My last post was a summary of the sculpture I made in South India; and, thus, finishing one of three important tasks for this India Trip.
It’s been awhile since I posted, mainly because I’ve had to devote time to my work and to plan what’s next.
South India was amazingly productive. When I made my first Cairn and I got back in the car with the quarry owner and his son to drive an hour and a half back to Bangalore, I breathed a sigh of relief because I had – in fact – just accomplished a major goal of why I came to India, to establish contacts with quarries in India and work with upwards to 50 tons of granite … and, let me be clear, I am grateful for the help:
I stayed in Bangalore for a few more weeks, and I continued to talk with people, meet with people, visit quarries and I could have stayed longer, much longer, because there were many more quarries to visit, many more interesting people to spend time with. I had to make a difficult decision to move on to the east coast along the Bay of Bengal, south of Chennai, to find stone carvers and people who could help me create and execute some different ideas. It took some searching, but I found a master carver, whom I’ve dubbed MUR, who was open to my work and helped me create Project II and III from the previous post. The man below is Samura and he was the one who spoke the best English at MUR’s shop.
It was Samura who was instrumental in explaining what I wanted to accomplish at MUR’s studio. In the middle of our introductory meeting as communication was not happening, Samura kneels down. MUR and I stay standing and watch: he grabs a random shard and quickly breaks it with a bigger, but equally random, shard; and then, he takes the broken one and stands. Speaking quick Tamil, he holds the two pieces and puts them together and takes them apart, puts them together and takes them apart; he does it to me to get affirmation; he does it again, a number of times, to both me and MUR. I nod and nod and nod. I say “yes, I break the stone … not cut with a saw.” MUR nods; he understands. Samura is about to throw the broken shard away. I extend my hand with a slowness that beckons him to stop, to stop and not throw the stone away. We catch eyes, and, mirroring my steadiness, he places the broken piece in my hand. I put it in my breast pocket and say: “This is shard #1.” MUR gives a deep, guttural, resounding Tamil “Yes” (I think it meant “yes”???) which sounded something like: “Hummhhahhhhm”
I left South India on March 17th, 2014 and traveled back to Varanasi. This was another difficult move because once I headed north to Varanasi, I knew wouldn’t have time to come back south and I would be foregoing a number of trips and activities, such as visiting a handful of sculptors in Orissa that I met and seeing many recommended sites, like Hampi; and, most importantly, going back to Varanasi meant I wouldn’t be going to Calcutta this trip to see Rathin, who is the reason I started this whole India trip in the first place. I had about 20 kgs stone sculpture I’d be lugging around with me, and couldn’t easily carry it with me for sightseeing and detouring to Calcutta. Also, there was so much stone at MUR’s place that he would let me work on; so, another difficulty was to leave it all untouched. I still could be working down there. Some day soon … I’m working towards it.
Yes, the move back to Varanasi was difficult, and not to visit Rathin, but I know that there will be another time. The itinerary was getting tighter, as I knew I had to finish up in Varanasi and then head north for the third leg of this trip and seeing the Himalayas.
I get back to Varanasi and it is much hotter. The weather, the atmosphere and the tone, tenor and efforts of the people had all changed. It was still cool in the evening, but like wearing a lead suit between 1 and 4 pm when outside because of the intensity of the sun. In February when I was planning my trip south to find Indian Granite, people told me to go to the south early because it was going to get hot in March and viciously hot in April. I was making plans to do just that when I found out about the Stone Fair and raced down. Bangalore has very pleasant climate, but the coast was another issue – it was hot all day and night and got progressively hotter as I was there – not so much like a sun-hot, but a “I’m hot, the sun is there, but the heat is coming from somewhere else and I have nowhere else to go” sort of hot, if that makes any sense (don’t know, that the best I got now, still processing all this. Oh, yeah: there were plenty of nighttime mosquitoes, too). So, although Varanasi was hot during the day, it was a different sort of heat and a relief from the south. I noticed another change between Varanasi in the winter, and Varanasi in March/April. In January and when the fog lifted, the days were clear, crisp and refreshing and I got clear, vibrant photos, and the Ganga had a smooth silkiness to it. In April, the pace of the city changed, and something happened to the light and air, and, thus, the City, the Ghats and the river were not so photogenic during the heat of the day. The river was much lower and oozed forward like a lumbering milk shake … or something … Amazingly, it wasn’t even summer heat, yet; and, I could understand why people told me that May, June, and July were unbearable in Varanasi.
Anyway, I got back to Varanasi and threw myself into my work and stayed at the residency mostly; I had plenty of work to do before I headed north. If you’ve been following my facebook posts, you may have seen my updates about waking up very early unplanned. Here’s one:
I got back to Varanasi and I just couldn’t sleep, consistently couldn’t sleep, like every morning, like I was on a different schedule, like my mind at 4 am said, “time to work, get up,” and like I wasn’t tired, but agog at what I was doing – if I got out of bed as late as 6 am it was only because I was laying there since about 4:30 am, and it wasn’t because of the heat either; mornings where quite pleasant and I had ac in the studio. Not going to dwell on this, because this post is just a quick summary to get caught up to where I actually am; but, I mention my early rising because I took to riding a bicycle to the ghats before the sun came up and walking around before it got too hot. The city was quiet and vibrant and pleasant and, besides, the sunrises were outstanding. Here’s a few morning shots of the Ghats:
I shared the residency with two new artist, David Bruce and Camila Santo, during this time; and, like the artists whom I met during my first two month in Varanasi and the list of themes I promised to address before, and for the sake of brevity, I have to wait to share our mutual experiences. I regret to have to do this, because these people are integral to my experiences here; but, time clicks on and the third leg of my trip is calling … and, again, this is a quick summary and I either spend one week writing about each day in India or I process most of this later. Besides, I don’t want to rush these ideas, because they deserve more time.
I’ll conclude with a pic of my daily companion outside my studio window:
and a gratuitous Monkey pic: