Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Art as a vehicle of change

 ( Courtesy : P K Jeevan Jose)

“Every new venture in the world has always got a lot of flak before finding success. I believe the Kochi Muziris biennale also had to bear the brunt of that initial hubbub,” said Hoor al Qasimi, director of the Sharjah Biennial and President of Sharjah Art Foundation. She was in Fort Kochi recently to attend a talk series organised as part of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

She says that though Kochi-Muziris Biennale is steeped in controversies, she was pleasantly surprised to see that the event could project its actual purpose.     “The elementary objective of the biennale is to portray the local culture of the city or the place where it is being conducted. This biennale could achieve it successfully,” she says. She adds that the biennale could very well exhort the old charm of this city.

Hoor al Qasimi is a practicing artist who took her Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree from Slade School of Fine Art, London, Diploma in Painting from the Royal Academy of Arts, MA in Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art, London.

The curator recollects that she too faced stiff resistance when she wanted to bring forth a change in the character of the Sharjah biennale when she assumed charge as director of the event. “I literally grew up with biennale. After learning much about what is going on in other parts of the world in the art fraternity, I realised that the Sharjah biennial is static. It has not even took a step forward from where it began. Hence I decided to bring forth a substantial change in the character of the event. That’s when the opposition crept in,” she says.

Hoor al Qasimi says that in earlier times biennale was all about representing art from all over the world. “Artists from different countries would come and represent their work of art. A sense of unity was completely absent. Unlike other biennales that happen in different parts of the world Sharjah biennale lacked a common theme. To make it more worse, there were many embassies which sent the works of their ambassadors’ wives. So the scenario as a whole was seeking a change for the better. That’s how the call for improvement came about. But though the change is inevitable, I had to face a lot of disapproval. But that is the only way it can work,” she says. She says that unlike Kerala, Sharjah biennale is not associated with tourism so far. “I do not want people to frequent the biennale just because they came to the country as tourists. I want people to come for the biennale first which in turn help will tourism," Qasimi says.

( me with Hoor al Qasimi)

published in The New Indian Express

Sunday, January 6, 2013

In search of oneself

From time immemorial, great minds were often stirred by the question of ‘Who am I’. But over the years, this search for finding oneself lost its significance as man became more materialistic.

However, reviving the same question’s long lost charm is artist Rajendran through his canvas ‘Who am I’. Through his work, the artist is on a mission to bring back the sense of oneness in man.

“As kids, we were more spirited and energetic. But as we grew up, we lost that ardor and started searching for that spark from around.

Unfortunately this search for happiness in life exerted more pain and pressure on man. At this juncture, the question of survival crops up and through my work, I want to say that there is every chance for survival,” says Rajendran.

Rajendran’s paintings are on display at ‘Sradha’ auditorium near Durbar Hall Art Gallery. He says that his works can not be purely classified into a painting exhibition as his works focus on a message.

“I used painting as a medium as I knew it. If I was acquainted with any other art form, I would have opted that to convey my message,” he says.

Rajendran has painted 21 portraits which will be systematically arrayed based on its priority to make audience aware of this concept. “It starts with a portrait titled ‘Birth’ and ends with ‘Unconditional Love’. The world has become too callous that the most pure process in life ‘birth’ is not given its due importance.

Sadly, detachment has crept up in the process,” he says. Rajendran says that the painting will help the viewer to get out of his cocoon of faith and face the reality. Rajendran says that, unlike other exhibitions, his works will stand apart with its different arrangement style.

“The music playing in the backdrop will also help the viewers to get a clearer picture of the work,” he adds. Apart from paintings, the artist has also done installations which speak about the ‘golden age’ that is yet to arrive.

published in The New Indian Express

The Strongest beard on the planet

In his red shirt, with a braided beard, and painting the town red, is Anthony Kontrimas from Lithuania.When you ask him about his braided beard, you will be surprised to know that he has the strongest beard on the planet. Kontrimas garnered the attention of the world when he pulled an aeroplane with his beard for 20 metres. He also pulled a jeep laden with soldiers. 

Kontrimas is also adept at lifting people using his beard. Through sheer determination and will, Kontrimas is the proud owner of eleven Guinness Book World Records.Kontrimas reached Kochi on January 1 with his wife and fellow tourists as part of a trip undertaken to celebrate the New Year. He came to hear about Kerala from Jyoti Amge, who is a Guinness World Record holder for being the world’s shortest woman. 

He had met Jyoti at an event associated with the Guinness World Records. “It was she who gave me the idea of visiting India,” he says. “When a group of us decided to go on a tour which included India, I grabbed the opportunity.”   Initially, he went to North India. “I have been to Delhi, Agra and Jaipur before I reached Kerala,” he says. Little did he know he would fall in love with God’s Own Country the instant he put his foot here.”It is a completely different atmosphere here,” he says. 

“I am awed by the hospitality shown by the people. They are warm and cordial.” Kontrimas says that he has been mesmerised by the charm of the old buildings of Mattancherry and Fort Kochi. “I am wonderstruck by  monuments like the Jewish Synagogue, St. Francis Church, Dutch Palace and, of course, the Chinese fishing nets,” he says, with a glint in his eyes. On Thursday, Anthony and his friends left for Alleppy and will shortly reach Thiruvananthapuram.Incidentally, Kontrimas, who turned 50 last month, celeberated his birthday in Jaipur.

published in The New Indian Express