Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bangalore Installing and Workshopping

Jan. 17

We hung the wallpaper installation today. It was great to have the hospital carpenter and three other men helping. They worked quickly and efficiently. In the afternoon we return and find the wallpaper up, only I see I have made a mistake about which panels go where and it’s too late to make the change. I struggle to be at peace with my mistake. Alas, the area that feels most unresolved and overworked ends up in a crowded corner. I am full of apprehension about how the portraits will look installed with the painted wallpaper. Also, the five sixty-inch panels are six inches short of the long wall, so I have an unanticipated gap to fill, which I will have to paint on site.

I have a lot of anxiety about this project, questioning its worth and its level of completion. Painting the panels turned out to be quite challenging, especially because it was hard to find enough space to lay them out, even in the Ajaikumar’s giant house. They were incredibly accommodating, letting me take over both Anjali’s bedroom while she was in Bangalore and the upstairs hallway mezzanine.

I was very happy to see Prumilla, one of the girls whose portrait I painted today, especially since she seems to have come back for the reception.

Bhagya invited Mr. Gopalappa, a geologist, to “measure” the underground waterways beneath the gallery floor. He has a very cool instrument that measures breaks in the rock formations, which tell him the location of the water lines. He was kind enough to discuss his findings with me, and seemed completely unfazed that he was asked. Since this happened only yesterday, I can only use the information nominally in the installation.

Mr. Gopalappa, geologist

Bhagya and I are spending three days at Bangalore University, where we are conducting the second collaborative group artist book workshop. BU doesn’t have an undergrad visual arts program, and its graduate program spearheaded and administered by Jayakumar, is only 6 years old. Yet the complex of studios surrounding a tiered outdoor courtyard is very pleasant.

Yes, Felix Gonzalez Torres sited at Bangalore University!

The students have very strong drawing skills and usually work from imagination. Several of them have shared their individual work with me. They seem to be pleased to work collaboratively, a new experience for them. There is some installation work taking place, but more usually the tradition of symbolic narrative painting dominates.

There are five collaborative book groups working together. One has been especially enthusiastic. With smiling persistence, they demand both a binding and a painting demonstration from me, and I comply, because it is so much better than waiting for other groups to be ready to discuss their work with me.

They want me to tell them about art in America and about the differences. I tell them Indian art tends to be more sincere than American art, where irony and inside references to art history abound.

It’s difficult to adjust to the Indian sense of time. “Five minutes” could mean a half an hour. We habitually arrive up to 45 minutes late for everything, so I am getting a lot of practice in letting go. The students and teachers alike arrive late and take long lunch breaks. So different from the States, where we rush to work as hard and as long as we can, to be full of accomplishment.

a conversation with Jayakumar and former MFA student Madhankumar about the importance of understanding ones choice of materials

Frequently we sit stalled in traffic for long stretches of time, another opportunity to try my hand at letting go.

sitting in Bangalore traffic

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