•April 12, 2012 • 1 Comment
Sitting in a restaurant that evening we overheard a customer guilelessly telling the local waiter how VERY disappointed he was with the palace. He has a point, but perhaps he could not see beyond the ramshackle and barren state of the building. Today the external architecture is the most outstanding and attractive feature of the palace and makes for a dramatic sight positioned high on a hill, dwarfing the small town below.
The interior is in a state of semi abandonment, and presumably no one knows what to do with such a massive structure and how to pay for conservation. Monkeys and bats now reside in rooms once belonging to kings. However, the many murals which decorate the private quarters are said to be the finest in Rajasthan and despite fading rapidly they are still exquisite, highly detailed, and full of entertaining stories depicting rulers and gods, Krishna in particular.
The first part of the palace was built by Rao Balwant Singh in 1580, and each of his successors made substantial additions to the building, resulting in a very large and charming hotch potch of styles sitting alongside each other with ease.
For me the highlight of our visit to Bundi, aside from seeing the murals, was dining on a roof terrace each night, overshadowed by the palace, lit up, and extraordinarily magical against the warm night sky.
•April 12, 2012 • 9 Comments
Statue of Jayavarman VII, 12th Century, Khmer (Cambodia).
Rina Banarjee Exhibition, “Take me, Take me… to the Palace of Love” 2003
Detail from a Japanese Screen (1733-1795) exhibited in 2008 at the “Peinture Japonaise au Musée Guimet”
“Dakini” from Tibet, 18th Century.
Bronze Buddha, Thailand. 8th Century.
Ancient gold and turquoise earrings found in the burial site of a Bactrian nomad. Afghanistan. Circa 6th Century BC.
“Shiva Nataraja” (Lord of the Dance), Chola Period Bronze, c.10th Century. Tamil Nadu, India.
Detail from a vase entitled: “A Thousand Flowers”. Southern China, Qing Dynasty (1736-1795).
Plate XIV. “Bamboos in Monochrome” WU CHÊN Yüan Period.
“Women Playing a Game” Attributed to Hokusai or to his son, 1800-1805.
•September 7, 2011 • 1 Comment
Ray Morimura (b.1948) is a Japanese artist from Tokyo who works mostly with wood block prints. His work has a stylish art deco air about it, but with a contemporary twist. I particularly like the way in which he juxtaposes linear and rounded designs, lending the prints a sense of softness and depth. He also creates a feeling of vastness by portraying certain elements of a picture very small and others very large, for example in the print below, the women are tiny and slender with stick like legs, and in comparison the trees above them seem dauntingly high. In fact we never even see the tree tops. Thus, nature in Morimura’s work, appears both beautiful and threatening, with a fairy tale feel to it. The artist draws us very close to nature, for example, in his print depicting hydrangeas, the flowers seem to envelope and almost dwarf the temple in the back ground. The same can be said for the gorgeous image above, where the lilac wisteria dominates the picture, creating a frame for the small palace in the distance. The effective print of a snow covered tree lined avenue with a black cat has evidently been inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s illustration for one of his Just So stories.
l can’t help feeling that the three wonderful works below are inspired by one of my favourite childhood stories ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’. Each night after bedtime the princesses escape from the palace and pass through three enchanted forests, one made of glass, one of silver, and one of gold. They reach a lake where a magical ball takes place and they spend the whole night dancing. The king is confused because every morning, when the tired princesses are ‘woken’ their shoes are ruined. The king sends a soldier to follow the girls, when he discovers what they have been up to, the soldier is given the youngest daughter in marriage and it all ends happily ever after…
•September 6, 2011 • 5 Comments
The PhD has been keeping me rather too busy. Something had to give and it was this blog. But meanwhile I have still been collecting pictures that inspire and delight, and continue to visit exhibitions and trawl through auction catalogues and beautiful books. Here is an eclectic assortment of recent ‘finds’, from the bright, sunny paintings of John Craxton, to sumptuous Afghani tribal jewellery displayed at a recent, and rather wonderful British Museum exhibition. My particular favourites from this collection are the stylish and lyrical works by Japanese artist Ray Morimura whom I shall be dedicating a post too shortly.
•April 6, 2011 • 1 Comment
Elephants are of symbolic significance to many different groups in India, and hence these beloved, beautiful, and auspicious animals can be found depicted on numerous temples and adorning many a palace wall. To kings they signified royalty, wealth, and strength. The Hindus worship the Elephant-headed god, Ganesha, the remover of all obstacles, and the embodiment of wisdom, innocence, and obedience. The goddess of prosperity – Gaja Lakshmi (consort of Vishnu) – is always illustrated being bathed by two elephants. Maya, the mother of Buddha, dreamt of a white elephant touching her side before she fell pregnant with him after twenty years of desiring a child.
Elephants appear to be (almost) universally loved. And they are not only popular in Indian art for their symbolic power, but also because of their unusual aesthetic qualities, being so large, and yet at the same time so delightfully gentle, graceful, and majestic.
Gaja Lakshmi, Ellora
Kailasanatha Temple, Ellora
•April 5, 2011 • 2 Comments
After a long absence – due to world travel – I am back. I have just spent two wonderful months travelling around North and Central India conducting field research and have visited more breathtaking places than ever before in such a short space of time. There are so many wonders in India that I had to remind myself on more than one occasion not to become complacent.
One of the most romantic and enchanting places I visited was the Amber Fort outside Jaipur. The fortress was commissioned by Raja Man Singh, the commander in chief of the great Mughal emperor Akbar’s army in 1592 but it did not reach completion for another 150 years. The striking juxtaposition between dry, rugged, barren landscape and the delicate feminine architecture, exquisite painted friezes, jail and mirror work, and creamy marble set within an imposing fortress increases the splendour of this place. Stairways, corridors, gardens, courtyards, arches, balconies, pavilions, and towers all lead on from one another in endless succession. Even on a scorching day a refreshing breeze winds its way through this delightful network of small palaces and open spaces, creating a luxurious refuge from the sometimes harsh climate of Rajasthan. I was there during the India – Pakistan cricket match, so I virtually had the place to myself! A great qawali group were singing inside one of the pavilions all afternoon, adding to the magic of the fort. The highlight for me though, was the spectacular mirrored palace where the ruler would meet his special guests. It is quite simply, gorgeous.
•November 17, 2010 • 5 Comments
James McNeill Whistler was an American painter who worked mostly in Britain (1834 – 1903). He drew a parallel between music and painting, hence the title ‘Nocturnes’ for this series. The painting of a fireworks display shown above evokes a glorious explosion of sound and melody. His soft and glowing portrayal of light and water recalls the work of Turner, and pre-empts the Impressionists. Yet his delicate use of colour and composition refers to the Japanese art he was so fond of.
While peace descended upon sleeping cities, Whistler was painting these timeless scenes of the misty (and polluted) moonlit banks of the River Thames and the Seine. They seem to me to be ethereal and feminine, and as fragile as the butterfly he made his signature.
Whistler’s technique and the way in which he captures light is reminiscent of Turner; and yet Turner’s paintings are imbued with a wild sense of passion, drama and spirituality, whilst Whistler’s are calm, delicate and composed, but equally as beautiful.