Nature, the Teacher

Some time ago, I had written about an ongoing lockdown gardening project. Having to spend all this excess time indoors, I have been trying to spruce up the space. My mango and chilli seeds had sprouted a while ago, and here are my three-week old chilli saplings. While the seeds were sprouted in cotton, I transplanted them into soil after a week – a new home in a hand painted pot for my plant babies.

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Move to Write, Write to Move

The pandemic has led to the creation of spaces in new ways to adapt. With outdoor movement limited to the essentials and emergencies, we find ourselves confined indoors like never before. Technology has been a tremendous aid in forging connections far and wide. Along side work and studies that have moved online, I find myself attending workshops, seminars, conferences in far off places and varying time zones, meeting new people, visiting places virtually, being exposed to new subjects, and learning much more than I was earlier.

One of my many lockdown forays was a well spent evening with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library today. A leading public library in America, situated in North Carolina and serving readers across twenty locations, the library works with a mission of strengthening communities and improving lives. Founded in 1903, the library serves as a provider of lifelong education, bringing together readers and learners and fostering personal growth through accessible resources. The library’s core values of openness, learning, respect, inclusion, and leadership were at the forefront this evening with Pamela Turner, the senior library assistant, leading us through an engaging session titled, “Move to Write, Write to Move”. A creativity workshop moderated by copywriter Surabhi Kaushik and therapeutic movement facilitator Jyotsna Srikant that emphasized movement enhancing creativity and writing igniting expression.

One of the courses I had undertaken at the start of the lockdown in March was called, “Healing with the Arts” from the University of Florida. It involved dance, writing, music, painting, photography – using the visual and physical arts as a means of healing mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically through a series of art projects. “Move to Write, Write to Move” follows a similar format of combining different art forms to express oneself – bringing ones core emotions to the foreground and the power of arts on oneself rather than creating something for others. The workshop took us through word and movement to express and create.

We began with freestyle motions, signs and gestures to warm up the body and mind, moving nowhere and to nothing in particular, but moving for the sake of moving. Introductions were followed by a writing prompt of making sense of and internalizing Rumi’s quote, “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” My interpretation of these sentences was about being more than we believe ourselves to be. The spaces we fill, the lives we touch, the void our absence leaves – there is so much more to us than we let on to others, and even to ourselves. Proceeding with movement to instrumental music which was a prompt in itself, we wrote about the movement experience. The sensory awareness of this activity reminded me of flowing and floating. Without giving much thought to a specific choreography, where I was going or what I was doing, I let my body sway with the music, flowing like water, light like the clouds drifting across the sky. I remembered the smell of fresh air and the soothing sound of waves, from pre-lockdown times when we could move whenever and wherever we pleased. The pandemic has brought us to the moment. With the body confined and the mind all over the place, it has been an experience keeping the mind still and finding ways to exercise the body.

As a dancer, writer and enthusiast of art as a whole, I loved every part of this workshop. I dance, paint, draw, write, or dabble in craft as a means of personal expression, and the experience of combining multiple art forms is much cherished as they flow into each other, ignite creativity and enhance artistry. A wonderful start to the weekend by trying out something different and making new friends from around the globe.

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Sculpture and Literature

“Sculpture is the art of the intelligence”, said Pablo Picasso. Books lend themselves to more than just reading. The Walk of Ideas was conceptualized as part of a campaign called Deutschland – Land der Ideen (Welcome to Germany – the Land of Ideas). It comprised a set of six sculptures in Berlin, designed by Scholz & Friends, one of Europe’s largest advertising agencies, for the 2006 FIFA World Cup football event in Germany. The sculptures were  were put up between 10th March and 19th May 2006, and were on display until September 2006. They were placed on central squares in Berlin’s city center.

The six sculptures included Modern Book Printing, Milestones of Medicine, Masterpieces of Music, The Automobile, The Modern Football Boot, and The Theory of Relativity. The sculptures were built using neopor – a graphite polysterene foam for construction materials, and coated with a white varnish. The production time for each sculpture was about two months, with on-site assembly spanning three days. Plaques were created in both German and English, with details on the symbolism of each object.

Der Moderne Buchdruck (Modern Book Printing) was installed on 21st April 2006 at Bebelplatz, opposite the Humboldt University of Berlin. The 12.2 meter structure took three days to assemble on the Unter den Linden street. The steel structure held seventeen “book” segments of different sizes, each representing a different author’s name. Inclusive of the stabilizing ballast weight, the overall weight of the “book tower” amounted to thirty-five tons. The seventeen books were stacked, with their spines prominently displaying the names of German poets and writers. The sculpture was said to be erected in memory of Johannes Gutenberg, who invented the printing press in Mainz around 1450 and introduced printing to Europe. Gutenberg had even created the first bestseller in history – the Gutenberg Bible – the first major book printed in Europe using mass-produced movable metal. It marked the age of the printed book in the West.

