In pause mode: Artist Sameer Kulavoor sketches the movements of people at rest

  • Soma Das, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Apr 21, 2016 14:33 IST
Curling up on a hand-cart outside the railway station, 2015, Churchgate (Photo: Ashay Kshirsagar)

In a city that never sleeps, visual artist Sameer Kulavoor has chosen to focus on the movements of people who are at rest.

A taxi driver napping with his legs crossed and a hand covering his face. A worker checking his cell phone while reclining. A person cracking their knuckles. Such commonplace movements punctuate the hustle and bustle of daily life in Mumbai. Visual artist and illustrator Sameer Kulavoor (33), founder of Bombay Duck Designs, has taken inspiration from such intimate gestures and “spontaneously” sketched them. Now, his first solo exhibition — Please Have a Seat — includes 18 black and white drawings inspired by his sketches from the last four years.

Man sitting with hope on temple steps (2016), Babulnath (Photo: Ashay Kshirsagar)

“The attempt is to amplify everyday moments by zooming into simple-yet-emotive lines and forms. The drawings question the paradigms of modern lifestyle that succumb to the notion of ‘doing more’ to ‘be more’. I have been dealing with the pressures of a modern urban lifestyle myself and resort to drawing in my sketchbook to take a pause. The sketches in the exhibition are part travelogue, part meditation on what it is to be, in moments of rest or contemplation,” says Kulavoor, adding that he originally didn’t intend for these sketches to be displayed in a gallery.

Artist and illustrator Sameer Kulavoor (Photo: Jimeet Pawaskar)

Please Have a Seat is also Kulavoor’s tribute to the interesting characters who populate Mumbai’s streets. “Mumbai is a great place for people who watch. There’s so much happening around you all the time... so many people and stories. When you are passing by in a taxi, you only have a moment to notice how a person is seated on the sidewalk or how someone is curled up on a handcart. But it can speak so much about what’s going on there or in the person’s mind. I am fascinated with how gestures can give a glimpse into someone’s life or mental state,” he says.

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Stick to the basics

While Kulavoor has been working since the age of 16, and has a body of work that encompasses flipbooks, animated music videos, album art, taxi fabric and even T-shirts, this collection has been a long time coming. “Please Have a Seat has been brewing in my mind since the last year and a half. I had visualised this show in a certain way and was waiting for the right chance and the right time,” he says.

The works will be displayed in three different mediums — larger acrylic boxes, paper, and smaller teakwood blocks. The pieces were created with serigraphy/screen-print technique over the last three months. Explaining the choice of mediums, Kulavoor says, “I wanted the starkness of the drawings to be intact — the way they were originally drawn. Acrylic lets me play with scaling up the pieces without it becoming too bulky — so the larger works are on acrylic. The smaller pieces lent themselves nicely on re-purposed teakwood blocks — these can sit on a desk.”

Rendered immobile by his ‘mobile’ phone, 2013, Chennai-Mumbai train (Photo: Ashay Kshirsagar)

The drawings are minimal and leave a lot to the imagination; something that Kulavoor wanted from the outset: “I have picked drawings that don’t give out too much information about the subject — just enough to convey a mood or a feeling. The drawings almost seem incomplete or ambiguous. I would rather let the viewer complete the drawings or build their own stories around them in his/her head.”

In a cafe full of people typing on smartphones, tablets and laptops, one young man is seen writing in his notebook (2015), Bandra (Photo: Ashay Kshirsagar)

And while some might spot similarities with British artist Julian Opie’s stick figures, Kulavoor is quick to dismiss the comparison: “My work in this series is far more analog and rooted in personal expression and craftsmanship. I don’t see any overlap except for maybe the use of black and white in some of his works.”

Art for thought

Please Have a Seat — A Solo Show by Sameer Kulavoor is on from April 22 to 30, 11am to 7pm
At: ARTISANS’, Dr VB Gandhi Marg, Kala Ghoda
Call: 98201 45397

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