February 23, 2013

Photo-poetry: Invisible Spring


                                                    This is what growing must look like:                                           
                                                        Sassy, iridiscent, acidly aware.                                                    
                                                      Let me too jump headfirst into this pond:                                          
                                                           when I resurface, I will spit


Shearing the clouds,                                                               
a frozen mathematical explosion                                             
of mustard.                                                                          
Meanwhile, deep beneath:
bulbed daffodils smile in their sleep


The walls dream of spring during artic nights;
in the day, they tattoo wistful wishes
upon themselves.
The brick is cold to touch:
the flowers are not.


Lush poppy curlicues
gleefully defy the gray winter censorship.
Colors furtively bloom in pockets all over:
only if you knew where to look.

Photographs taken by me via Instagram

February 14, 2013

Bonsai moments: life in miniature

Many years ago, I had had the opportunity to see the works of several prominent Pakistani artists during an exhibition at the Omani Society of Fine Arts in Muscat; one of them (whose name I have regretfully forgotten) was working with the miniature art form and I remember spending much of the exhibition in front of this particular painting, completely transfixed. I recall the painting being that of an apartment block in an urban landscape; the artist had depicted and evoked the myriad worlds found in each of the rooms constituting the building with exacting, loving attention to detail. 

Up till then, I had been familiar with traditional forms of miniature art, most specifically, the examples found in markets of Jodhpur and Jaipur and of which several hung in our home; I was delighted to encounter this modern and whimsical interpretation of miniature art though. It was probably around that time that I started to think more seriously about what appreciation of art meant to me - and what kind of art I would like to collect and surround myself with. I would never have gotten tired of looking at such a painting: there would be new surprises to encounter every day, unmasking themselves as the time went by...

I have subsequently discovered several artists interpreting this art form in their respective styles; however, my favorites have been the British-Asian artists, The Singh Twins, whose work elegantly pays homage to the miniature art technique while flamboyantly infusing them with their personal vision and identities. For example, this painting below, Les Girls celebrates the joy of feminine bonding or the sisterhood: 

Les Girls

I blogged about them at Her Blueprint, where I will be regularly blogging about women artists once again:)

Meanwhile, keeping up with the miniature theme, I was enchanted to discover a collection of miniature rooms at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh; as in the miniature paintings, where details reign supreme, these rooms were exquisitely appointed and decorated, whether it was the grand dining room, which was immaculately laid out for supper with silverware, candle-stands, and the imposing chandelier suspended above or the bedroom with its dressing rooms and accoutrements. It was only a matter of time, it seemed, before the guests would convene to consume dinner or the lights would be switched off in the bedroom and the sleeper migrating into dreamland. 

Here are pictures I took of the miniatures at the museum:

Dining room

Have you ever seen anything in miniature art form that particularly caught your fancy?

February 6, 2013

Moving Cities: Of Magnolia Gardens and Stone Eyes

Moving to a new city, I imagine, is akin to starting a new relationship: any kind of relationship.  Sometimes, you take to each other instantly; other times, you need to spend quite a lot of time in each other's company before one day- suddenly - you simply get each other...and no further actions or words are needed to make the other explicable. 

I haven't moved much in my life; or rather, more accurately, the few major moves that did occur in my life happened when I was little and therefore, have no memory of. I can count the other occasions on one hand though and having always reluctantly embraced any kind of change, predictably, I did not   much take to uprooting myself from one life to another. My mind nonetheless dealt with the shifts in a curious manner: upon arriving in a new place, I would immediately find myself replicating or rather, re-creating whichever places and people I had left behind and superimposing them upon the place I had shifted to. Whenever I met a new person, they inevitably reminded me of someone I knew in the old place; if I squinted and half-closed my eyes, I could pretend that I was actually seeing a beloved landmark back home, rather than being in this new place. I suppose, it was one way to assuage the sharp homesickness and longing for the place left behind...

It helps though that I have now moved to a country and city dramatically different to the one I have left behind; instead of startling blue skies, bare, minimalist mountains, neutral-hued homes, and of course, the shimmering sea, I have come to land of wintry trees, gray skies, sloping, snow-blanketed roofs, and the river, a platinum band wristing the city. Yet, I remind myself, I have also come to a land of seasons; already, the trees are budding and one particular species is bedecked in crimson red. Winter may reign supreme for the moment...but these buds remind me that spring is not faraway.   

Meanwhile, I have only begun to explore Pittsburgh and a recent errand took me to its downtown; either being perpetually too early or tad late for appointments, it was the former this time and I amused myself by exploring the adjacent area. To my surprise and delight, I encountered this garden across the street:

It in fact was an example of an award-winning landscape design exhibit, Tony Tasset's Magnolias for Pittsburgh, consisting of two bronze magnolia trees and five lives ones set in an aesthetically designed garden; as this description conveys, the artist intended it to create a little magic, fairy-tale moment in the daily hustle and bustle of down-town Pittsburgh...and I can utterly agree! Even though the exhibit was presently closed, it was enough to stumble upon this enchanting little garden amidst the forest of tall, dreary buildings. Gardens occupy a special place for me and furthermore, I have always been drawn towards magnolias...so discovering this garden was indeed a matter of joy.

Having admired the beauty of magnolias in their winter bloom, I looked the other way only to find a pair of eyes staring back at me; and not just any ordinary, human eyes...but rather, these:

Containing the art-work of Louis Bourgeois, who is renowned for her eye-sculptures, many of which are dotted all across the United States, this particular square is Katz Plaza, a collaboration between artist, Bourgeois, landscape architect, Daniel Urban Kiley and architect, Michael Graves; these eyes are actually benches and the stone fountain beyond too is designed by Bourgeois and happens to be the largest fountain that she has designed in the States.

All in all, it was a pleasantly relevatory afternoon, enlivening what was otherwise admittedly an icy, dark day: a magnolia garden tucked inside the gray undersides of Pittsburgh downtown, like a hidden chocolate within a pocket...and encountering a seemingly impenetrable, stone gaze, which in fact, was not. 

I look forward to returning here in spring; meanwhile, let's see where my explorations take me next...