

Over a span of around an hour the stage of minimalist set consisting of a wicker chair, table with a lamp and telephone on it, would transform itself variously as a seat by the fire place in the confines of a lonely home, the corridors of a public office, the visitors area of a prison, a street side restaurant, a field with wasted bodies dumped on it, the High way from Dachau to Paris and finally a pleasant summer Italian Beach.

All this magic of seamless transformation on the stage was achieved by a magical combination of Expressions and performance of Maud Andrieux, the poignant words of Duras and the Lighting and Sound effects.

For someone from a land of relative peace and having never known what it means to be in the middle or anywhere near a war, the poignancy of the lines of the play were immensely touching. AFM had put technology to good use by arranging to project the translations of the french lines in back ground as they were spoken by the actor. 

Moments and lines like,' peace was approaching, and all this pain would be soon forgotten', signifying the bitter harshness in how with the onset of peace all that heart wrenching pain would be swallowed down as one but a bitter pill; ' He was one of the great many, but the only one special to me' impling how her most loved one was but one of the casualties in the big picture. ' I don't blame any race or creed, but Man', indicating how all that suffering does not lead to hatred but some sort of deeper realisation. I wish i could remember many more of those beautiful and poignant lines. 

Maud Andrieux' devotion to the text and the substance was evident. She had brought home to aliens like us the chaos and commotions of a war period and the pain and heavy grief it brings with it. The stories of victory of a persevering spirit, though may sound fable like in other times, on this stage it was the pain of the persevering spirit that was written all over. 

Over the course of the play, Maud Andrieux brings to life a grieving, concerned and steely partner, a strong woman braving the schemes of the enemy, the praying woman who prays for her love to stumble back to life from the clutches of drowning into death from being wasted, and finally a partner rejoicing in the new found life, which is like no other. 

The grace and confidence with which Maud Andrieux carried the whole show was exceptional. use of properties was minimal, so minimal that a carefully folded and laid long coat could transform into a form lying wasted and struggling to recover. Simply by wearing a long coat and wrapping a cloth around she could transform the stage into an outdoor, and by taking off her short coat she could bring before us a lady basking in the summer beaches. i don't want to move on from this section without mentioning the beautiful hair do she was wearing.

Maud Andrieux deserved a big standing applause for her devotion and sincerity to the text and for bringing the pain and grief of the war and also the final ray of hope to the stage.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

EU Film fest-2

Cats don't have vertigo ( Portugal, 2014)

This is a movie about a aged spinster taking a way-loose teenager under her arms braving all odds from her family and each finding support in the other. The lady finds the boy's writing ability amusing and finds help in publishing his writing, the boy finds himself a home and  showers his care and affection for the lady.

Since i had to watch the movie without sub titles i could not figure out the meaning of the title. One of the reasons  I desire to watch foreign movies with a desire to catch glimpses of their landscapes, in the respect the scenes of shore line and ship travel reminded me of Kochi.

EU film fest- Jun 2016

Three brothers ( Chech)
http://www.mzv.cz, accd 9/6/16

This is a beautiful movie of 'fairy tale' dimensions. it traces the sweet story of three brothers setting off from home on becoming adults and getting themselves brides by entering three different fairy tale worlds. The movie is about the sheer joy of listening to fairy tale stories and loosing yourself to their magic. Beautiful songs and casting add to the magic.

The three fairy tales and the brothers are firmly rooted in the ground by their earthy parents, particularly, the 'back stretching' father.

Urban Family ( Ollan Vapaita- fin)
image frm imdb.com, accd 9/6/16

A young and single mother gives away her child in adoption and goes on to lead an idealistic life in a comunion with her friends. The Child comes back as an teen to visit her. The movie is about the drama of attachment between the boy and the two mothers.
This is again a musical and has songs with wonderful lyrics to savor. 
'Let's put the fire out with gasoline
I want to make the world better
but I only sleep or defy god' ( from http://lyricstranslate.com)

many more memorable and beautiful lines indeed. The title, urban family, beautifully and happily comes together in the end.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Artist, undone

Ever since i read ' How to be both' by Ali Smith, i had always longed to read a book like that. i came close to a seeing a book of that kind in ' How to paint a dead man' by Sarah Hall. Both these books happened more than six months back. I had since forgotten about and lost hopes of finding book of that kind again. But then, out of the blue, this book ' Artist, undone' happened and that too blooming most expected out of my own backwaters, it has come as a refreshing, cool drizzle on my parched earth.

