Illustrator and visual artist Sameer Kulavoor’s earliest memories of Kala Ghoda are of visiting his dad — who worked at Reader’s Digest’s Fort office — on his working Saturdays. They would walk around Kala Ghoda to catch the latest exhibition at Jehangir Art Gallery or head to the museum. “These walks made more impact on my life and work than I ever imagined they would,” he reminisces.
Kulavoor later went on to study at Sydenham and Sir JJ Institute of Applied Arts, both in the vicinity of Kala Ghoda. “I witnessed the evolution of Kala Ghoda from close quarters. During the early 2000s, the Kala Ghoda Art Festival was a small local festival with a great display of regional art and craft. There were no hip cafes and we used to go to Madras Cafe in one of the lanes. I also remember going to Rhythm House and buying audio cassettes,” he shares.
In early 2015, Kulavoor turned Kala Ghoda into his muse and started imagining his version of Kala Ghoda on paper. “The point was not to make a map but to draw how I see Kala Ghoda — a personal tribute to one of the most inspiring places in Mumbai. It is a compact area filled with so much detail and diversity. I wanted to recreate the feeling of that dense area,” he shares.
Fold and keep
Envisioned as a book, Kulavoor later decided to play with scale and composition. It led to Kalaghoda Musings, an accordion-fold panorama of the locality, which can sit on your bookshelf or be framed on your wall. It is limited edition with only 300 prints, all of which are signed and numbered by the artist. Released in December, 220 copies are up for grabs.
Made over a span of 11 months, the drawings, which depict iconic places around Kala Ghoda like Rhythm House, the paper market, Irani cafes and Lion Gate, are all in black and white and were made using graphite. “As a medium, it seems fragile and crude, almost temporary. But I like that about graphite. I also like the resulting textures and the volume that you can create with it. The final drawing was already detailed and layered, so I felt colour was not necessary,” he explains.
Memories of Kala Ghoda
Most of the drawings emerged from his memory of the spots and the people Kulavoor had seen. He had also shot the architecture of Kala Ghoda on his phone over a period of time which he used as reference points.
Kalaghoda Musing may be based on Kulavoor’s memories of the area, but he remains just as fascinated about its modern-day diversity and character. “Where else can you find a place with a naval base, university, high court, maidans, fashion boutiques, stock exchange, galleries, museums, cafes, restaurants and bars bringing such a variety of people together? In this age of eyesore ACP panel buildings and concrete towers, Kala Ghoda still has beautiful colonial architecture and art deco buildings,” he says.
Know the artist
Sameer Kulavoor is the founder of the independent studio Bombay Duck Designs (BDD). His work combines graphic design, illustration and art. Some of the projects he has worked on include Sidewalks & Coffeeshops (2009, a booklet of sketches), Zeroxwallah Zine (2011, on the photocopying shops of Fort), The Ghoda Cycle Project (2012, on bicycles in rural and urban India), Blued (2013, illustrations on the use of blue tarpaulin or Taad-Patri) and Oh Flip (2013, flipbooks of hand-drawn animated action loops on street food/street life)
Kulavoor has also designed animated music videos for Pentagram’s album Up (2004) and Bloodywood (2011), has done album art for Zero and Something Relevant and designs for the NH7 Weekender festival.
He is also the co-founder and co-curator of 100%ZINE, a publication showcasing a collection of visual ideas of contemporary designers and artists.
Kalaghoda Musings can be purchased on tadpolestore.com
Price: Rs 2,200