Tag Archives: Art

Seeing “The weight of One Self”

"The weight of One Self" - marble sculpture of height 2.7m by artists Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset, in Lyon, France.
“The weight of One Self” – sculpture of height 2.7m by artists Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset, in Lyon, France.
I look at my limp
body in my arms and I
wonder who saved whom.
I can only hold
the weight of my own conscience,
talk the truth I know.
Never a hero
was made by saving himself-
Completely untrue.

 

You can read more about this philosophically forceful sculpture here.
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Egon’s fingers

Source: wikigallery.org
Mother and son (“Mutter und Kind”, 1912, Oil on canvas) Source: wikigallery.org
In Art that lives on expression of dead subjects his genius shines. With each hard brush stroke he claims a retinal cell and soon my vision is conquered. I see scratches of a forgotten soul emaciated and under hardwood floors, of loneliness. He has scratched in the face of a mother and her newborn.
One’s eyes are closed and the other’s opened in terror. They are a beautiful, pristine and hypnotic striking blue of a whirlpool.
The dreary sombre browns of the mother’s face and her strangling embrace of her child; her long bony fingers that grasp him and her thumb behind his back to: hold his spine? or to press a nerve? One can guess.
It is the rosy life of the child that blushes on the edges of the scream. He is locked within the frame of the portrait with no release. His left palm stretched and pressed. His thumb hooked and too far away from his parted red lips to provide a comforting suckle.
Where is the child’s right hand and in what position under this shroud of smothering darkness?
I can only wonder at Egon’s fingers.

 

unnamed
Day 7: Prompt-Fingers; Device-Assonance; Form-Prose poetry

 

I love Egon Schiele’s works. I felt their power first-hand in the art museums of Vienna. I went there primarily to admire Gustav Klimt’s paintings and designs and came back being more profoundly impacted by Schiele. I had never experienced such rawness and vulnerability in a painting before. Schiele broke all social rules and didn’t do it as a gimmick. He lived a life of loss and died before he could enjoy commercial success. The “Dead Mother” series, to which the above painting belongs, is incredibly moving. If you are ever in Vienna please visit the Leopold Museum to enjoy Schiele’s masterpieces.

Sestina: The surprise of a lifetime

In an attempt to regain balance I almost
Lost all control. The evening before I sat in my study
Thinking of what I could do different and love
More than my present occupation. My feet
Twitched below the desk in fervent prayer or doubt,
Either way I was beginning to kindle a soul-scorching fire.

On a blank sheet of paper I started to fire
Off ideas. I drew arrows and boxes for words that almost
Made sense but such mind-maps would make others doubt
My sanity and question my logic. They’d say, “Why’d you study
All these years just to throw your life away? The world’s at your feet
And you choose to kick it! You are misguided my love.”

But I am not guided by anything except my love
For a challenge. Why am I in the line of fire
When it is you who should be blamed for the shackles on my feet?
Why should I answer to you when you almost
Made certain that I would not question the purpose of any study?
No sir, I’ll answer only to myself when in doubt.

With righteous indignation I was charting without a doubt
In royal blue ink that makes angry words less stark. It was a love-
Soaked rendering of the mind that would need study
In the better light of reason someday. The night grew in the cold fire
Of electric bulbs and I pondered dreams that have lasted almost
An entire lifetime without my knowledge. I felt numbness at my feet

That soon spread up. I switched to verses to find within their feet
A rhythm by which I could greet daylight. There was no doubt
That those poems suffered as I suffered, but their magnetism almost
Straightened the compass that had led to my disorientation. I was in love
With two things seemingly different but when purified by the fire
Of a philosophical torch they were two theses for the same study.

I wished to have one eye of science and another of art to study
Life in all its regulated nuance and irrational feat
Of fancy. The morning dawned with this realization and soon the fire
Of heavens commanded the skies promptly. It made me wish for a doubt-
-less existence, where I could wake each day to a destined love;
One where I will get by without saying, “Everything’s good, almost.”

I decided to share this with them, those people who almost
could not fathom change. It surprised me to find no rebuke, instead only love
And it became apparent that I had always been in control of their doubt.

 

This poem is a rough first attempt at writing a Sestina. The form requires 39 lines divided into 6 six-line stanzas and 1 three-line Envoy. Every line in the Sestina has a precise word ending. The order of the word-endings in each stanza are: 123456  615243  364125  532614  451362  246531  531/135.

