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Moments of change and making friends (Part 2)
Gulammohammed Sheikh Artist
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So, in a way I wanted to make friends, you know. So, Oliver and Lois Bevan were my very, very good friends for 2 years. I also discovered, you know... I mean the painters whose work I’d like, I would go out of my way and sort of try to befriend them, which I did. Even Victor Burgin I knew very well because I liked, the man had a very, I mean it was a different kind of a mind, but I was curious as to... you know, because he was very theoretical, and I was very curious to know about this man, and eventually I think he became a kind of a conceptual artist. You know, what is the other man, now he is...?

Professor Victor Burgin is one of the best known artists of his kind in the world.

Well, he was right in front of us. You know, he was, but I also, you know, in some way, my teachers, when they came to me, we talked a lot about, you know, what it was. I mean, I questioned them as much as they did, you know. Like for instance Merlin Evans would come and look at my painting and I was using very bright colours, he said, ‘Oh, there must be very bright sunsets in India, no?’ Which is sort of a stereotype. You know this is how he dreamt, he had never been... he never thought that. So, I would ask him, you know, questions about what he was doing and things like that. Like Anthony Mannering was, once I said look, ‘Anthony, would you ever consider coming to India?’ ‘Oh, good Lord, no! No!’  You know, all the tigers and all that. So, he thought that Indian streets had tigers roaming about. But anyway, even then it was possible to make contact, and there was a certain degree of bonding as well there. Like Gabrielle, Gabrielle Nesfield, whose father was in India, so she had a kind of an Indian connection. He had been to India, he had worked in India, and in a way, you know, it opened doors, you know, for both of us, and she sort of remained a good friend, you know. I go there every time I go to England and meet her. So, Royal College was not all that which was, you know, in that sense ‘hard edge’ and minimal and academic, it was also personal relationships. For me it mattered a lot. Like, I made friends with this girl, Kemala, whom I was very curious because I had never known anybody from Africa. She was from Sudan, and I was very curious, so we used to have long talks and chat, and I am sorry that I have lost contact with her and I wish I had continued that contact. But through Gabrielle, I met people, you know, who were of different origins. There was a Mexican girl, Alicia, whom I was very curious because again, Mexico is a place which I was very, very curious about when I... which I eventually visited a number of times and discovered it for myself. But the French, particularly Joelle Moreau, who is a kind of a garden architect, you know, she is sort of a designer of gardens, or whatever you call it, and Sabine. So, they all have remained with me. You know, it’s not a one-off relationship, it’s relationships which became very personal, and so even after they got married or, you know, and my children have been there, you know. Like Kabir has met Sabine, you know. So there is that kind of a family connection which is, in a way it’s an extended family, like I came to know you, you know. And so in a way it’s that kind of a relationship which grew out of... at one level from art, but at another level because of the kind of bonding that is discovered in the process. So, it is not something which you can put in boxes or categories, but that they all remain in their own place, you know. And on the whole, I think it does seem to fulfil, you know, in some manner. So, the conflicts if you were talking about that... but I was and was not impressed by Royal College. At one level, I found that living there, in there, was in isolation of sort, and another level I felt that well, it provided us all opportunity to interact with each other and that there was the V&A next door and I could go there and learn from the collection in the museum. So it had, you know, there are different kinds of responses, but there was no kind of a great conflict of that kind that I would think that, which created a problem for me. But it’s true, if I were to live anywhere in the world, I would live in India. I could go elsewhere for a few months at the most, but I would miss India. If I were to choose any time, I would say this also because of the weather because I like warm weather, I prefer that, and I like the diversity of India. That is something which one finds limited in many countries because India in a sense is many countries rolled into one. So going to Karnataka would be going to another land. So in a way, this kind of a culture of the subcontinent, you know, to be in a continent and also moving easily from place to place and discovering every time something new, something so totally different, you know, is a matter of great delight, you know, because you are constantly exploring. You are always moving and you have something wondrous waiting for you wherever you go.

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: 6 minutes, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2008

Date story went live: 18 November 2010