‘Marco Polo Diaries’ is on till September 9. Alongside the art exhibition at Brew, there will be a food festival on the same theme – ‘From Venice to Beijing via Chennai’ at the Clubhouse for dinner.
It was the launch of an art exhibition, but the music stole the show. ‘Marco Polo Diaries’, curated by Apparao Galleries, was unveiled at the Taj Mount Road’s trendy coffee lounge Brew, recently. It featured an eclectic collection of works — paintings, photographs, sculptures and mixed media creations — by 14 contemporary Indian artists on the theme of Marco Polo’s travels through the Silk Route.
A delightful mix
The works were colourful, whimsical and thoughtful, but it was the brief musical performance by Carnatic pianist Anil Srinivasan, flautist Navin Iyer and young singer Yash Golcha that transformed the evening into something magical.
The link between Marco Polo’s travels and music is tenuous at best — as Srinivasan put it, music is mentioned very little in his writings, and the piano and flute probably not at all. But none of that mattered as he and Iyer (best known as A.R. Rahman’s flautist) launched into a gorgeous rendition of ‘Katrinile Varum Geetham’ where East and West blended effortlessly, following it with a haunting composition in Raag Chandrakauns and Malkauns with some virtuoso moments by Iyer. And Golcha, the 19-year-old graduate from Rahman’s music conservatory, simply sealed the deal with his soaring vocals on ‘O re piya’ from “Aaja Nachle” (look out Rahat Fateh Ali Khan). Not even the ambient noise of the lobby, where Brew is located, and the constant chatter of guests over their wine could detract from the beauty of the music.
In a sense, that was true of the evening as a whole. The artworks as a whole may have lacked cohesion because of the way they were scattered across the lobby, and suffered from the somewhat shadowy lighting in places. But the beauty of the individual works still jumped out at you, and the chance to interact with some of the artists present at the launch provided interesting insights into the artistic process.
For instance, Nilofer Seth Siddharth chose to focus on the vibrant, ‘old-world’ colours — rich blues, pinks, and purples — and silken fabrics of the time of Kublai Khan, capturing the richness of the period Marco Polo describes.
Benitha Perciyal instead used cotton and the 100-year-old shuttle of a loom as an ode to the process of creation and transformation from a by-gone era. And N. Ramachandran, who described himself as a ‘nomadic artist’, used sensitive close-up photographs of a young Tibetan refugee monk and a wrinkled old street vendor to speak of their stories, their hopes and dreams.
As an exploration of the travels of Marco Polo through the Silk Route, perhaps, it felt less than complete. But as a celebration of creativity, of art and especially music, the launch of the ‘Marco Polo Diaries’ was undoubtedly a success.