Cultural and art exchange trip to India

the last few days before setting off on the journey home have been full of colour, sweltering heat and artworks

My sketchbook is almost full and with a heavy heart I’m saying goodbye to our resident cook

The last day of our residency brought an impromptu dance performance and ceremonies of an official government visit. Everyone was served with a fresh coconut for delicious coconut milk drink

And trying to keep my thoughts on how we might work in partnership in the future. The quality of the work we’ve seen has been of such a high standard

And the opportunity to learn skills and to find out about the use of local free resources such as palm leaves, natural colours, shells, wood apple sap, betel nut has been inspirational

We also had the chance to meet artists from around the world who are currently busy making steel sculptures from scrap during the symposium of Odisha Triennial http://otia.org.in/ . This is the first year of bringing new commissions to this part of India and trialling the first open air sculpture park. Exciting new opportunities for the area, engaging with international artists and the new wave of Triennial and Biennial arts festivals. We wish them good luck for their opening ceremony taking place tomorrow!

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Coconut shell as a painting surface

We arrived at the studio expecting our request to try and paint using a coconut shell to have fallen between the edges of English and Hindi. But no, 4 small coconut shells were placed on the work mat. Result! The shells have evidently been primed with a type of mud/primer/plaster, very pink and absorbant surface perfect for painting.

Again, our choice of design. I have gone with a 3 sided , the coconut has 3 surfaces, I want to pay homage to the lovely and unusual natural references that I have noted since arriving here, water lily, Ibis, cockerel, macaque.

I start by painting a layer of white paint as a primer and then draw an outline in blue to give a frame for each shape. The asymmetrical quality of the coconut suits my style of working. I will be bringing the main objects out and over the borders and mixing the design in with other motifs and patterns

The tutor really responded to my design and clearly really likes drawing chickens. I have my paint brush snatched from me regularly and so most of the main objects have been done by him. I’m a bit disappointed with the Ibis. I was looking forward to tackling this myself, but ah well we have another nut to transform at the end of the week

these are the final results

Tiger tiger burning bright

We are now on the final phase of our painting course, we are given 5 full days of tuition. However, due to weather interruptions and visitors, we have one day to paint a last canvas.

I’ve divided the frame into 2 and have chosen the tiger and the deer. This idea has come from a box that I found in the studio. The tutor guru found this very amusing as the box was made by a child. However, it is lovely so I’m using the same motifs. A local official, who seemed very unsteady decided I needed help with my border lines. He managed to not draw a straight line even with a ruler, It took me a while to get my work back on track….

An aside: We’ve been having lots of palm fronds suddenly crashing to the ground outside our dwelling. This morning a team of ‘tree surgeons’ arrived with climbing gear : one rope and a machete strapped to their back , job done!

Tiger as a symbol of India comes up a lot so I expect there will be further versions….

The next project is 3D and learning how to make traditional masks, our new guru is a woman from the next village and she speaks no English. She does however, have very strong facial expressions. The tutors eat lunch with us and there is a positive sense of community that revolves around food. There are semi feral dogs everywhere waiting for the scraps

All of my local observations are appearing in the work, this is really important. I’m amazed at how working in such a unique environment, different tools, surfaces, and resources has changed my approach. I have looked at so many Indian paintings over the years I’m thoroughly enjoying learning the motifs, patterns and styles.