Saturday, December 29, 2012

The old and the new

Much is being said about the modern Indian design idiom. One that hand picks from rich, age old traditions and combines them with contemporary western influences, with dramatic yet non fussy and uncluttered results.
This striking of a fine balance between the old and the new,  to lend an impression of  careful yet casual approach to living spaces, takes plenty of effort and dexterity. The designer/ architect needs to be in constant  touch with the past with an eye to the future. It is a way by which the past techniques are successfully preserved for some more time to come, rather than merely sink into redundancy. On most occasions,  the same is achieved through  enlisting the help of local master craftsmen and builders. Compiling a few vignettes from traditional Indian ways of dressing spaces.  The few images in todays post are from Rajasthan- a state steeped in rich architectural traditions and history not only well preserved but actively and delightfully appropriated in the context of revived and newer buildings.

Consider the use of a variety of unfinished and partially restored wall finishes to dress up this corner in  a rennovated fort in Udaipur (above).  Traditional wall finishes such as old tiles, painting, inlay and relief work  mingles with newer, irreverent addition of  finely scrawled urdu in places on a partially restored wall. The patina of aged wood and intense colours of a cotton leheriya bolster fabric contrasts with the carefully maintained impression of age set against the old and new wall.

Framed jharokha, and partially restored walls and tile work give a traditional dimension to this private nook of  a restored old fort.

Newly planted Plantain trees throw intense shadows on a traditional yet minimal wall.

An old elephant set with its intense colours, inlay work and gentle relief work is the only adornment in a mostly open, white minimal space .

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Cheer

Warmest wishes for a lovely Christmas folks !!
 The light of  two dozen candles arranged at varying heights glow through a silk blind from atop a table arranged in the middle of the room.
 The floral pattern visible through soft gold twinkling lights.
Antique, wooden candle stands arranged randomly

Reflections on the polished granite

The arrangement reflects into a door and life sized mirror at another end of the room.

All pictures were taken at the Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur .

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The way we live : Mud houses of Jaiselmer

A little away from the city enclosed within the honey coloured walls of the Jaiselmer fort, Rajasthan,  lie  tiny little villages lost in the desert wilderness. As opposed to the opulent havelis of the city- some of which are said to be among the most ostentatious in all of Rajasthan - these villages house the local peasant and pastoral communities. In a sharp contrast to most newly built, modern habitats  that scar  the landscape of urban India - ugly haphazard concretized neighbourhoods- these villages with their little mud houses offer   quality housing in resonance with the local climate and needs.

Painted in striking yellow and white lime wash, the mud houses of Jaiselmer take one back in time:  to the earliest forms of human habitation perhaps. Simple  and pertinent, these homes are mostly constructed using adobe and readily available mud mixed with straw and cow dung.
The womenfolk take particular pride in their houses, painting the exterior walls and adorning the interiors with elaborate patterns and designs drawn from local experience. The paint and pattern is renewed each year during the festive season, ensuring bright  and beautified neighbourhoods.

Mud –a resource plentiful in the  region, is malleable  when wet and strong when dry, particularly when mixed with straw and cow dung. It is an easy-to-use, strong, cheap, renewable resource.  The material  helps insulate the buildings against the extremes of summer heat  and winter cold making it a logical choice for the hot- arid local conditions.

With time however, the popularity of  adobe is waning. Each village comprises of a cluster of houses usually interspersed by  an odd flat roofed, concrete structure, called a pucca or permanent dwelling. In the recent years,  concrete- a material  neither suitable for the climate, less eco-friendly and sorely lacking in the aesthetic quality of mud- has gained favour with the local population that sees it as a  status symbol.
Even as  concrete cubes proliferate the rural landscape, it is interesting to note  that most of these  constructions mimic their mud counterparts in essential features (the square house with ample open to sky spaces around) and external adornment !

A cement- brick structure adorned to look like its mud counterparts in Sam village  40 kms from Jaiselmer.

Humble and  non-aspirational as they may be, the mud huts represent  an ancient way of life, living within the environment rather than challenge it. Built by the home owners themselves without  formal architectural inputs, using locally available materials, these lend a distinct character to the villages. A factor that attracts  tourists,  students of architecture, designers and artists  alike.

With the change over to modern sensibility, age old techniques  and traditional know how  are  fading from memory.  Its a tragedy. Compared to busy, bustling chaotic modern developments,  old  habitats such as  the mud houses of Jaiselmer exhibit a  shared aesthetic and  love for elegance and beauty. The visuality of such a neighbourhood is more in the form of a collective choice,  creativity and consciousness.  Is it these choices that  reflect in how clean most of these neighborhoods are..?

An interesting term coined by architect Charles Correa comes to mind.  Describing  rural habitats such as the mud houses,  he uses the words: ' Low energy-high visual'. That is succinct. Responding to the position that -an aesthetic  sense is something  the poor cannot afford- he says-

“Nothing could be further from the truth! Improving our habitats requires visual skills. The poor have always understood this.  With one stroke of a pink brush, a Mexican artist transforms a clay pot. It costs him nothing… And the Arab had only the simplest tools: mud and sky- so he had to be inventive! In the process producing the most glorious oasis towns ever seen. And it is not a coincidence that  the best  handicraft comes from the poorest countries of the world.”

Sunday, December 2, 2012

On Show : Madder Moon

Have you been to the moon yet ?!! 

