10 Oct 2016

Tribute: Remembering Yusuf Arakkal

Eminent artist Yusuf Arakkal breathed his last on Oct 4, 2016 in Bangalore. The following article was published in Times of India as my tribute to him.

Even though Yusuf Arakkal was suffering from ill health in the past few years, the news of his demise came as a shock. He had become increasingly frail and reticent in the last few months, a pale shadow of his flamboyant and extroverted self. Arakkal’s last exhibition, held earlier this year, was on portraits of several artists - a project that he had been working on for many years. That was also perhaps his last social appearance.
Tribute: Remembering Yusuf Arakkal by Nalini Malaviya published in Times of India, Bangalore
A significant name on the Indian and global art landscape, Arakkal had traversed miles in the course of his career. His haunting images with protagonists hovering haltingly in the depth of the shadows were dark and powerful. His tryst with harsh realities and chance encounters with the underprivileged and the oppressed created lifelong scars that continued to be translated on canvas. Yet, importantly, he painted not out of pity but in empathy, perhaps an effort to heal his own scars carried from years gone by. However, the sombre colours on his palette were in a sharp contrast to his own persona. Cheerful, stylish and a great conversationalist, Arakkal was vocal about his opinions and not afraid to go against the tide. He also wrote extensively for various newspapers and publications, raising concerns, sharing anecdotes and creating art awareness.
Tribute: Remembering Yusuf Arakkal by Nalini Malaviya published in Times of India, Bangalore 
I remember him as a warm, generous person who was passionate about art and was one of those rare people who are committed to helping others - upcoming artists and writers, without any material expectations. He gave his heart and soul in every friendship and his one regret was that many a times he was let down by them.

The Christ series, which he had completed and hoped to show in Rome, could not materialise, nor has it been shown in Bangalore. His interpretation infused with elements from multiple sources - rituals and traditions of Kerala, his birthplace and his readings from mythology, epics and sacred texts from various religions, such as Christianity, Islam and Hinduism makes it special. Another book on murals and sculptures lies incomplete, with images collected but the text yet to be done.

His contribution to Indian art and the Bangalore art scene in particular is immeasurable. Rest in peace, for as Oscar Wilde said, “Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace.”

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3 Oct 2016

Doll Festival: An Amalgamation of Art with Festive Traditions

Integrating art with festive traditions creates innovative and unique narratives, which also add a contemporary touch to traditional tableau, writes art consultant Nalini S Malaviya

Traditional rituals offer a great opportunity to reiterate customs and traditions, and help in bringing alive oral histories for the younger generation. The doll festival, Gombe Habba, which is held during Dussehra in Southern parts of India, involves displaying traditional and rare dolls, figurines, heirlooms, artefacts and toys on a tiered platform. The various arrangements in which the dolls are exhibited are unique to family customs but adopt creative modes of storytelling, while focusing on the décor as well. Traditional themes and mythological tales are popular motifs in building the tableau, but contemporary issues are also now becoming part of exhibits.
Doll festival, Karnataka, Image courtesy http://www.karnataka.com/festivals/dasara-doll-festival/
The doll festival with its rich plurality of artefacts is a wonderful example of the fine craft traditions in India, and many times involves sourcing dolls from across the length and breadth of the country – a practice which is valuable in giving a boost to indigenous crafts. The Gombe is a great way to build narratives around folk traditions and mythological characters and to revive traditional rituals and renew interest in age old crafts. Antique dolls, such as those that have been in families for generations add historicity and interest to the decorations. Therefore the Gombe can be an effective combination of art and craft, tradition and décor.

Some of the key elements involved in creating an outstanding display are creativity, the material such as dolls and toys in this case and the format of the exhibit. To form unusual and enchanting narratives and décor, art can be used to enhance the display and to add interest. For instance, contemporary art which is based on reinterpretation of Indian mythology and borrows from traditional motifs, or art which is adapted from folk and tribal arts can be used very effectively along with traditional dolls in the Gombe to create new and unusual vocabularies.

