Art

Solitude vs Isolation

V.V. Ramani

V.V. Ramani

I was immersed in the daily humdrum of Urban life and the noises associated with it. The early morning alarm bells, the neighbouring house inmates racing against time to pack their kids off to school, the roar of motorcycle and auto rickshaw engines, incessant horns, the vegetable vendors calling out, the temple bells and the music from the loudspeakers were all normal to me. laying from temples and party halls... were all normal to me. And then, there was this sudden lull. The noises gave way to a serene calmness. The chirping of the birds, the mewing of the cats, the swish of the breeze along with the smell of fresh air enveloped me — and it was an energising experience.

Soon, the equilibrium started taking a beating. The social media became hyperactive. The jet-setting crowd which was living life at a frenetic pace, hopping from one city to another, meetings to parties, with very little family time, were suddenly cooped up in their houses. They were at a total loss and their fears, anxieties rubbed on everyone. I was the recipient of many calls asking me how I was coping with lockdown and the curtailed freedom of movement. It was then that the word SOLITUDE hit me with all its significance.

As a visual artist, I’m accustomed to confinement. Three decades ago, when I was commissioned to create 25 artworks in a span of 45 days using the medium of cork for the first time, I shut myself from the outside world and plunged into the creative process. Whenever this happens music keeps me company. All conversations and interactions are only between me and my work. The current lockdown has been like a bonus time for me to revisit my works, introspect and analyse them critically and also perceive the transitionary phases in my journey. And I realise that solitude, which is a part of my artistic life, can be so challenging for others.

I see musicians and dancers moving on to the online platforms to showcase their works, busier than they were before the lockdown. I needed to find out how visual artists, who are equally comfortable with solitude cope with forced aloofness. How do they find solitude, surrounded by kith and kin all the time? Do they have access to their materials, which do not come under the essentials category?

Asma Menon

Asma Menon

Having lived in Chennai for many years, the shift to the tranquil surroundings of her new home at Tiruvannamalai itself was a transition to a peaceful life for Asma Menon. Says she: “Being an artist, I’m a solitary being, while working. With the lockdown and sudden shuffle of priorities, a sense of peace descended on me. Absolutely alone with occasional visits of the housekeeper, I was soon bombarded with messages and forwards flooding on the social media and when it reached a plateau, I opted out of it.

“With no intrusions, the work started — on paper, small format and mixed media. With a high level of concentration and adrenaline rush, I could not stop myself. The jealous lover had arrived and taken up all the space. The works kept flowing and continue to do so. The question of running out of art materials does not arise, because of my working in a small size format at this point. Also because I am away from urban setting, I do stock up on materials whenever I go out.”

Bhagwan Chavan

Bhagwan Chavan

The atmosphere at Cholamandal Artists’ Village has been a haven for Bhagwan Chavan. He is in the urban milieu, but surrounded by greenery and the sounds of waves. His creative thoughts find expression on his canvas in the the stillness of his studio space. The lockdown has brought a new perspective to his work.

Travel back in time

“I was travelling to Sholapur when the news was out. I rushed back to Chennai not knowing what the next few days would be like. This pandemic has brought life to a standstill and it was like going back 30 years — a time when life was simple and not moving as fast as it does now. I decided to use this time to continue my usual work in the studio, that’s when I felt this solitude is different from the solitude I have known as an artist. Solitude to me is when I get deeper into my artistic process, but this is different. This has made me think of the world outside, with social media updates on what’s happening around us,” says Chavan and goes on to describe an accident.

“In the midst of all this, I spilled an entire bottle of ink on my table, and not having the heart to waste it, I started a miniature ink series on Coronavirus. And then I thought, why not dedicate three works everyday on social media to police officers, medics, caregivers, public and civil servants, vegetable vendors who are risking their lives. I ended up doing 104 drawings. I have decided to continue dedicating at least one work a day for these heroes even after the lockdown ends,” says Chavan, who concedes that his outlook might have changed. “It has given me the time to just slow down and I am sure tomorrow is going to be better for me as a person.”

Rajasekharan Nair

Rajasekharan Nair

A sculptor, whose expressions take shape on stone and wood, Rajasekharan Nair, who moved from Chennai to Thiruvananthapuram is facing problems in sourcing materials. “For a sculptor, the only way to interact with people is to showcase works at art exhibitions, and the lockdown has seriously affected our prospects,” he says. “I always hope my work brings out emotional response in the viewer. Four years ago, I created a sculpture titled, ‘Memories and Disaster,’” he continues.

“Disaster always brings a wave of memories in people’s minds and this emotional connect between the two inspired me to create this sculpture. At that time I never imagined something like this would happen. When people saw the work, they said that they were disturbed and could feel the pain and sadness I was trying to bring out, and the fact that my work was able to communicate my thoughts, made me happy.

“It has been almost a year since I moved to Thiruvananthapuram and has been re-working some of my earlier works. I have new ideas but lockdown has made things difficult for me. I am not getting certain tools and other working materials, but I take heart from the fact that this will also pass and things will get back to normal.”

An untitled work of Aparajithan Adimoolam

An untitled work of Aparajithan Adimoolam

Speaking about art in a historical perspective, Aparajithan Adimoolam says, “Isolation that we are are experiencing today is not new to artists. In the pre-Modern traditional society, the artist was an integral part of the cultural milieu. Arrival of Modernism brought in a dramatic change in the social order, pushing artists beyond the margins of society, into isolation.

“The pandemic has ruptured the boundaries between the inside and outside. The imagined wall of security from which society functioned has been breached. The suspension of time and restricted space, in which the entire humanity is conditioned to live now, is the unusual terrain from which the artist works. What he has been trying to make everyone see or hear has suddenly become visible and comprehensible. Maybe it is time to listen to the artists.”

One thing is certain. The current phase of life has truly shaken people out of their comfort zones and made them look at life, family, society, relationships and even ambitions and aspirations with a fresh perspective. Arising stronger out of all these experiences, Artists and their Art too would evolve chartering a new path of wider perspective and vision.


Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 26, 2022 11:43:30 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/solitude-vs-isolation/article31470186.ece