Was walking around Colaba yesterday outside the Jehangir Art Gallery. I couldn’t find one of my favourite artists from the Pavement Gallery, the footpath outside the art gallery. Maybe it is the rains, i thought. I recalled a profile i had done on him back in my Journalism school days, as a part of our project. This was the very first profile i had ever attempted. The text is pasted below. He has appeared on this blog many times before as The Perfectionist and the unperturbed artist. This is one long post, so don’t blame me if you are bored:P
Shades of Truth
His weapons of choice are quite modest. A clip pad, four clips, Staedtler charcoal pencil, and a blade to sharpen the pencils. The fingers that make such confident strokes are frail, but the spirit is indomitable. At 60, Vijay Balkrishna Parasnaik, is probably the eldest artist around the Pavement Art Plaza.
Having done his Diploma from the esteemed JJ School of Arts in 1978, Parasnaik has been working for nearly 40 years now. He has worked in various capacities ranging from Visualiser to Art Director to Studio Manager. Companies range from newspaper houses like Indian Express to advertising agencies like Age Communication. But his first love has always been sketching portraits. “I had an interest in this art-form since my school days. My father, the late Balkrishna Parasnaik, was also an artist. His artistic genes have really helped me”, adds Parasnaik.
Born on the 2nd of October, 1948, Parasnaik is one person who totally shares the same view of life as the great personality who shares his birthday: Mahatma Gandhi. In fact he resembles Gandhiji even in his food habits, for Parasnaik is a pure vegetarian, surprising considering he comes from the Konkan belt. “I have never had friends who indulge in drinking and smoking. In fact if possible, I even avoid anything that has onion and potato in it”, he adds.
How does an artist find his mood to indulge in his art on a bustling pavement like the Jehangir Art Gallery pavement? “I am not a slave to mood. I can work at any given time and under any given circumstances. My work gives me immense pleasure. I work here from 3pm all the way to 6pm, everyday. Most of my work is done at home, but this atmosphere is ideal for me. I am not affected by the passersby. I hardly ever look up from my portrait”, says Parasnaik, making it sound so very simple. “There was no concept of pavement artists, when I started off. Now this pavement has become a gallery of sorts”, says the lanky artist, conspicuous by his traditional hat and soda bottle glasses.
But isn’t it illegal to display your art here on the pavement? “Displaying art isn’t illegal. Thanks to Cowasjee Jehangir, the owner of the Art Gallery, struggling artists have got a chance to display their work. Since I am the oldest artist here, my place is fixed and no one tries to occupy it. That ways I am respected among the artists here. But even otherwise, I face no problems from the BMC or the police. They are very co-operative and never harass us”, Parasnaik clears the confusion.
Most of Parasnaik’s clients are middle class people who want to get their portraits sketched, for which Parasnaik charges a nominal Rs.500 for an A3 size page. “I work according to orders. Most of my clients come back with more portraits to be sketched. I rarely do live portraits, as I get very little time from the pending orders. But when I do, I charge only Rs.200 for them”, adds Parasnaik.
He avoids charcoal sticks and thinks that Indian branded pencils add a shine to the portraits which is undesirable. Parasnaik uses the expensive Staedtler pencil as it gives the portraits a matte – finish.
Parasnaik has never felt the need to display his works in art galleries. “This pavement is my gallery, and my work does all the talking. I don’t need the crutch of an art gallery for that. My work gives me the motivation that money never can”, says the humble artist, whose students have gone on to having solo shows in the art galleries around town.
Certain things don’t change. For the pavement around the Jehangir Art Gallery, the mob surrounding a lean artist will always be there. “I am 60 now, but that doesn’t mean I will put up my boots. I will continue to go on and on, as this is my only motivation”.
— October 2008
I am sorry for the delay in putting up the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) 2009 photographs. No i wasnt short of time or anything, just a typical Taurean trait coming to the fore here, laziness. Am posting a few photographs now, will update this post pretty soon.
>> A graphiti artist painting the Kalaghoda green.
>>The sketching on the spread across the parking lot went on….
>> This art installation within the parking lot had a lot of speakers jutting out from all sides, sound quality of the audio wasnt that great though:P
>>A sculptor was busy etching out the faces of his customers on this piece of clay. This was something quite unique and taking live potraits to another level altogether.
>> An art installation within the Parking Lot that talked about sanitation woes in a crowded city like Mumbai. It was the only installation with lots of material to read alongwith it.
>> Calligraphy as an art form, courtesy Achyut Palaw.
>> Performance by the Indian Whistlers Association, wherein they belted out KishoreDa’s numbers, whistled their way into the hearts of the audience.
>> The David Sasson Library under lights.
>> The Grand Finale at the Asiatic Library where Shaan was performing.
This is going to be a non photographic post.
Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) is one event i eagerly await each year. Its a time when the whole Art District gets a complete artistic makeover. Huge art installations dot the parking lot and the Rampart Row; stalls of Indian ethnic and regional accessories; crowds on the steps opposite the amphitheatre; literature lectures at David Sassoon Library; plays at Horniman Circle; film screenings at Cama Hall and workshops among other things, are like steroids for a culture vulture.
I remember the first time i had visited KGAF was when i was in engineering. I wasnt that into art and culture then, as the only thing that excited me was technology (not that technology dosent excite me now) About two years back i actually started to engage myself in this festival by participating in workshops, being a part of the audience at David Sassoon Library, watching World cinema at Cama Hall. My love for art and culture has grown by leaps and bounds thanks in part to KGAF.
It’s been two hectic days of KGAF, with 7 more days to go. Have attended lots of events so far and have lots to say. Lots of photographs to share as well. So this is like my personal curtain raiser of sorts for the KGAF on my blog.
Kala Ghoda is the undoubted Art District of Mumbai as one gets to feast his or her eyes on the pavement art galleries, a concept which is quite unique in itself. Many a times, if one is lucky, he gets to see the artists in their element.
I came across an artist who i have seen here since the last many years, and he does a complete clone of the photograph he has, with his pencil. The eyes in the potrait seem so lively. Infact it was the eyes which made me stop and notice the artist. You’ll can judge for yourself the level of perfection being displayed in the artwork.
Kala Ghoda Art District is an art lovers paradise. I particularly love the whole arty feel to the place. With so many Art Galleries around and the street art gallery with artists in their element, is a sight to behold. With so much art happening around, one really gets the nitro boost as far as creativity is concerned. It was probably this boost of creativity that prompted me to see the Royal Elphinstone college, the architechtural marvel, from a different perspective.
Clicking the facade of the structure head on would be very cliche, i thought. Plus clicking so ordinary a shot would not really do justice to the creative, artistic vibes in the air. So while walking under the arch of the college thinking of ideas to capture a unique photograph, i came across the reflection of the massive structure on the rear glass of this parked car. The entire structure was visible, but not in high detail. Still i thought, this is a unique moment, and no one would capture another similiar kinda photograph as there is a slim chance of the car being parked in the similiar place with similiar light conditions and as clear a sky.