Inside My Atelier
ARCHITECT OF LAYERS
Reel and real life are common muses to Remen Chopra’s designs. Ambiguous memories are evoked into rough focus with realistic figures sketched in the foreground and blurry silhouettes in the background. The intention is to create a memory’s imprint. It all begins with hired actors staging a performance for the artist who carries these memories back to her studio in Delhi. The illustrator then outlines the concept of her work with pencil scribbles on surfaces of her wonderland – a habit she adopted when in New York.
“I think the idea of a wall gives me the sense of freedom while creating…. Sometimes the idea requires that I don’t restrain it on one sheet of paper. So the layering continues on multiple sheets of paper that are mounted on the walls.” In time, the entire studio that usually stands bare, with basic furniture, starts to look like an installation with sheets of drawings everywhere.
For Chopra, her workplace is Zen-like, so sacred that she consciously leaves her shoes outside when working in it. “It’s so peaceful, as I enter the studio space, I feel like Alice, entering a world of fantasy where a world full of ideas and magic are waiting to happen.” This doesn’t mean she keeps her haven under veil. Visitors are cheerily welcomed. Sometimes their feedback could even contribute to the unfurling evolution of ideas on canvases.
And all this ends with a dramatic erasing of outlines from the walls, making room for the next muse. Finally the wall-mounted installation is a 3D imagery of her recollections, notions and memories – taking us on a journey through time.
WIZARD OF SHADES
What you see around you, you will glimpse in Anirban Mitra’s artwork. A hyper-colour palette takes from television advertisements, tribal art and popular or common religious imagery – anything that has vibrancy to it. “The images of my paintings represent collage or co-existence of different realities. I look back at the artistic styles and canonical masterpieces of early artists such as the pop artists and their ‘appropriation’ (or borrowing) of popular imagery from comic strips, advertisements and the mass media in general.”
But visit his studio space in the suburbs of Kolkata and you will not see a lot of colour inside, except his current work in progress and one lively blue wall. Walk around his studio-home and you will see dull remnants of bright murals. In 2009, the artist had decided to take away the monotony of his blank walls by dressing them up to create an open gallery of sorts for the passing public. Now the murals have been abolished with the renovation of his studio-home. Mitra has already decided on the theme for his next mural. “I am planning to add more pop culture images like Batman, Superman and home appliance machines.”
Even though he doesn’t work outdoors, knowing his house is wrapped up in art is motivating enough for him. Rather attached to his studio, he admits to spending most of his time in this space – considering it is also part of his home. But all his work is always created inside. “I start the day with painting my works, reading books, watching films, taking photographs and taking care of my garden.” The latter also turns out to be his muse.
MISTRESS OF THE JAGGED
Her 4×10 studio room in Delhi stood as an obstacle for the increasing scale of her work. And so she readily embraced an abandoned home offered to her by its generous landlords. They deemed it inauspicious because the previous occupants had left hurriedly overnight, but Priyanka Choudhary was only happy to finally have an abundance of space. In fact, traces of the previous occupants had her intrigued! “The colour on the walls peeling off and layers of pale-blue, grey, white and even a coat of yellow makes me wonder at the different moods of the people.”
Tour her studio and one room may have shredded glass, another, chunks of concrete mirrors and the third, rusty nails. “My practice is in the disruption of silence, destruction of beauty, desecration of form; decay of craft and disintegration to death. There is a spontaneous violence that imposes my personal anxiety onto my work.”
The vastness of the house gives the artist ample leverage to go all out with her imagination. There have been times when she has worked in four different corners of the building, simultaneously working on pieces from four different materials, which emerge as artwork that are completely different from each other.
For Choudhary, the studio is a place for experimentation and execution. “It is always action time out here,” is how she describes it. “This house reminded me of the desert where there are large dry stretches of land covered in sand. No crop can grow on it nor can people live there, yet there were boundaries of thorns demarcating one patch of ownership from the other.” And so in some ways, her workplace itself stands as a gigantic inspiration, allowing her thoughts to wander into the desert ever so often.
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