Of cities and journeys
For Anjolie Ela Menon, showcasing her works in Mumbai after a gap of eight years, was like a homecoming of sorts.
“It is really rewarding to have an exhibition in Mumbai,” says the celebrated artist, who’s spent a major part of her life in the city. The exhibition showcases a selection of her works from 1970-2013. Anjolie speaks to CS about her paintings, changing trends and her influences:
Mumbai meri jaan
For many years, we lived in Mumbai as my husband was in the Navy. So, a better part of our lives was spent here. Then, we couldn’t afford to stay here as prices of real estate were so high. We were able to get a flat in Delhi. And now, Delhi has also become quite the hub of what’s happening in the art world. But I still love Mumbai. I love to come here. Many of my major collectors were from Mumbai, specially in the 70s, 80s and 90s, when I used to exhibit here. I’ve had many exhibitions here, including two major retrospectives, one in 1988 and then ten years later in 1998. The Mumbai audience is wonderful. They really understand art. Even the common man appreciates art and is interested in it.
When I look at my work over the years, there are a lot of things that have changed. There was a window series that I did for almost ten years. The goat series were very much influenced by Nizammudin in Delhi. There was a period of the nudes. So in a 58 years' span of work, one’s work does tend to change. There are times you come back to old themes. People often ask me about the crows that are very much a part of my paintings. The crows are so Mumbai; it is such an urban bird. In my latest paintings, the colours are a little brighter.
Influenced by experiences
Cities and places definitely are an influence. My whole window series is there because I used to frequent lakkad bazaar near Mohammed Ali Road. It’s a series with windows, where you’re looking at the windows in chawls and wondering what’s going on in those rooms; life is being lived to the fullest inside. And just like a city can influence you, so can books, and dreams and journeys. I went to the Ardhkumbh mela recently, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was quite an epiphany going to that mela. I didn’t go for religious reasons but ended up taking a dip in those freezing waters, because I found the entire phenomenon of such a huge gathering of the faithful at one place so extraordinary. It was an experience that was so unique, that it influenced me to make a painting.