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Here are the author names displayed on the spines, starting from the topmost:

Günter Grass

Hannah Arendt

Heinrich Heine

Martin Luther

Immanuel Kant

Anna Seghers

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

The Brothers Grimm

Karl Marx

Heinrich Böll

Friedrich Schiller

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Hermann Hesse

Theodor Fontane

Thomas Mann and Heinrich Mann

Bertolt Brecht

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

I will be covering the remaining five sculptures in subsequent blog-posts.

Celebration Of An Artist

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Today’s Google doodle.

It’s always an exciting day for a dancer when the Google doodle features an artist. Today’s doodle is an ode to Oskar Schlemmer on the occasion of his 130th birth anniversary, for his contributions to art, puppetry, theatre, and dance. Schlemmer was a German painter, sculptor, designer and choreographer associated with the Bauhaus school – Staatliches Bauhaus, a German art school operational from 1919 to 1933 that combined fine arts and crafts, and was recognized around the world for its approach to design. Schlemmer’s work has been described as a “rejection of the pure abstract, and retention of the human” (not in the emotional sense but in the physical structure of the human body). He represented bodies as architectural forms, where the figure was an interplay of convex, concave and flat surfaces. He was fascinated by movements the body was capable of, and captured his observations in his work.

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Oskar Schlemmer – One of the most influential aesthetes.

Schlemmer was the youngest of six children, whose parents both died before he reached his teens. He studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule – a vocational arts school which existed in German speaking countries in the mid-19th century. The Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart was another one of his alma maters, where he studied under the tutelage of landscape painters Christian Landenberger and Friedrich von Keller. Schlemmer moved to Berlin in 1910 where he painted some of his early works, before returning to Stuttgart in 1912 as an apprentice under Adolf Hölzel. In 1914 he enlisted to fight in WWI, and returned to work under Hölzel in 1918. Schlemmer turned to sculpture in 1919, and was invited to run the mural painting and sculpture departments at the Bauhaus school.

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“Grotesque” (1923)

This was followed by being hired as a Master Of Form at the Bauhaus theatre workshop in 1923, after working at their workshop of sculpture. His most famous work which brought him international recognition was the Triadisches Ballett (Triadic Ballet) of 1922, which comprised costumed actors transformed into geometrical representations of the human body. There were three acts, three dancers and three colors, twelve scenes with eighteen costumes. He designed the costumes based on cylindrical, spherical, conical and spiral shapes – revolutionary at the time. Schlemmer described his creation as a “party of form and color”. The Triadic Ballet is viewed by many scholars and artists as a precursor to contemporary choreography and modernism.

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Costume from the Triadic Ballet, 1922

Space dance, gesture dance, rod dance, hoop dance, metal dance, form dance, scenery dance – Schlemmer used elaborate costumes in his stage ideas and transformed dancers into “artificial” figures which united dance, costume and music. Faceless female figures were the predominant subject in his paintings. He developed a multidisciplinary course at Bauhaus called “Der Mensch” (The Human Being) – a movement which celebrated his themes of the human figure in space; sitting or standing, lying down, walking or stationary. He used Cubism as a springboard for his structural studies, and was intrigued with the possibilities of figures and their relationship to the spaces around them. His characteristic forms are visible in both, his sculptures as well as his paintings. He also immersed his creative urges in stage design, and executed settings for the opera “Nightingale” and the ballet “Renard” in 1929.

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“The Dancer” (1922)

Schlemmer left Bauhaus in 1929 and joined the Akademie in Breslau where he painted one of his most celebrated works, the “Bauhaustreppe” (Bauhaus Stairway) in 1932. During WWII, he worked at the Institut für Malstoffe in Wuppertal. He produced a series of eighteen small, mystical paintings titled “Fensterbilder” (Window Pictures) in 1942, his final works before his death a year later.

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“Bauhaustreppe” (1932)

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Sources:

~www.thefutureperfect.com

~www.britannica.com

~www.bauhaus100.de

Art Techniques – A Glimpse

Today’s prompt reminded me of an assignment I had submitted while pursuing an art  course at the Pennsylvania State University. While I prefer keeping this blog light-hearted and avoid technical posts, I thought of sharing this one creation. We had different submissions every week which were peer reviewed. Students were provided a theme and purpose, for which we had to create an art work along with the artist’s statement and a brief description. This was one of our weekly assignments and my submission for the same.

Theme: Stories Through The Lens

Purpose: Create a collage medium of a black & white photograph from small pieces of newsprint.

Artist statement:
“Puppy Love”

This is a picture of my dog, Razor. Razor was the youngest of my three dogs, and the baby of the family. This picture was taken when she was seven years old, and clearly shows her love for her (and our) food. She would look at us eating as if food was the most important thing in the world that she was being deprived of.

The photograph has a curtain on one side of Razor’s head, and the wall and floor on the other. The collage was created from black and white newspaper shreds. The curtain and wall have lighter values, compared to the floor. The curtain is printed, so pieces of alternating values have been overlapped. Razor’s fur is darker on her muzzle and ears, compared to the top of her head. The fur on the body is even lighter. So I’ve used bits of newspaper accordingly. The features have been highlighted with darker shades of paper.

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We had to submit the original photograph along with the art work created. This was what I had come up with. 🙂