Shades of Truth

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

Take Care


Bombay Mix & FujiFilm SuperSix Photography Exhibition

This time i am not going to put up any photograph, as i am just back from my first ever Photography Exhibition viewing. I have been wanting to attend one since ages but never really gave it that much of a thought. Not this time though.

Kala Ghoda, the undoubted Art District of Mumbai nagariya, was the destination. This place is so creatively charged, with artists putting paint to canvas, a cartoonist creating a mind blowing replica of your for a mere 100 bucks, or the regular Art-y junta hanging outside Jehangir Art Gallery, with along flowing beards, kurtas and that oh-so-cliched Jholas around their shoulders. Exibitions are the lifeblood of this art district showcasing the works of some of the cities finest artists in the hallowed Art Galleries, or, of upcoming artists, in the Open Air Art Gallery on the pavements. Any which way, for a person inclined to the visual art medium, Kala Ghoda is a mecca!

Bombay Mix – an exhibition by a documentary photographer named, Ketaki Seth. It consisted all B/W prints, taken from a period of over 10 years, documenting Mumbai’s street life. All the pictures had a human presence in them. What attracted me towards the pictures was its rawness and at the same time the photographer had some definite funda behind each click. The pictures, most of them were unconventional to a novice like me. As in i observed that in most of the pictures, symmetry and focussing wasnt as stressed as i would have expected it. But then when i read the title of each photograph, i knew that it didnt matter cos each picture had some definate story in it. That was left to the imagination of the viewer. Like there was this picture of 2 girls and a granny, or the one of the boy sleeping on the footpath and another man playin the flute, or the nuns at Walkeshwar, or the two men and a shadow etc. All i can say is that it was a visual treat.

After the Bombay Mix exhibition at Bodhi Gallery, Kala Ghoda, i headed to NCPA . It had an exhibition by a group of 6 photographers, called FujiFilm SuperSix Wildlife Photography exhibition. The Photographers are : Gul Gulrajani, Hira Punjabi, Ramnath Chandrashekhar, Sanat Shodhan, S. Tiwari and Sarvana Kumar. The concept was cool. Fujifilm and Jindal Photo selects 6 photographers every year and organises this exhibition to promote photography. The theme here was something that i have never tried in my experiments with the lens, so was really looking forward to it.

Contrary to previous exhibition, this one was a color photo exhibit. The pictures documented the wildlife in India and at times Africa. One distinct quality in all the pictures was the use of DOF in almost every picture, most of the time shallow DOF. Needless to say, the hardware used by the photographers must run into lakhs of ruppees, but the photographs were just mindblowing. The tiger was captured in so many candid moments, just brought a smile on my face.

After having seen these two exhibitions, i just realised how much more i have to learn in this field. These 2 exhibitions were a real eye opener for me. From here on i have decided to see atleast 1 photography exhibition a month and keep the photography flame in me alive by reading more on the topic, till the day i host my own exhibition someday;)

Take Care