This book felt like it was written exactly for the kind of sensibilities i was hoping to expect in a book. In my journey in the last couple of years i had arrived at discovering art through literature,  heritage and culture. 

This book overwhelmed me in the neat way it had weaved in contemporary works of Indian art like those of Jitish Kalat, Atul Dodiya, F.N. Souza, Shibu Natesan into its narrative. it was not talking of these works as case studies, but was drawing its narrative vigor from these works or in other times using the art to add spirit to the Narrative. one has every reason to wonder, if the author started by setting out to build a a narrative around a set of art works or otherwise.

All credits to the Author for not harping around superstar artists like M.F Hussain and Amrita Shergill, in which case the reader would have felt the author was only using these big trumpets to blow up his ugly tune, instead choosing lesser known artists and lesser known works to build his narrative. This choice in turn enriches the reader's experience of art and make him seek these lesser known ones out.

The book not only talks of these works but also has these works featured beautifully in mini prints on those yellow rough pages, this feature even my much loved Ali Smith book didn't achieve, it was a stunning and a pleasant experience to see the prints featured. it was a first for me. i have not seen any novel that has such illustration. The book simply scored a big six with that feature. 

Though the whole story seems to revolve around one work ,' Fat, forty and Fucked', in its stride it starts off with Robert Longo's Triptych , ' The Freud cycle'- featured to animate the narrator's visit to a Psychiatrist and down the lane, ' Stations of a Pause' by Jitish Kalat finds a prominent place in the story.

Not just the Indian art scenario, i am also very glad that this is one of the first books that talks in great details about, Cholamandal, the artist village in my city Chennai. A great deal of action happens here. The author paints the little hamlet with quite a precision, i was trying to fig out Newton and Gopi's residences- a reconnaissance trip to Cholamandal is on, Even the so called mundane 'Kolam' finds interesting proportions and meanings here.

It not only talks of art, but also brings in various perspectives on art criticism- its role, thoughts on the nature of art, is all art copied?, when is it original?, is it at all worth while to try and make an 'original' art, what is modern in art?. It also brings in western perspectives and trends by discussing the nature of Gregory Crewdson's art, and the trend and place of Tracey Emin among the YBA. 

 http://www.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/1125807/tracey-emins-my-bed-returns-to-the-tate-after-15-years, retrieved on 8/6/16

Talking of the art critic, the book gives the reader a sense of what it takes to write about art, its significance, and the difficulties in understanding writings on art. The book gives the reader plenty from Ranjit Hosekote's writings to savour. 

Art is not only about the artist and the critic, but also significantly about the investor. This book gives plenty of gyan on investing in Art, the dynamics of a gallery space, the persona of gallery people and the dimensions of investing in art. I loved these portions best, for i could relate to a gallery space, thanks to the warm space i found Apparao galleries in Chennai to be.

Its not all art. You get wonderful sessions with Poetry as well. There are works of Arum Kolatkar, T.S Elliot, Dylan Thomas and Rainer Maria Rilke prominently featured in the course of the narrative.

Art and poetry wrap a solid core of drama of love, marriage and explorations and none of it served with any pinch of sweetening romance or melancholy but abundant wit and humor.

The Drama is heightened by shaping the characters as either highly 'talented and a misfit' or 'dumb and good'.In its style again, the book scores exceptionally well by roping in alternative narrative voices, that helps to take the monotony off and gives the narrative a fizz of energy. There are quirky lines of wisdom and provocation scattered along the narrative that helps sustain the reader's interest, keeping him entertained.

Having read this book, i feel proud that an exceptional book has been written and brought to the market for art loving people. The author has done great justice by shying away from glorifying any one particular art or work but just musing about them and leaving the rest to the reader.  I am not sure if this book can be well received by a new reader, for i believe this book found me just when i needed it and could savor it.