Similarly, contemporary statues and figurines that are based on traditional forms and motifs can be a great addition to the main exhibit. Two dimensional artwork in the form of canvas and silk paintings and tapestries can form the perfect backdrop to the exhibit and also be an integral element in the storytelling. Contemporary art which is based on religious iconography is also a value addition from a décor perspective and in creating inventive exhibits. Doll Festival: An Amalgamation of Art with Festive Traditions, Image courtesy Times Property

The storytelling in the tableaus narrate vignettes from the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, however, modern themes around urban issues pertaining to gender, environment, and water and natural resources are also being depicted these days. In portraying modern ills and concerns, contemporary art can augment and emphasize the theme and convey the message effectively, while covering large expanses with artwork.

It is important to rekindle awareness about traditional rituals and by adopting innovative measures one can renew interest in their significance, create innovative décor trends and encourage a celebratory atmosphere.

Published in Times Property, Bangalore 

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18 Aug 2016

Art News: New Art Gallery Opens in Bangalore

Iconic portrait of renowned singer MS Subbulakshmi painted by MF Husain to be displayed at ‘Art Bengaluru’ by Navrathan’s Art Gallery

MF Husain’s iconic portrait of MS Subbulakshmi, the world renowned singer and foremost proponent of Carnatic music, will be displayed by India’s newest art gallery, Navrathan’s of Bangalore. Navrathan jewellers have been a familiar destination for Bangaloreans since 1954. The sign of the iconic `nine jewels’ – the nine auspicious planetary gems – has lit up 18 MG road and attracted a stream of clients eager to acquire their signature gold jewellery. The man behind the legendary success of Navrathan jewellers is Mr. Gautam Chand Bafna, a connoisseur of arts, who has now extended his patronage to include fine and decorative arts; modern and contemporary Indian paintings, European paintings, antiques as well as interior décor, period-style furniture, porcelain, glass, silver and sculpture.

The painting of MS Subbulakshmi will be displayed in Bangalore thanks to the efforts of Mr. Gautam. As a sponsor of Bangalore’s premier annual art event – Art Bengaluru, which launches on 19th August at UB City, Navrathan will unveil and showcase Husain’s portrait of `M S’ as Subbulakshmi was affectionately known, as the centrepiece of their display.

Portrait of a Legend

MS Subbulakshmi painted by MF Husain at ‘Art Bengaluru 2016’ by Navrathan’s Art Gallery, Image courtesy Thomas Jose
Navrathan’s Art Gallery presents portrait of MS Subbulakshmi painted by MF Husain at ‘Art Bengaluru 2016’
The monumental portrait, 6 ft x 4 ft, an acrylic on canvas depicts the virtuoso singer holding her famous tambura. She wears a deep red sari, a conspicuous bindi, nose stud, ear rings and her hair is adorned with jasmine flowers. Husain has captioned the portrait “Subbulakshmi” in Tamil and has also signed it in Tamil. The portrait was painted by Husain in a flash of inspiration, the way he remembered her, when he heard the news of her passing. At the time, the artist had a major exhibition of his work, which he dedicated to the singer, in Chennai, where the portrait was originally unveiled. At the time Husain said that when he once heard her sing, for two minutes “It was so divine. I can never forget it in my life-time”. He heard of her passing on 11th December 2004 and painted the portrait in a day in Dubai. When he travelled to Chennai a few days later, he brought the painting and displayed it himself as the focal point of his exhibition at the Lakshana Museum of Arts.

The Queen of Music

Subbulakshmi’s music in films made her nationally famous. However, her devotional songs created even greater fame in India and internationally. Her voice interpreted the compositions of the three greats of Carnatic music, Thyagaraja, Muthuswamy Dikshiter and Shyam Sastri. Mahatma Gandhi was moved to tears when she sang his favourite bhajan Vaishnava Jana To Tene Kahiye Je Peer Parayee Jaane Re. When she sang at the United Nations Assembly, the New York Times wrote that Westerners could understand her message though it was delivered in a different language. She sang before Queen Elizabeth at London’s Royal Albert Hall. In 1954 Subbulakshmi received the Padma Bhushan and in 1969 received the title of Sangeetha Kalanidhi. She was the first woman to be honoured by the Madras Music Academy. In 1974 she received the Magsaysay Award and in 1975 she received the Padma Vibhushan. In 1990 she was awarded the Indira Gandhi Award for national integration. In 1998 she became the first musician to be honoured with the Bharat Ratna.