This was tougher than the villanelle that I wrote a few days back. Linked verses are hard work!

 
Image Credit: NASA from Flickr.com (CC BY-NC 2.0)

When I see my portrait

Laura Zimmermann is a talented Parisian artist whom I know because of good fortune: One of my husband’s best friend had the good sense to date her or we would have never known this outwardly shy but inwardly bold and resolute young woman. She also has the distinction of being the only vegetarian French person I know. She’s more than an acquaintance. She attended my wedding in India in 2013. But sadly, due to logistics and lifestyles we have been just Facebook friends in reality. But all that changed quite suddenly.

I realised that she had painted me from a photograph, which she took at the wedding in India. I happened by it as I was scrolling aimlessly though my Facebook feed and it took me by surprise. This event by itself has mitigated most of my general disdain for sharing in social media. I told my husband about the painting and we decided to contact Laura through her man and ask if we could purchase it.

We have had two weddings, Mr. Pink and I; one in India and one in Switzerland. The wedding in India was with a heavy purpose, and not at all legally binding (hence we had the Swiss wedding). It was a religious ceremony and I wanted it done so as to introduce him to my culture and people in the most hectic, time-consuming and fun way possible. What else is India if not hectic, time-consuming and fun? Though we have thousands of beautiful photographs from both the weddings we didn’t have even one picture of us blown up and framed. In fact I have printed out just one photo on a normal A4 hi-bond paper in postcard format to put in a frame that could accommodate a picture much larger. Contrary to Beyoncé and Jay-Z we are lazy in love.

Now that the opportunity to put up a memory worth adorning our naked walls presented itself – in acrylic on canvas, no less – we couldn’t just let it pass. I found it rather poignant that it also happened to be the first original painting we decided to invest in. Not to mention it made us feel extra good to show support for an independent budding artist.

They came by one Sunday afternoon for an Indian lunch and to give us our painting. From when Laura unveiled the canvas from its bubble wrap cocoon to now, this very instant, I haven’t been able to get away with just a momentary glance  at it. It draws me in and each time at first I look at it as though it wasn’t me in it. This wasn’t a moment from my life. There’s something calm and content about that woman. Something angelic and reassuring. That’s not how I remember feeling at the time. All I seem to remember is the stress and the need to satisfy everyone else’s needs; to make sure none of the Europeans fell sick from all the Indian food and that none of the Indians felt abandoned because of all the Europeans at the wedding. That’s what I remember…at first.

Memory is a tricky thing isn’t it? It’s interesting how I forget that actually during the three days that the wedding celebrations lasted, on the inside, I was content and happy. I was satisfied with my life decision; happy about the fact that I was allowed to marry my true love despite him being of another race/religion/nationality; reassured by the presence of hundreds of well-wishers; calmed by the knowledge that I didn’t have to hide my relationship status anymore from anyone and finally I did feel united with the universe. All the elements that we were exchanging with our immediate surroundings, all of which came from the inception of the universe – cycled through planets, asteroids, plants, animals, people, dead relatives – were with me that day as I vowed to be married to my man not because a legal authority demanded it but because I needed my people to know, acknowledge and respect him as my chosen one. Everything was with me and within me as I made that decision known and I was radiating with everything.

I look at the painting again.

Memory is a tricky thing indeed.

Yes, the woman she has painted – THAT woman – is me.

Thank you Laura for helping me remember.

Painting by Laura Zimmermann
Painting by Laura Zimmermann. Photo of the painting (c) Sam Rappaz
Also, Laura is a wonderful photographer. I have used some of her images in a post that has won a blog contest. Read it here. 
Please visit Laura's website to see more of her brilliant work inspired by the people in her life and those she has met in her travels around the world. Link: http://laura-zimmermann.com

The Do that I Do that I Do so, well?

My café au lait which is too foamy for its own good sits hissing by the side while I silently waste my time on Twitter to find out what’s more important than Djokovic winning the Australian Open. People are sharing their blogs, inspirational quotes and there are other bits and bobs on there which on a better day I would have cared to click on. Not today. Today I am feeling admonished by my coffee: with every shush and hiss I can hear it tell me that I haven’t felt the need to “create” today. I knew this day would come, that ‘one day’ which can, depending on context and point-of-view, mean realisation of a dream or a nightmare.

