Avid art connoisseurs and collectors JJ Valaya and his brother TJ Singh have thrown the doors of their dream project, The Home of the Traveller (THT) open in Delhi to aesthetes for an experience of a lifetime. The artist, designer, visualiser and now a curator—‘the’ JJ Valaya weaves an intricate tale of his travels in a tête-à-tête.
One can’t help but notice the proximity of the masses’ favourite mode of travel— the metro—to the luxurious classiness of JJ Valaya’s sanctuary. The curious juxtaposition makes for an artistic metaphor itself. “You have caught us in the middle of setting up!” proclaims Valaya, barely audible over the regular din of assorted sounds of the hustle and bustle at his store. “No sweat though!” he adds in the same breath.
(The traveller returns home: JJ Valaya. Raj K Raj/HT)
Decoded Paradox and The Soul in the Space were the first two photographic expeditions of Valaya. Now, coupled with a third one on the anvil, is a book on the horizon. “No, I am no writer per se, I am happy in my artistically creative space; and photography, interior spaces, fashion and couture all form a part of this broad spectrum,” says the product of Yadavindra Public School, SAS Nagar.
The third photography exhibition is about “looking at the world from the outside” and that’s all that we are being allowed to know about it right now.
The ‘Siam’ exhibition on artefacts and collectibles gleaned from his travel to South East Asia was revealed in 2011. “There are myriad things that are aesthetically beautiful but they can’t be created by a person; but can certainly be curated under a roof at one time. We, being avid collectors, were looking to establish this curatorial venture for a long time,” he tells us.
(Throne of Bhuddha that is carved in Mandalay style. This seat from Myanmar boasts of gold leaf on teakwood with glass and mirror inlay work. Raj K Raj/HT)
So, as one meanders through the many moods of the designer’s choice, one wonders if audience choices are predictable. Without batting an eyelid says the master himself, “The cardinal rule of ‘you can’t please everyone’ is being contested in our design philosophy in our six themes ranging from vintage to organic. Someone is bound to like something right?” Quiz him about his dislike, and he says, “I would say the most far removed from my design sensibility would be the minimalistic look. It is only that far that I can go on appreciating one single piece in an otherwise vacant room!”
Life is a metaphor for a travel and sometime the story of the travel is more interesting than the account of the destination. “Our travels are replete with interesting tales of how we rely on equal share of luck and our goodwill to get that one bespoke piece.” Travelling, of course first class in his own words, “I am surely not a backpacker or even a regular tourist who lines up for an entry into a regular touristy hot spot. I am most certainly adventurous, so far as taking the road less travelled is concerned; explore the not-so-beaten track, that’s me!”
At a time when epithets have lost their weight, Valaya ethos remains as it was; a blend of culture and craftsmanship in a contemporary mould. “My innate belief in preserving the dying arts and crafts is central to my work. Between the two ends of over-the-top opulent design and totally Spartan spaces, is the middle ground of balancing the old and the new artistically.”
Valaya is currently also enjoying his role as the creative head of a lifestyle and home décor project with Sahara India.