Art

Veer Munshi draws inspiration from the Valley for his art

Kashmir has been a muse for Veer Munshi for long. As someone who lived, loved and lost his beloved state, it is natural for the artist to express in a language, he knows best, which is art. With every art work he created, Veer Munshi was seen as a Kashmiri first and artist later. It bothers him. “The story becomes more powerful than the language. People forget to see how the artist built a language. How he translates his/her felt experiences into a visual language,” says Veer Munshi sitting in Gallery Sumukha, which is hosting his first solo “Only a Mind Cannot be Sent Into Exile.”

Veer Munshi draws inspiration from the Valley for his art
 

Look around to see how he has employed the aesthetic in his installations, paintings, photographs-based video work, sound pieces at the show. It is for the first time, that you find the Delhi-NCR based artist attempting a sound installation and also engaging with poetry and stories. He has taken the poetry and short stories of well-known Kashmiri poets and writers like "Lal Vak" by Lal Ded, “Aaj vo Kashmir hai” by Allama Iqbal, "The Country without a Post Office" by Agha Shahid Ali and short stories - “Sorry, Nigrani Main, Satke Uske, Peshbandi - by Saadat Hasan Manto, “Freedom Song of Kashmir” by Ghulam Ahmad Mahjoor and “I Will Not Sing Today” by Dinanath Nadim and got them recited by filmmaker and activist Sohail Hashmi, poet and curator Ranjit Hoskote and singer Dhananjay Kaul. The viewers can read the text and listen to the renditions on headphones. The sound piece is accompanied by the skulls of these six writers made using the age-old papier-mache craft of the valley. Do these writings gave him an entry point to the subject? “I also thought about poets and writers from there and started to dig out their expressions of the conflict. I found out that it is connected to my thinking but the visual form is very important to me so I created their skulls. Now, to honour them and their work, I used the papier-mache craft. And as I connected writing, craft, art and sound, everything came together.”

Veer Munshi draws inspiration from the Valley for his art
 

The craft appears elsewhere too. The sculpture 'Zuljanah' is a horse carrying the burden of skeletons. And while the skeletons imply the killings of human beings in the conflict ridden State, the use of papier-mache is symbolic of the dying craft. It also highlights the artist's engagement with Kashmir that increases with every trip he makes. "As of now, I am working with one family of craftsmen but I want to extend it. I have done a few programmes related to art like workshops etc. but I want to do more and sustain this engagement. I see a lot of possibilities of doing work there," feels the MSU Baroda trained artist who first went back home after years, in 2008.

 

As he stood amidst abandoned burnt houses belonging to Kashmiri Pandits like him, Veer began to photograph them. Abandoned house -- a set of 50 houses with a video showing a burning house in the middle.

"I have not taken a stance on Kashmir because I feel both sides have lost. I feel bad that Kashmir has lost its Sufi culture. When I know the experience of being a minority, how could I wish the same for the other side. Even today when we see a Kashmiri Muslim, first thing we do is hug. The atmosphere in the valley is depressing but young Kashmiris are bright. We need to address certain issues."

Veer Munshi draws inspiration from the Valley for his art
 

During the ravaging floods of 2014, when Veer couldn't get in touch with anyone there due to network issues, he was suddenly reminded of neighbours, vegetable sellers, teachers, boatmen, and barbers. He started doing their portraits which was cathartic for him. These portraits make up Memoir, a grid of 101 portraits. Back in 2015, a large installation inspired by the boathouses of Kashmir was made for India Art Fair. Inside the pitch dark toppled boathouse, people could see the experiences of people submerged in water.

"I have not taken a stance on Kashmir because I feel both sides have lost. I feel bad that Kashmir has lost its Sufi culture. When I know the experience of being a minority, how could I wish the same for the other side.

In yet another work, Veer has drawn from an old work, his well-known shrapnel series which started as response to the 2010 Kashmir unrest. Hundreds of young boys died during the unrest nudging Veer to create a body of work around it. Back then, he was doing shrapnel on paper but in this show, he has translated in onto MDF board.

Continuously evolving Veer feels unlike earlier when he was painting memories, he is now engaging with it directly. "Also, I was working in isolation but now with every visit, I find myself collaborating with people."

(The exhibition "Only A Mind Cannot be Sent Into Exile" is on at Gallery Sumukha, Wilson Garden till March 10)


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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 7:17:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/veer-munshi-draws-inspiration-from-the-valley-for-his-art/article22823923.ece

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