So I open my WordPress Editor, switch on a playlist of one of my favourite contemporary Indian (pop and film) music composers; mildly surprised by how much his recent music is sounding like Christian rock, and here I am. The coffee is being drunk and heavy silence is being shut down by my long-lasting Logitech speakers. Today has not been a great day, so far. The scansion of my poem ‘A common love‘ failed and what I first “felt” I was writing in blank verse turned out to be in blah verse. Scansion? Blank verse?

Scansion: breaking down of poetic verses into stressed/unstressed syllables then grouping the syllables into a ‘foot’ (trochee, iambs etc) and then checking if there is a regular pattern to how the feet appear in each line which gives us the meter. The whole thing adds to how one perceives/hears a poem and can either exemplify a poem or destroy it based on the prowess of the poet. Scansion is of course based on interpretation and how one hears the syllables.

Blank verse: (preferably) non-rhyming, iambic pentameter, has emotive foot substitutions, with mid-line caesuras for added effect and interesting enjambments. It is probably the most sophisticated form of English metrical poetry.

This was my first formal attempt at writing anything in blank verse and I am not presumptuous enough to think that I would succeed; that in a few hours I could go from an amateur poet to writing like that Shakespeare chap or that Milton fellow. No, of course not. The other voice in my head is chuckling as I type this…because I “felt” I could do it. I stuck to the right syllable count and there are some interesting mid-line caesuras and enjambments (or so I believe). But I don’t have the iambic pentameter down. Will I ever? I. NEED. TO. have it down in less than 48 hours as that’s when my assignment is due.

Did I tell you that I am scientist? I have had an almost purely technical higher education. The last time I studied ‘art’ in any seriousness was NEVER. English was considered a fluff subject and social sciences a necessary evil. These seemingly innocuous subjects could pull down one’s GPA. The glorious GPA. In India we called it the total percentage – an oxymoron for a generation of, well, morons. Eat facts; Purge facts. The assimilation and digestion of these facts was encouraged just far enough to answer the “application-based” questions in the annual nation-wide central board examinations. I was inculcated into this band of buffoonery early and it’s not like I had a choice. No one ever has a choice in these matters.

When I prod my earliest memories of being in an “educational” institute in India I invariably come up with the scene of the annual parent-teacher meeting that was scheduled for the day when the final examination results was announced. I mean literally announced. We would enter our classrooms to find a list of names chalked out on the main board along with their respective total percentages. These were ‘The top 10 lists’ that went viral before such things were ever conceptualised. I say chalked out because for scores of children not seeing their names up on the board made the classroom feel like the scene of a murder investigation: their dreams and hopes had been killed off by the notorious evil of intense competition that they were somehow complicit in and their futures now being reevaluated and investigated in detail by persons of higher authority. Oh, the trepidation. Have you ever seen a six year-old have insomnia and indigestion because of stress? Please visit India in April and you’ll see millions of them.

In one of those evil annual meetings, when I was about 8 years old, in a prestigious school in Delhi an English teacher changed my life. Yes, we start learning early in India. I was distraught that I had placed 2nd or 3rd in the class and had missed out on the first place because of one percentage point or less. My teacher who smiled and handed my report card to my mother (who was very happy and proud of her child) looked at me with concern. She congratulated me on my rank and told me that I had done exceptionally well. She told me she was very happy with me and that I was an obedient child and very intelligent. The whole while I was looking at her wondering where I had lost marks that has costed me the rank. I wanted to see the other report cards. I am not good with praise so I was happy to have some critical points to mull over in my eight year old brain. She could sense, I think, that I wasn’t reassured by her generous compliments. Then she said something that pulled me out of my abysmal state with such force that I have over the years abstained from venturing into that dark cave of self-criticism and if I ever happened to find myself suddenly in that chasm then I would have the torch of her words to guide myself out:

She said, “Sampoorna. Always compete only with yourself.

Back then the biggest mystery of all to me was: How had she known what I was thinking? It’s obvious now that she was a good teacher who knew just what to say to make sure her student didn’t end up killing herself over that chalk outline. Perhaps what she didn’t know was that with those words she changed my approach to my education. (This time without the quotes.) I will never forget her, those words and that moment.

