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Table for Two - Etched in mind

Artist Anupam Sud at Shiro in Hotel Samrat, New Delhi. Photo: S. Subramanium

Artist Anupam Sud at Shiro in Hotel Samrat, New Delhi. Photo: S. Subramanium  

Food is not a prime mover in her life. Yet, artist Anupam Sud doesn't mind paying attention to detail

An apprehensive Anupam Sud waits for the appetisers to be served. That hesitation and apprehension is kind of akin to when she first puts her brush to an empty canvas or engraves the first line on a zinc plate. “I am a fussy eater and nobody in my family associates food with me, so I feel I am the wrong choice for this,” says Sud, sitting at Shiro, the Pan-Asian restaurant in Hotel Samrat in New Delhi. She, however, relishes, whatever is served to her on Executive Sous Chef Paramjit Luthra's recommendation. An assortment of dishes from the restaurant's new menu is presented before the artist in the next two hours and Sud happily obliges but on two conditions — no second helpings and strictly small portions.

Food is not her weakness and it shows, but the connection between such a frail body and the kind of art she practices — what with all those heavy rollers, metal plates, chemicals, machines presses, etc.— is difficult to figure out. She is one of the finest printmakers in India but Bhavna Kakar affords the viewer a peep into Sud's highly intimate world. “Preparatory Assertions: Notes from Sketch Books”, on show at Latitude 28 in Lado Sarai, is a selection of sketches or preliminary works made on sketch books, at the back of greeting and wedding cards, an art exhibition invite and a rough discarded paper the artist has done in the course of her four-decade-long career.

Considering how private Sud is — she requests me to not mention a life-changing incident of her life — how did she agree to put something so personal in the public domain? “For that matter, every painting and every work is part of the intimate world of a painter. The real beauty is that it will always be perceived by a viewer according to his/ her capacity,” responds the artist taking note of the aesthetic surroundings made up of serene lighting, statues, wooden flooring and lighting installation.

In the vegetarian platter comprising hung shao green beans, sweet chilli potatoes, tofu with spicy Korean bean paste and assorted vegetables in chilli mustard, the first and the last dish win her over. “A dish is successful when the spices don't overtake the basic ingredient and this is what happens here. The crispiness of the beans has been retained. It's very balanced,” opines the artist. She adds in the same breath, a trifle apologetic, “Though, I am nobody to comment because not many people can survive my food. I cook rarely but when I do I am very, very particular about the right quantity of ingredients.”

She started collecting her doodles and scribbles after she visited a similar exhibition of K.G. Subramanyan in the 1980s. “A lot of people scribble or doodle while talking, but since an artist is trained it takes a certain shape. It's just a useless sketch but a possibility of an idea which could be developed. Plate-making is a process when you are working on it again and again; it loses spontaneity. So, a sketch gives you that joy of spontaneity. But not always does a sketch precede a final work.”

Sipping her refreshing cocktail, berry patch, Sud reveals that many of the sketches in the ongoing show are from her college days at College of Art, Delhi, where she studied and later taught as well. The “Jam and Pickle” series, for instance, was made when she was teaching at the art college. Women (mixed media on paper) painted trapped inside jars of pickles and jams are the artist's reflections on male prejudices. “The teaching staff had very few women, and the male teachers had a condescending attitude towards us,” she recalls. Another work she chooses to talk about from a mélange of self-portraits, portraits of her father and leaves from her sketchbook is a water colour done on rice paper. “I had brought rice paper from China. It is difficult to handle, so I wanted to try it. I drew a nude female figure casually lying with her legs crossed — I had a Nepali woman model for me— and as expected the colours smudged and I was very unhappy. So, I crumpled it and threw it away. Next morning, when I went to the studio, I picked it up and realised it's not all that bad. So, I ironed it and kept it back.”

The main course, comprising spicy yaki soba noodles, kaprow kai with garlic fried rice, tofu kimchi chigae, a classic from the Korean kitchen, mixed vegetables with chilli mustard sauce etc., too gets an approval, but it is for the last part of the meal she is secretly waiting for. Sud is a chocoholic. “The best chocolate cakes I have had so far were in Austria, made by artist Krishna Reddy's mother-in-law.” Here out of chocolate sushi, Philadelphia carrot cake and velvet cake, the last one is the clear winner and an offer to have jasmine tea is turned down. One, she is particular about tea and, second, she wants the taste to linger on.

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 3:00:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/table-for-two-etched-in-mind/article2674979.ece

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