Rosalyn D'Mello: A glimpse into the 'I' of an artist

Published: Jan 20, 2017, 07:57 IST | Rosalyn D'Mello |

To know that one’s relationship with what one has created will always be in flux between one day and the next brings an sense of surrender

There’s something magical about this old house I ‘m co-habiting with three artists at a residency in the HH Art Spa­ces in Arpora, Goa. Pic/Rosalyn D'Mello
There’s something magical about this old house I ‘m co-habiting with three artists at a residency in the HH Art Spa­ces in Arpora, Goa. Pic/Rosalyn D'Mello

As a residency virgin, I had only ever fantasised about the she­er thrill of waking up in a space where your only obligation was towards yourself; where, whether you created something or not was purely your prerogative, making you acco­untable to no one else. A week into my first ever residency at HH Art Spa­ces in Arpora, Goa, run by performance artists Nikhil Chopra, Madhavi Gore and Romain Loustau, and I realize I could easily make the transition from virgin to residency whore.

To say it’s been idyllic would be a gross understatement. There’s something superbly magical about this old house I am co-habiting with three other artists. The rooms are austere, the geysers need to be fixed, and my pillow is flatter than I’m accustomed to. But I’ve never before so consistently slept the sleep of angels, where I wake up rejuvenated, full of vitality. I enjoy the humdrum of conversation as I take my seat at the communal table upon a rickety bench that functions like a metaphor—lean too much on one end and you run the risk of being toppled over, making it more beneficial to sit in the middle, a cautionary tale about the significance of containing one’s ego, of not letting your perspective become too lopsided. There is a large garden and a lovely kitchen housed in what could have been a balcao, and every morning there is the heart warming scent of coffee being brewed.

I feel myself beginning to thrive within this unstructured environment. I’m balancing several deadlines alongside my own writing in a previously unimagined way. I’m feeding off the energies of the many artists, who drop in for drinks in the evening, on musical tastes that are different from my own, from artistic practices that compel me to look more ingeniously at the world and understand how to relate to it better. For instance, a layperson would use a scanner the way it’s meant to. An artist plays around with its functions. Sohail, my co-inhabitant, decided to scan a glass of water in various stages of fullness and emptiness, then he used a mirror, then his phone’s torchlight. The effect was rather mesmerising. All the objects in the house, whether on the walls or on table taps, embody such inventive interventions. I guess that’s what feels so astonishingly refreshing to me: this sense of playfulness, of caressing an idea and hitchhiking upon its ambiguous breadth, unmindful of destinations, of resolutions or results. I am being encouraged to think beyond conclusions, to allow space and time to imprint their dimensions upon my unwritten texts.

I think I know now why writers can be miserably poor and yet superbly productive, because the joy of creating something sustains the soul in a way that no amount of wealth can. There’s an inescapable high that you achieve from the intercessory act of making something out of nothing, pulling real rabbits out of an imaginary hat, from spending time immersed in reading and daydreaming and watching birds or the barks of trees or doing nothing at all except being. It’s an addictive buzz, and I can see myself surrendering to its lure.

Above all else, I’ve always thought of myself as a writer. But I’m beginning to expand my identity to include being an artist. It’s new to me, considering so much of my writing over the last few years has involved art criticism, which employs a slightly different faculty. The intimate glimpses that I’ve had over the last 12 months into the artistic practice perhaps is affording me the privilege of seeking out room for transcendence in material that stems from text but ventures into other sensual territory, particularly the performative. I feel aware of a deep transformation that has been set afoot. There will be no going back.

Most profoundly, I am learning to embrace the possibility of failure. I’m comprehending how to look at failure differently, so it doesn’t elicit disappointment but nurtures a distinctive impulse altogether—to return with renewed approach, and to contemplate fresh propositions. This isn’t a revolutionary thought, I know, but it is redemptive. To know that one’s relationship with what one has created will always be in flux between one day and the next achieves within the artistic body a unique sense of surrender.

That is want I want to allow myself to be: vulnerable.

An entry by Virginia Woolf in her diary on Saturday, 17 November perfectly validates my state of being: “A note: despair at the badness of the book: can’t think how I ever could write such stuff — and with such excitement: that’s yesterday; today I think it good again. A note, by way of advising other Virginias with other books that this is the way of the thing: up down, up down—and Lord knows the truth.”

Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D’Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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