I have always loved science and have made a career out of a passion. But I have loved English and the social sciences too and it was probably because of my fourth-grade teacher’s wise words. I did well enough the latter subjects to keep my GPA high but did not go into them so deeply that it excluded me from the current generational agenda: Only Engineers and Doctors Allowed! That rant deserves its own post. However I competed with myself to know more about everything. I no longer looked for a blackboard, even a metaphorical one. I haven’t done so in a very long time. In the process I ended up having an illicit love affair with questions such as, “What is humanity?” and thinking thoughts way beyond my curriculum and career path such as , “Without language we would never have realised that we all have the same questions.” I can go as far as to say that my teacher’s wisdom has led me to be the mixed by-product of societal expectation that I am: neither an engineer nor a doctor but somehow both. This blog is also an extension of that self-competitive state which I would now rephrase as self-discovery. I am learning as much about myself as you are about me.

And now, how come a scientist ended up caring about scansion, blank verse, poetry? Because competing with oneself means learning constantly and creating something everyday. I am no longer planning and doing experiments but that doesn’t mean I don’t have an original thought to put to paper. And that brings me to my dismal day which somehow this post has redeemed. The itch to scratch out verses is returning. The evening is still youngish and I need to retry writing blank verses. I seem to suck at it but heck, who’s keeping scores?

Today's Daily prompt helped give direction to my thoughts: Teacher's Pet

Songwriting

You are a songwriter you say,
Leaded pencil in hand for graphite thoughts –
Noting notating circumambulated rhymes,
Dotting auditory pixels in meters.

You write, a verdant song –
Creeping bougainvillea of words
To adorn an idealistic wall –
For a spacious voice,
With room for dimensionality?

Why not sing me your song, songwriter?
The airwaves will not protest to carry your
Chorded pollen and worded feathered pappus.
Or aren’t you yet tired of the distaste:
Of your fruit from others’ mouth?

(..)

Wooden character

Observing reason
Logical cataloguing –
Dead man’s eyes deduce

Bearded Sherlock Holmes

 

Entry to Cee's Black & White Photo Challenge: Wood.

Steps to Peace

The Kunsthaus Tacheles, famous Art Squat, in Berlin presented Art to me in a way that I had never experienced it before. Every inch of space was covered with thought and emotion.

I visited the place while it was still occupied by artists. The last of them left in 2012. The building has recently been bought by an American firm for $190 million.

I don’t know what’ll happen to it now.

I wanted to remember this building with its artists and the values it represented as one of my heroes.

Here’s a photograph of a flight of stairs within the building,

(c) Sam Rappaz
(c) Sam Rappaz, 2011

(If anyone can tell me what the first line is I’ll send you a big box filled with real love and virtual cookies)

Astutely deciphered by Beleaguered Servant within minutes of posting:

TRAVELLING STAIRCASES

DISCOVERING NEW UNIVERSES

STEP BY STEP

ELEVATE

CREATE

WORLDS

CARRY

WORDS

NOT

SWORDS

OPEN YOUR EYES

A good thought on Christmas and for the coming new year as well.

Entry to Cee's Which Way Challenge.

Day at the museum: Ways to be and not to be

Do's & Don'ts  at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (France, 2014)
Do’s & Don’ts at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (France, 2014)

In the exhibition rooms of the museum, everyone can: look, telephone, discuss, observe, eat, exchange, discover, laugh, run, marvel, smoke, hate, breathe, shout, rest, dream, reflect, touch, question, relish, photograph (with flash), imagine, [be] indignant, drink, wander, take their time, [be] moved, etc.

I love this poster we found at the Museum of Fine Arts, Lyon, France. It brought a smile to my face.

There’s always so much more you can do than what you should not.

I appreciate the small ways in which people try to reduce negativity, especially with notices that you wouldn’t particularly care to take note of.

Posted as an entry to this week's Cee's Which Way Challenge

Us

Times when my heart got so lonely that I could scarcely breathe,
When there seemed to be more air than water in my body,
And there was no more space left for space,
I found myself remembering you.

There was a time when you needed me.
When you thought that this life wasn’t worth your while,
Without my smile to erase the pain,
You found yourself wanting me.

A word unspoken but monologues later,
Sand trickled through the pores of time,
The glass blurred and the nights grew longer,
We found ourselves wandering.

Unheard went the cries those nights.
Too much Space for space now.
I don’t remember you.
You no longer want me.
We wander.
We wonder.

Despair (Edvard Munch, 1894)
Despair (Edvard Munch, Oil on Canvas, 1892). Featured image: also titled Despair (Edvard Munch, Oil on Canvas, 1893-4)