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About my paintings (Part 2)


About my paintings (Part 1)
Gulammohammed Sheikh Artist
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Well, ‘Place for People’ had four paintings of mine, and these are sort of designed as pairs of companion pieces. There are two pairs. So, about ‘Waiting and Wandering’, the first, and ‘Revolving Routes’, the third, are companion pieces, whereas ‘Speaking Street’ and ‘City for Sale’ are another pair. Well, in a way it was a sort of search of the self, and as I said, that it was confessional in some measure, but also referring to both past and present. In a way, they were all about certain kind of journeys and also they were open-ended, they would connect, not only with each other, but they would connect with even other works of mine, or even make reference to other works that I admired.  It’s also a continuation of the kind of quotation that I had begun with returning home after a long absence in which I had brought in, you know, a tree from a Mughal painting, an image of the Prophet from a Persian miniature and photograph of my mother, plus all other things which I had sort of cooked up or concocted. So, these two were, these were an extension of that idea. One idea was to bring in as many, let us say, situations as possible. Could one deal with more than one? Simply to, let us say, think in terms of painting both the inside and the outside at the same time. That is how in fact the idea of about ‘Waiting and Wandering’ emerged when I was painting. I had used a part of the house that I was living in, and then I went out in the middle of it and was making some drawings of the same house from outside, just sometimes as simple as that, you know, and I said oh, why not? And then it was a journey to something like places, both lived and imagined, or even known and desired, or perhaps physically experienced and dreamt. This was the kind of a companionship that I was seeking, and that, I mean that’s an old hobbyhorse. It’s a kind of a situation that I have tried to articulate in most of my work. So, ‘Waiting and Wandering’ sort of emerged from that, and there the quotations are – let’s say – the nude woman on the right is from ‘The Bathers’ of Ingres. The Japanese character is perhaps from Utamaro if I am not mistaken, but then there are all other things. You know, my memories of my childhood, like the train that runs through the, you know, countryside, or the big champa tree with white flowers, you know, which was in my compound. So in a way, all that, and there is a self-portrait of sorts, sort of with a backpack waiting for something, you know, and it was a landscape or houses or architecture of the kind that I knew in my childhood, and also while I was in Baroda. So it’s kind of a, you know, all, I mean this is making too factual, too simple, and in fact I once tried to write down in this painting what I was painting, or the few months that I was working on. I thought let me see whether it works or not, the changes that I made, as I go back and forth. Would it work? I mean would it make sense? And I, after a few months, I finished the painting and then I’d forgotten, and then after a few months I picked up my... it was in some diary and I read it. It sounded like a load of rubbish, you know. Such a nonsense, you know, that I had written. It meant nothing. It just meant some kind of a, you know, record, which had nothing to do with what the painting, what I was doing, and I realised that it was a wrong move. And I even thought that at one level it was spying on the soul. I thought this is something which one has to guard against. The process of work, you know, is so, it’s so complex, so, it’s so unpredictable at times. You know, you desire... you design something and you do exactly the opposite, and you come to a point where you realise that oh, you began with that and where are you now? I don’t know. And the next day looking at the same painting, you know, you think, oh God, what have I done? And you go back. You start, you restart, you rub off. So it’s not like a kind of a linear journey at all. In fact, that is what interests me, that life is not a linear journey, and artists, never. It goes into all kinds of nooks and corners, even when you think of a journey, I mean there are streets which you have never thought you would traverse and you do, and there are things that will emerge which you never anticipated. And then altogether when it forms some kind of a, you know, what shall I say, you know, they come together and at some stage, you know, they begin to work with each other. It’s very difficult to even describe, you know, how it happens, what happens, and I don’t want to make it mysterious. It’s a sense that it’s not just a simple mystery; it’s the whole process of working. It’s like that, and if it were not so, there would be no fun in working, you know. That’s all that makes you do things which you want. So you plan out something and let’s say well, I am describing a painting or I can even, after having done the painting, I describe it again. Both of them really sometimes fall flat until you really encounter it. You have to actually experience it, and at some level you must make your own journey. I have to make a journey in my own painting, as I do in other people's work.

Gulammohammed Sheikh is an Indian painter, writer and art critic who has been a major figure in the Indian art world for half a century. His artistic career is closely associated with the renowned MS University of Baroda in Gujarat where after gaining his Master's degree, Sheikh went on to teach in the Faculty of Fine Arts, and where he was appointed Professor of Painting in 1982.

Listeners: Timothy Hyman

Timothy Hyman is a graduate of Slade School of Fine Art, London, in which he has also taught. In 1980 and 1982, he was Visiting Professor in Baroda, India. Timothy Hyman has curated many significant art exhibitions and has published articles and monographs on both European and Indian artists.

Duration: 8 minutes, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2008

Date story went live: 18 November 2010