Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: August 2012

Over a year ago, I blogged about an art project I had been working on; Noise. I have resumed work on it and am trying to include it in a hotel project as part of the interior architecture. It is still a work in progress but for some reason I don’t mind sharing it as an unfinished work.

Image

Advertisements

Last night, I watched the 1948 film ‘The Pirate’ starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. Out of the many wonderful costumes Judy Garland wore, I thought this was the most compelling, and perhaps also the most relevant to contemporary fashion.

Image

She is seen wearing it when she is hypnotized by Gene Kelly, a scene during which she sings ‘Mack the Black’. The simple white wrap is paired with the beautifully beaded dip-dyed red and black skirt, which looks like something that could almost fold itself into an A/W 2012 collection. Perhaps Jonathon Saunders?

Image

or Jil Sander?

Image

The white wrap top is actually the top part of the long white robe she is seen wearing in the bedroom beforehand; in itself glorious. Despite the beauty of this skirt, I’m not sure it can replace the ruby slippers’ # 1 spot in my top 5 most coveted Judy Garland costume pieces. After all, those can actually get you home. All you have to do is click your heels 3 times. I’m just waiting for the day Miu Miu takes its glitter to the red realm of the rainbow.

Image

Now that NEST Interiors (New York) has sold my Spiral Study I series, there will be a new addition of my work selling in their store. This time there is a lomograph entitled La Mer Maya as well as a series of sunographs entitled Tools. A sunograph, also known as a cyanotype, is basically a ‘blueprint’. The special paper was the predecessor to the modern photographic process. It is exposed to sunlight and then rinsed with water to reveal the image.

Image

Tools: Paintbrush and Paint

Image

Tools: Camera

Image

Drift Mark: La Mer Maya

Image

If you’re one of the fortunate few who gets to go to Paris Fashion Week as part of your job (or better still, you’re invited just because), then this is old news to you. Taking a break from my Lucknow project, I snuck a peek at Sonia Rykiel’s A/W 2012 Runway video and I just can’t get over it. The combination of perfectly tailored tuxedo jackets and pleated polka dots, with mussed up hair and fierce headbands, to the soundtrack of Grace Jones’ I’ve Seen That Face Before; pure fashion perfection. The video created a visual frenzy in my head; Grace Jones, raspberries, polka dots, tuxedoes and Sonia’s frizzy flame-red hair.

I almost forgot to mention the perfect framboise (raspberry) pouts and, of course, the classic Sonia colors. I couldn’t help noticing the background of Grace Jones’ Nightclubbing album cover happens to resemble a Sonia colour too! Being in Singapore, without an actual Autumn or Winter, makes it slightly harder to get excited about A/W fashion, but this video is making me crave the cold, or even just want to go the malls where the AC is on too high. Now I have 3 other cravings to satisfy; pleated polka dots, raspberry lipstick and a Grace Jones album.

Image

It’s been a while since I took these photographs, but I just revisited them and, although they are not necessarily my best photographs, I now realise what strikes me about them. Most of the photographs I have seen and taken of India depict the colour, the vibrance, the people. This triptych is devoid of colour, and the photographs resemble a pencil sketch-watercolour hybrid. It is almost as though the contrasts often associated with the subcontinent have somehow dissolved into the mass of its holiest river. 

Image

 

Image

 

Image

As I was drawing up the existing ventilator in a room of my current project, I noticed that the abstract shapes in the ventilator started to resemble microbes as well as a hybrid of 2 recent/current fashion trends; leopard print and neon. The combination of the level of concentration required to draw this detail and the sounds of Kate Bush in the background made it seem like the shapes were moving, giving me the impression I might be hallucinating. Now back to drawing freehand, abstract shapes using the most inconvenient tool for it-CAD.

Image

 

As a child, I visited Lucknow at least once a year as my grandparents lived there. As an adult I continued to visit my grandmother, and now that she’s gone, I find myself trying to understand the city more. Lucknow, in the context of modern India is seen as a ‘small’ place. With a population of ‘only’ 4 1/2 million people, it’s nowhere near the size of Bombay or Delhi. I always thought of it as a small place too, but I realise now that it doesn’t hold a small place in the collective memory of the nation. As a child playing with my cousins in my grandparents’ fruit orchard, climbing trees and sitting on the swing in the verandah, I didn’t understand that Lucknow was once known as the Paris of the East. I didn’t fully understand why there were always scholars staying in the various courtyard rooms my grandparents let out to guests. As children, of course, we weren’t really encouraged to spend time with the guests or listen to their stories (stranger danger). The main house was and still is shut off from the guest rooms.

Image

Rear courtyard at my grandparents’ haveli, Shaumyika Sharma

On my most recent visit, I did have a chance to engage with guests and find out what they were doing in Lucknow. One of the guests, an Italian woman who had previously lived in India, was in Lucknow carrying out research on chikankari, a special type of embroidery native to the region.

Image

Chikankari motif details

She heard of the place through a well-known photographer, Antonio Martinelli (who, incidentally, trained as an architect). Martinelli, it turns out had his work in an exhibition in Paris which ended this month entitled Lucknow Au miroir du temps (Lucknow in the mirror of time) at the Musee Guimet. Below is his capture of the Imambara, one of Lucknow’s most famous monuments.

Image

Le Husainabad Imambara, le tombeau de Zinat Algiya et le Jawab. Vue depuis la loge au dessus de la porte monumentale d’entrée, Antonio Martinelli

Image

Inside the Imambara, Shaumyika Sharma

In recent times there have been other exhibitions about Lucknow outside of India including “India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow” at the LACMA in 2010. It seems to me that there is a surge of interest in the city from outside of India. Or perhaps I just hadn’t noticed till now.

Image

Image of “Relief of Lucknow from 1857” at the LACMA

I have met other scholars at my grandparents’ place previously; one of them an Australian with no Indian background who spoke shuddh (pure) Hindi far better than I ever could.

As I have previously mentioned, I myself was in Lucknow carrying out research, mainly on my grandparents’ house, but I am increasingly becoming more curious about other havelis in Lucknow. I noticed that a number of them are in ruins and no longer occupied by the original owners. Given the city’s growing population due to a number of factors such as its growing IT industry, Lucknow’s havelis might be facing extinction as Lucknow heads towards low-medium rise status. At the same time, it’s hard to tell, at this point, what Lucknow will look like in a few years time. The horrendous structures that have been put up by Mayawati have created a new, unappealing edge condition to say the least, but will they remain if she doesn’t return to power? That, of course, is a whole separate topic that I hope to cover later.

Image

Ambedkar Memorial, Lucknow

Le Journal de la Photographie mentions Martinelli’s exhibition and also describes how the once prosperous city was, right up to the mid-19th Century. “Attracted by the generosity of the ruling power, a vast number of travelers, diplomats, European and Indian artists came and settled here, blending with the locals to create a cosmopolitan society that largely contributed to Lucknow’s radiance.” I do see echoes of this description of the city’s past, in the city’s present. The guests who stay in the courtyard rooms and upstairs at my grandparents’ place are “travelers, diplomats, European and Indian [and American and Australian] artists”, scholars, researchers and professors but they are certainly not attracted by “the generosity of the ruling power”. The ruling powers, both current and most recent, are very clearly problematic. So what is it that attracts them? To say it is nostalgia would be oversimplification. Perhaps the power of the collective memory of the city is enough to attract and although the aforementioned generosity is not seen in the ruling power, it is still visible in the manners of the still-polite Lucknowites known for their pehele aap (you first) rhetoric.

Image

La Martiniere College, Lucknow