The United Nations has issued a stamp to mark Subbulakshmi’s birth centenary, coinciding with the celebration of India’s 70th Independence Day on 15th August 2016.

Navrathan’s is honoured and privileged to display this superb portrait of one of India’s greatest singers by one of India’s greatest artists.

Contact Michael Ludgrove, Navrathan’s Art Consultant on +91 99725 97430 and Chirag Chopra on +91 99006 85028 for all enquiries

Navrathan’s Art Gallery

Navrathan’s has taken up 35,000 square feet over three floors at 39 MG Road, perhaps the largest such
Mr. Gautam Chand Bafna with painting of MS Subbulakshmi by MF Husain displayed at ‘Art Bengaluru 2016’ by Navrathan’s Art Gallery, Image Thomas Jose
Mr. Gautam Chand Bafna 

space in India. The familiar logo of Navrathan’s, a lotus with nine variously coloured petals, following the colours of the nine jewels, can now be seen above an impressive heritage facade building.

The second floor of this paradise for the discerning interior décor enthusiasts, houses Mr. Gautam’s latest venture, an art gallery. A state-of-the-art picture hanging system has been installed in a 3,000 sq. ft. picture gallery dedicated to exhibitions of paintings, photography and other interesting genres. A series of exhibitions is planned and will commence in September, and will include Masters as well as newly discovered talents; Photography and other categories such as rare books, maps, jewellery design and watches will also be featured.

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9 Aug 2016

Interview: Albrecht Behmel - This is the Era of the Artist

In a discussion with Art Scene India, Albrecht Behmel, the well known German artist, novelist, historian and award-winning playwright shares his views on the art market, the future of art criticism and the relevance of marketing in the Internet age.
Albrecht Behmel in conversation with Art Scene India
NM: How would you briefly describe the art scene in Germany?

AB: There is a lot of talent around here. Great people like Christian Awe with a unique vision. I love to follow careers such as his from street art to major creator. There are great art-dealers and collectors here, like Jenny Falckenberg and Frieder Burda.
So that side of the scene is healthy and well. Galleries are in trouble as everywhere else with the internet taking their place more and more every year. Just imagine what Google did in the last years to make all the museums of this world accessible online using big data. I know that personal relations are what keeps a gallery alive but I am not sure most of the galleries are aware of how massive the pressure will become.

NM: What inspires you as an artist?

AB: Two things: nature and the movies. I am a huge fan of both. I live in the country with my wife, two kids, a brother in law and a mother in law. It is brilliant when an extended family can live together in harmony. Nature is near, there is a lot of wild life. that inspires me. And I love the movies, so I did a series of super heroes whose outlines I filled with silhouettes of other heroes, monsters, villains, victims etc. That is fun! I especially love the Marvel Series and a Star Wars series I created. I can totally lose myself in these paintings. On another level I am inspired by colors that make me happy, powerful deep red, massive yellow or turquoise and so on.
Batman by Albrecht Behmel, In conversation with Art Scene India

NM: What is your take on art critics? Do you think their relevance is waning or on the rise in the contemporary context?

AB: Well, If you mean professional art critics, I am not sure they have much of a future in the era of social media. Instagram, Pinterest are such powerful platforms for artists to create their own tribes that I am not sure how traditional criticism can survive without major adaptation. Yet I don’t really see this happening. I am convinced that in the future they will lose much of their power to “fanboy99” who comes out of nowhere but manages to entertain better because he understands how the internet really works. Long articles in newspapers are surely not the way of this century.

NM: How important is it for artists to remain current on trends and stay updated on global markets in general?

