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Back from Karmarkarland...

Study sketches from my extended tour of the Vinayak Karmarkar Museum

You may read here, and here, my previous articles on the  great man. But those were written before I had actually visited the Karmarkar Museum (or Shilpalay), to study his amazingly evocative works. For decades, the sculptures have been lovingly preserved and displayed by the museum's director - Sunanda Karmarkar, 81, a most kind and gracious lady. She is also the daughter-in-law of the late Vinayak Pandurang Karmarkar (1891 - 1967). The shilpalay is in his palatial home at Sasawane, which he had built in the 30's. 

The village of Sasawane is about 14-15 kms from Alibaug, a popular weekend destination for beach-goers. Alibag is about 143 kms from Pune, and less than an hour by ferry from Mumbai. Although, the ferry is closed for 4 months during the rainy season. 

I was looking for a place to stay at Sasawane, preferably near the museum. I found the museum's number on the web, and called it. To my utter surprise, Sunandaji herself was at the other end of the line! I already 'knew' her from a video on youtube, albeit it was shot in 1992. As soon as I introduced myself as an artist from Kolkata, she replied enthusiastically 'bolun, bolun, bolun...!'(Do tell!) Later, I came to know that she had taught herself Bengali during her years of charity work at Kolkata. 

A connection, perhaps ordained by mysterious workings of the universe was made, and conversation flowed. I told her about my solo, frugal efforts on Vinayak Karmarkar on the internet, and about my wish to study his works in person. Soon she was inviting me to stay at her home, which is also where the museum is. 

This was followed by two weeks of pure magic on the Konkan coast. My host was impeccably kind and gracious, and I had the opportunity to study the works at close proximity for a fortnight.

cont'd/- >>

I used to wake up at the robust call of a neighborhood cock, and spend most of my day at the museum - sketching or painting. Sometimes, contented rumbles from sleepy buffaloes would waft across the street. Chicken would cluck and forage on the foreyard. Dogs would be dogs. Sometimes, I would take a walk on the beach. Visitors would drop in, although mostly at the weekend, and occassionally peer over my shoulder as I worked. I almost felt embarrassed that people would take time away from the incredible treasure on display, to watch me at work. But I realized that I couldn't blame them, for I was adding to the 'tourist experience'.

It was as if Nanasahib was teaching me, the clay Drona and his disciple Ekalavya of popular mythology. I do not have any formal training in art, and  have picked  up lessons from the works of masters like him. He was controlling my hand, asking me to slow down and observe the subtle accents here and there, to tie the local to the whole. I would balance my sketchboard on the knee, sit on a plastic chair at one corner, and sketch away. Sometimes I would paint,  supporting my pad, palette and stuff on a second chair. 

What follows are examples of my study work at the Karmarkar Museum, between the end of June and the beginning of July. I feel like I've been enriched like never before, and my deep gratitude extends to Sunandaji (and the kind people at her home), for providing me with the perfect opportunity to do so. This 'Bangalibabu' (as I was warmly referred to at Sasawane) is forever in debt to them, and to Nanasahib, for so many things. 

Kolkata, July 2016


Link to the Karmarkar Shilpalay website. 

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Sunanda
A3, compressed clay

Woman pondering
A3, compressed clay, conte

Can't wait to walk!
14" x 11", acrylic on paper

Charity passed on
A3, inktense watersoluble blocks


Hira Kolleen (fishergirl Hira)
20" x 12", acrylic on paper

Sounding the conch
20" x 12", acrylic on paper

Flutist (and the fisherman)
A3, conte

Hira Kolleen 2
A3, conte and watersolubles

Figure study with basket
20"x12", acrylic, canvas paper


Gaze
A3, watersoluble pencils

Studious
14" x 11", acrylic on paper

Feeling her way
A3, conte


Boy pondering
A3, conte

Sounding the conch 2
A3, watersoluble blocks

Hira Kolleen 3
A3, compressed clay

Hira Kolleen 4
A3, watersoluble chalks


Assorted studies
A3, conte

Group, from the back
A3, conte and watersoluble chalk

Lamp lady
A3, compressed clay, conte

Anne and Hira the alsatian
A3, compressed clay, conte

Cowasji Jehangir
A3, compressed clay


Mahatma
A3, conte

Jamshedji Tata
20" x 12", acrylic on paper

Benefactor's family
A3, compressed clay

Figure study with pot
A3, watersoluble chalks


Mother and child
A3, conte, watercolor

Mother and child 2
A3, compressed clay

Mother and child 3
A3, conte, watercolor


Women sleeping
A4, ink


Namastay
A4, ink water-wash


The gift
A3, ink, watersolubles

Maharaj
A3, ink, compressed clay

Traveller
A3, conte, compressed clay


Tying the knot
A3, compressed clay

Fetching water
14" x 11", acrylic on paper

Khandu, local mascot (live study)
A3, watersoluble chalks

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