Paintings and poems bloomed in the winter sun at Apparao Galleries' Sunday event in New Delhi
The grass-covered steps of the amphitheatre and the flower beds between the aisles waved airily as guests gathered in the balmy sunshine. With Delhi's winter seemingly undecided whether to stay or go, this past Sunday morning brought a sunny opportunity, and Triveni Garden Theatre was the best place to be. Apparao Galleries, located here, organised a poetry reading at noon. It was quite the perfect setting for the first of curator Sharan Apparao's planned Sunday mornings, designed to offer busy Delhiites a chance to take in an art event at leisure.
The exhibition, titled “The Perfumed Garden”, featured miniatures by the Canadian-born Andree Pouliot, trained in a number of arts and well-versed in Indian mythology, Hindu philosophy and Indian textiles, among others. The artist recited translations of poetry from various sources, including Vidyapati, Meerabai, Tagore, and even Rumi. There was also the little known 7th Century poet Vidya, whom Andree called “deliciously saucy”.
Debashish accompanied the artist on the tabla, and also softly sang alap in the background. From Rumi, who talks of the reed as the “luckiest in the whole orchestra” as it transmits musical messages from divine lips, to Meera, who asks her critics, “What will you charge me with?” and refuses to submit to the straitjacket of social approbation, the diverse poets were linked by the mood of sheer abandon to the emotion of love.
Andree's miniatures blend intricate skill with a quirky, westernised worldview. She finds the current generation of young Indians in the midst of an interesting transformation. Like their Western counterparts, they are constantly in a hurry, dependent on the Internet, instant messaging and abbreviated language, yet also deeply connected with mores their grandparents passed on to them.
She feels they are groping to find a new language of fun and romance, and that the titles (more like subtitles) she gives to her miniatures reflect how today's Indian youth speaks. If Andree hopes, as she says, to help today's youth see the aesthetics of a bygone era of romance, the brashness of some titles deletes that subtle beauty.
“He wants a threesome” and “I am not having sex with you, we hardly spend any time together” are unsettling when juxtaposed with the traditional look of the paintings, given that they remind us visually of Radha-Krishna lore that is revered in this country. But, says the artist, her intention is just that: to unsettle the placid viewer, start a dialogue and get people to discover their own stories within the miniatures.
Essentially, an artist is a storyteller, and for Andree, miniatures are “the perfect medium” to express herself.