AB: It is 100% vital to understand the market if you depend on the market, i.e. if you want to sell. Funnily, having said that, prices are not the main thing here at all but marketing is. I always study the latest developments, I go to as many art fairs as I can manage, I read a lot and I follow auctions. That doesn’t mean I have to change my work or my style. It means that I try to understand what makes other artists remarkable. There is so much to learn.

NM: What would you advise upcoming artists?

AB: Feel good about charging the right price, don’t undersell, and know your numbers! That’s about the only advice I can give because as far as the art is concerned there is so much talent out there, so much passion and innovation! This is the era of the artist. It has never been so easy to become a creator as it is today. Everything a young artist needs today is totally in reach, all the knowledge, the exposure, the materials - most of which is free! But if you want to make a living, or better if you want to thrive: make sure you are not cheap but expensive.

Albrecht was born in 1971, studied arts and humanities in Heidelberg and Berlin, Germany and founded his own painting technique The Magic of the Swarms in 2012. This style is also called abstrahistic because it merges figurative shapes into abstract forms. A frequent and generous donor to international charities, Albrecht has recently supported Evelina Children’s Hospital in London, Al Madad Foundation London, Dolphin Aid, Rotary Clubs and university clinics in Germany. Albrecht co-authored international bestselling books like “The Successful Kid” as well as 20 other titles, novels, non-fiction, games, etc. He lives in the German Black Forest not far from France and travels a lot. 

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20 Jul 2016

Home Exteriors: Colour Palettes for a Distinctive Style

A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.
- George A. Moore

Your home is a reflection of your artistic sensibilities, and can be a joyous expression, a celebratory carnival or a subtle feeling. Right from the architecture, the quality of construction to the colour palette, each feature contributes to the individuality of a home to create a distinctive style. I feel colours are much more than a necessity, and truly encapsulate the personality and vibrancy of the home and the residents. The right colour choices bring out the uniqueness of your home.
Home Exteriors: Colour Palettes for a Distinctive Style, Asian Paints Book of Exteriors, Art Scene India, Art Consultant
You may have noticed that it can often be challenging to decide on a specific colour for the exteriors of your home, and it can also be confusing to select colours, shades and hues which will have a visually pleasant impact when paired together. After all, not all of us have a sense of colour, texture and design, our strengths may lie elsewhere and that is perfectly fine too. One may wonder how a green trim would look on a lavender body…or is that too farfetched!

I found the Asian Paints Book of Exteriors very useful in offering a range of colour palettes – various colour combinations that are ready to be selected and applied in your home. Now, these colour palettes have been specially curated to keep a wide range of sensibilities in mind and can therefore be adopted easily in every Indian home. Thus essentially, irrespective of your architectural design, whether it is traditional, blending the quaintness of old world charm with contemporary comfort or one that is modern, appearing minimal with sleek contours, multiple colour palettes offer ready to select options making our lives simpler and easier.
Home Exteriors: Colour Palettes for a Distinctive Style, Asian Paints Book of Exteriors, Art Scene India, Art Consultant
The various colour combinations on different architectural designs give a sense of what would work, so you can assess, for instance, how a light coloured body can be accentuated with shades of blue and green such as Sapphire ice and Prairie Green, one of my favourite palettes from the book, and it has such an elegant impact! Similarly, you can choose other colour alternatives to voice your expression - exuberant, understated or poised. Incidentally, the names of the paint colours will surely delight you – they are delicious, divine and even passionate, sample this, Exotic Spice, Apricot Illusion, Sultry and so on!

We all know that inspired choices can make all the difference, so making the right colour selection for your home is important to accomplish exactly what your heart desires.
Home Exteriors: Colour Palettes for a Distinctive Style, Asian Paints Book of Exteriors, Art Scene India, Art Consultant
Before I forget, the book also offers insights into a range of products that are specialised to meet all your requirements in terms of aesthetics and functionality saving you time and effort in searching for the right products.

So go ahead and pick up a complimentary copy here and let me know if you find the book useful. What are your favourite colour palettes? Drop me an email or comment here.

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