Representations and illustrations of mind-mapped stories, everyday happenings and the banalities of existence have their own dynamics. This is the dynamics that sows seeds of creativity in fertile mind. Such was the first session of the our artist-mentorship program Partner a Master with artist Tushar Joag in the month of August.
Taking cue from Tushar Joag’s history with graphic novels in his own extraordinary artistic stride, our mentorship program conjured up its own nimble course with the students. Tushar set the tone for the workshop, first, by linking the idea of a graphic novel with ancient cave paintings of Ajanta, Jataka tales, patta chitra and then weaving the idea of ‘narrative’ through them.
Toying with the idea of a story for their own novella was the tool Tushar used to usher the students into thinking mode. Mulling over the plot of the story, they whipped up a scenario concertedly about the trials and tribulations that a woman has to endure in the world of beauty and glamour. Following that, Tushar initiated them into the technicalities and thematics that would be imminent in the ‘making’ of the illustrated novel.
Elements that go into the making of a story/novel with graphic representations were contemplated upon by each student. The ‘devices’, which have to be weaved in any story as part of the pipeline to achieve the final product, were turned over in their minds by our artist.
After bringing to fruition their ideas and thoughts in the form of the inked graphic novel, student Sama felt that her “favourite part of the whole process was the inking part where finally it felt like we had achieved something and the results were finally showing”. Subiya added to this saying, “It’s amazing to see how all of us, as different individuals, can have an opinion we all agree on”.
With every feature and dimension in place in their novella, the students drew caricatures of each other for the back page and the session’s epilogue came with each one eagerly waiting to savour their bound ink and paper creation.
In one of my favourite films, Before Sunrise, the protagonist believes that we are all tiny fragments of a bigger soul. That may be why our similarities unite us and our differences, well, make us interesting. The optimist sees a glass half full, the pessimist sees a glass half empty, a realist sees water that he can drink, and a mysophobe sees a used water glass. Essentially, we are all looking at the same water glass, but how differently we react to it.
Surekha’s biggest strength is her ability to capture small stories in the big canvas of life. And that is exactly what she set the children to do in their sessions with her. What united all of them was the city that they lived in and how it had grown on them so much that they could now walk past it without being aware of its existence. And what made it fascinating was how each of them connected with the city so differently. Some liked its malls, while others its serene parks. Some liked the countless shopping stores, while others liked the people behind the counter. She set out to bring out these small quirks and remind us that we all carry stories within us, stories that are ours, no matter how inconsequential it may seem to others, stories that make us so interesting.
She set them on the task of making a list of places in Bangalore that they connected with, challenges of Bangalore that they felt strongly for, history of the city that made for interesting anecdotes, and of course, their own personal stories and observations in the city. She let them pick the best ones for their 1×1 canvas.
It was hardly surprising that they were quick in listing the challenges faced by the city. But while others were talking about pollution, overpopulation, bad roads, inconvenient bus services, Anmol, a quiet, reflective child began to toy around with something far less evident. “You know how you see someone every day and they become part of your life even though you don’t know them, and you realize it only when they are gone? I’m thinking of the flower sellers and the vegetable vendors. There are definitely fewer of them around probably because a supermarket is more convenient. The background to my picture will be dark and hazy, just like their future. I’m going to blur out their faces because it feels like they have lost their identities in this big city.”
While many were working on the challenges, few of them found interest in other themes. Remember how they say happy stories hardly make good movies? Yes, that’s probably why our history books are so bloody. But with passing time, it is hard to think of history without associating it with wars and freedom struggles. So it came as a complete shock to me when Gokul decided to pay tribute to the dying art of Yakshagana in his work as part of the history of Bangalore. “It’s one of the famous dance forms of Karnataka. At one time, it was very popular in Bangalore. But now, we see it only during Dusehra celebrations or Independence Day parade. I saw it two years ago in Rangashankara and it has stayed in my head ever since.”
With so many stories emerging all around us, we needed to find a thread that could weave them all to one tapestry. And that tapestry came in the form of a life size snake-and-ladder board game. Each of the canvases became a number, a part of the board, the challenges pulling us down, and the progress taking us forward. But in the end, all of it was required to complete the board.
We are all, indeed, tiny fragments of a bigger soul. And that is the soul of the place we live in, which makes us who we are.
Our second Book club session transpired on September 2 at Modern School, Barakhamba where we picked John Berger’s Ways of Seeing to ponder upon and discuss.The basic premise of the book is based on “seeing” which gives us, the spectator, a place in our surroundings which we in turn negotiate with words. Berger in his book, stresses on the dichotomy between what we essentially ‘see’ and what we ‘know’.
The book challenges and at the same time puts into focus the viewer’s ways of perception which are generally prejudiced, biased and manipulated by a host of factors. The cultural specificity also has a considerable bearing in the way we end up perceiving something. Berger through his seven essays, emphasizes on the need to re-look and in turn, re-think our overall visual acumen.
Berger questions assumptions about the traditions of European art history, and the book is not about the specific paintings that are presented in the book, but rather about the ways that we understand them now.Berger raises questions about hidden ideologies in visual images and explores the idea of art as commodity.
In the course of the session, participants discussed the very many facets that the book throws up with our facilitator Tushar Joag. Each one of them deliberated upon images in order to contextualize as per the course of the essays in the book.
Sarika also showed the image of Picasso’s Seated Bather which according to her did not resemble a woman at the very instant she looked at it looked like form of machinery to her.
Sancheta spoke about the Slice Mango juice advertisement where the model is depicted with the intent of a specific target audience and appeal of a male gaze. The discussion built around the sexual dynamics of these advertisements.
Hima spoke about the recent Airtel advertisement about the way the role of the woman is compartmentalized in terms of being an ideal wife which again is a problematic domain in terms of defined gender roles in the backdrop of a modern and urban India.
Our facilitator helped them ‘look’ through diverse gazes while keeping the larger picture in mind. He brought into perspective how the content in an image is loaded with a multitude of meanings. The lens of the onlooker assumes immense significance in this regard.