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Friday, July 12, 2024

“I don’t see the old Hyderabad anymore”

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WOW! catches up with iconic artist Anjolie Ela Menon who was in Hyderabad to visit an art festival

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You returned to Mumbai with a solo show, Anjolie The Wanton Fabulist, after a gap of nine years. What was the inspiration for the show?
The show is mostly about the city, its boats and the docks, that have greatly inspired me. I lived in Mumbai for many years in the 80s before we moved to Delhi and I miss the sea. This show, however, brings together many facets from my earlier shows, the fishermen, a crow that used to sit on my balcony (in Mumbai) when I used to paint and has literally put itself in the painting.

The current generation is fed on Instagram, will it be able to connect with the beauty of physical art and the sanctity of art galleries?

I certainly hope so. At the turn of the century, ‘beauty’ became a dirty word. A lot of artists then worked on many themes which moved away from beauty but came back to it subsequently. The point is, some things remain the norm for a while and then balance themselves out. While people are hooked to their phones today, art galleries will always find their patrons. You’ve always been a pioneer in embracing newer forms for art… I think that happens automatically. In 1999, I was the only artist who embraced digital work and presented a show in New York, Gods and Others. Later on, I was the first person to sort of work on painted furniture and within three weeks, that was all I could hear others doing. In fact, when I worked on creating a show that formed a bridge between high end art and something that was palatable to everyone it was called Kitsch and there was a show held named Kitsch Kitsch Hota Hain. (laughs) Art will reinvent itself and when someone has the courage to do something new, others follow and trends emerge.

How do you look back at your work and career?
I’ve always liked to work and even now (at 83), that is what keeps me going. In my younger days (in the 50s and 60s), I was influenced by a lot of Christian and Byzantine art. Then I really enjoyed working on my Namboodri series and still do. (I recently visited Guruvayur and came back refreshed) There was a time when I was inspired by the divine mother and did a series on Yashoda and Mary. It is these diverse influences that have steadied me over the years.

Your advice to the younger generations of artists? 

I’ve always believed in being a Karmayogi. Do your bit and wait for your work to reap rewards. The younger generation is in a hurry, They are planning their earnings and shows even while studying. My advice is to create a body of work and the rest will follow.

How do you like visiting Hyderabad?

I’ve been coming here for decades but each time I’m shocked at the changes happening in the city. I don’t see the old Hyderabad anymore. I used to love visiting Charminar and shopping for textiles but all the old stores have vanished.

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