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Artworks by Bangalore-based artist on vintage papers act as keepers of old memories

One look at the dreamlike animal imagery in works of Bakula Nayak, and you’ll spot old legal documents, bills, etc. depicting lives of their owners.

art and culture Updated: Aug 22, 2018 12:14 IST
Henna Rakheja
Henna Rakheja
Hindustan Times
Art,Stamp paper,Vintage paper
A painting titled Enjoy The Ride, by Bakula Nayak, is created on a bill of while bread.

Ahmed Hussain, a resident of Old Delhi’s Jama Masjid area in 1947, filed his taxes regularly. He pinned all the receipts meticulously. His life encapsulated in bills is among the seven lives that unfurl in Bangalore-based artist Bakula Nayak’s dreamy paintings as part of her first solo exhibition titled Intimate Strangers, in Delhi. “That’s how I see it (people’s lives) when I find old or vintage papers such as bills, legal documents, photographs, etc,” says Nayak.

Her journey of bringing our emotions in one’s belongings began about five years back. “I studied architecture and design, and worked in the US for some of the biggest brands. But, when I lost my father in India in 2013, I discovered a box that my mother (who I lost much early) had concealed from me. I remember asking my mother about the contents in the box, and she used to always say ‘I’ll show it to you when the time comes’. But, that never happened; it was only after my father’s death that I opened the box to find 300 letters that my parents had written to each other whenever they were apart. I never knew they were so romantic! That’s when I started drawing; and drew on those letters,” recollects Nayak.

A painting titled Let’s Wander includes an old postcard.

The cathartic process to overcome her grief refined the artist in Nayak. “I stopped writing on the letters because each time I read them, I cried. But then I started drawing on other old papers. Since school, I had a thing for old papers. There are also other things such as vintage tea cups and ceramic rabbits that I have collected over the years. I feel that there was somebody who spent a part of their life in creating these, and now nobody takes care of them… And, there’s an instant joy that I experience on seeing such things.”

The 43-year-old artist finds old articles and then imagines lives of those who owned them. “The key is the romance. I found a bill book and realised that it belonged to someone from 1907. This guy used to always start writing with either ‘It’s a rainy day’ or ‘It’s a fine day’. Most of his writings are cut and dry, and look like all work talk. But then there’s one line ‘The wife is here and fun since Tuesday’. This reminded me of my husband; he too has just two things in life – his work and his wife,” says Nayak.

An artwork based on Ahmed Hussain’s bills.

Most of the papers she has drawn on are from US or Europe; a few are from India. These papers become a canvas for Nayak’s artworks that have dominant animal imagery. One can spot a cat riding a bicycle, a bird looking in the mirror or flamingos romancing beside a frog in yoga asana.

An artwork titled Getting To The Bottom on a stamp paper.

It’s, however, not just the nostalgia of the old that inspires the artist. “I’m also a Bollywood fan. So while working for this series, I was driven by the song Tu Kisi Rail Si (from 2015 film Masaan). I finished the entire series in one stretch while listening to this song,” she laughs, as the conversation ends.

CATCH IT LIVE
  • What: Intimate Strangers
  • Where: Art Gallery, India International Centre Annexe, Lodi Estate
  • When: August 22 to 28
  • Timing: 11am to 7pm
  • Nearest Metro Station: Jor Bagh on Yellow Line

Interact with the author at Twitter/@HennaRakheja

First Published: Aug 22, 2018 12:10 IST