A  brand new moon aloft Singapore skies. Madder Moon - a name derived from the Madder root that lends Indian textiles a rich deep red colouring. Also a name evocative of the dramatic celestial phenomenon, when on the moon turns a shade of  blush red.. 

 Only this moon is a brand new art and design space in the island city.  The brain child of two talented designers, Rajee Vissa and Priya Kainikara Sharma,  the gallery is housed in a historical Singapore style shop house. From the few tantalizing glimpses of the space I have had  in images, it is easy to sense a unique character and age old charm of soaring ceilings, stripped wooden floors and a  dramatic wooden buttresses  that holds the ceiling and sky light in place..

To mark the gallery's early December opening,  the girls have put up a debut show which is as striking as the space. With  dramatically  displayed goodies  handpicked from from a   disparate range of the products across the art and design spectrum, the show does all involved proud!  (Images) 

A selection of my photography is on display in the space from now until the 15th of December.   Check it out !

The Space

The Show

Thursday, November 8, 2012

At the waters edge.

Have often contemplated `How  to paint a water Lily' a poem by Ted Huges.  Far from a naive  description of nature, the poem describes a scene of a fight. Behind the quite delicate beauty of the Nymphaeaceae blooms, hidden a real vision of horror. The poem celebrates the beauty of nature, albeit in its violence.

All of which only became clear to me one morning spent at the edge of a pond trying to photograph  vivid, bright blooms as they had just begin to climb out of the murky womb of stagnant water.  Although there were no dragon flies I  think I saw a snake slither in the undergrowth. ( I think ..!)
 The squelchy, muddy bank and the slimy, still, slow water.  Fishes, fat toads-thawing in the early morning warmth, unlikely companions  to the magnificent flowers. The buds themselves having to  negotiate the dark pond waters to respond to  the beckoning of the early morning sun.

While, any Lily pond will always remind one of what the impressionist  genius Monet immortalised on canvas, there is another side  to the pond, that is far from a setting of aquatic peace.  A whirlpool of natural chaos, a body of water that reflects the heavens as much as the abyss.

This contrast, dual character  is inherent to most of nature, only looking at the surface, it is hard to completely imagine what lies beneath. Although the Lily, rich with symbolism is an oft repeated motif in art, poetry, architecture philosophy and religion, it is this contradictory aspect of regeneration amidst chaos, that is most captivating. I came across the work of  artist Arpita Singh recently,  One of here canvases a Lily pond is used as a reference to depict a war zone, a jigsaw of gun toting soldier, fallen bodies and tanks. Thus highly politicising established ideas of what  a Lily pond may or may not symbolise.. It is a way of widening our perspective, opening our eyes to see the complete picture, accepting and pushing the limits of imagination and truth.
To that end on need not stray afar from the waters edge..

Sunday, November 4, 2012

More from Diwali around the house

Diwali enthusiasm is  running  riot around the household. 
This is among the very few occasions in the year I am focused completely on the house, spring cleaning, painting and changing things around.

Posting a few pictures of the little things  done so far this year.. The little notes on the images should tell all that needs telling..

I like to create contrasting pools of colours and textures around the house, achieved by mixing and matching different materials.

Wood, metals, silks, cottons, weaves, embroidery and clay-  used in varying proportions and combinations without any particular  method. Only I do tend to unify the overall look with one predominant element: for example colour.

In the meanwhile, painting of diyas, chowkis and old furniture is underway- Just because we are not painting walls, does not mean no painting this year! I have my kids to thank for active and enthusiastic participation in all  the painting and housekeeping,  there is no where on earth I can do this without their love and enthusiasm !

I have a few more things to share on the subject, but that comes later.. Until then, Happy decorating!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Float em Rangolis!

A much needed idea for a fool proof, kid proof and long lasting  rangoli.
For somebody who is very powder challenged, these serve the purpose very well.

Consider making floating flower rangoli's  on a few days this festive season. They not only provide a contemporary twist to the good old traditional rangoli,  they are portable and super simple to put together as well.  

It does help tremendously that they can be made with very few flowers - Most of these here have been made with flowers that grow in the yard or the side of the road- and will last longer  than the traditional powder/ flower rangoli too. ( I have to be really lucky to have any thing on floor level alive and put together even for a few minutes!!)

They are simple like the one in red and yellow below

Or slightly complex, with the red flower petal patterned edging

An abstract composition created with three colours, seems to attract attention  of an entirely different kind.. as bees are drawn to the colour and water on the  balcony !

Trying a different colour combinations..   Using petals instead of whole flowers with blooms like rose and marigolds, various complex patterns may be created. Although, I  like to keep it simple and hassle free.

Yet another idea that uses very few flowers and takes seconds to put together..!

More coming up.. Watch this space.... until then happy floating !

Monday, October 29, 2012

All that glitters...

More from around the home.  Taken on Dussehra, these images  capture what sets the tone for the festive season for me.   Since I cannot be bothered with too many elaborate arrangements, simple elements handy around the house and kitchen are put to work.

Rich opulent and glittery.. Metals like  brass, copper and  bronze add sheen.

Pooja platters, kitchen implements, flowers, leaves, kumkum,  rice, camphor and incense create the ambience..

Traditional artifacts lend a ethnic, rustic vibe to spaces.

Finally the season is incomplete without lights - candles and diya's infuse homes with precious glow adding to the rich Diwali feel..

More festive ideas later.. until then hope you enjoyed these..


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