Taking a second look, after a decade, at the ideas you learnt as a child can be an eye opener, and this is what Karishma d’Souza is trying to convey through her latest collection of paintings. NT BUZZ talks to the artist about her art and how living away from home has broadened her horizons
Janice Rodrigues| NT BUZZ
After being away from home for a decade, Karishma d’Souza came back to Goa after being in Baroda in Gujarat and followed by a two-year residency in Amsterdam. Her life outside home gave her experiences that broadened her horizons not only as an artist but also as a person. And this is reflected in her works, a collection called ‘In Retelling’ which was inaugurated on October 13 and is on till November 9 at the Fundacao Oriente, Fontainhas, Panaji.
After hosting two solo shows in Amsterdam and Paris, this show is a first for Karishma in her home town, Goa. A student of the Goa College of Art, she was awarded the Gold Medal from Goa University on her Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting) and went on later to pursue a Master’s degree in the University of Baroda. She was then part of an artistic residency at the Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten, Amnsterdam in 2013, returning to Goa only in 2015.
In ‘Retelling’ is Karishma’s way of expressing her thoughts about the things she learned as a child only now from a broader perspective. “It’s a big gap when you leave in your 20’s and come back in your 30’s; you’ve had experiences that have changed you a lot as a person. First in Baroda I was exposed to people from all over the country and then being in Amsterdam it broadened my mind further. It’s not really a new perspective, but in a way it reminds you of an earlier idealism you had,” says Karishma.
Her current collection of works she says draws inspiration from the poetry of the 12th to 15th century India, including poet Kabir. “When you come back to a country that hasn’t changed as fast as you think they would, it set a kind of sorrow in me. I took to poetry that was written a century back and yet spoke about the same issues that you read about now,” she says. However her interest in poetry was roused much earlier when she found a book of Kabir’s poetry in a dusty small section. Drawn to its very visual language, she began reading more of works. “They speak of things that we are still very affected by and use symbols that we can understand even now. Many of these are connected to places, a river crossing, a journey from one town to the next or a market. They are space markers and when you get into that space, there’s a kind of contemplation that happens. My works are also similar, they are set in a place and there are often emotions attached to them which I try to bring out through painting,” she says.
Her works are a kind of retelling where she takes a second look at her learning away from the place she grew up in. “Here I’m looking at things which I had left before, when my understanding was very narrow and limited. I needed to retell myself things that I had not seen earlier as a child. It’s like taking your work from your frame and putting it into a bigger frame. You don’t have to fit it into someone else’s frame, but it’s a kind of dismantling your frame to make it into something bigger,” she says.
Ask her what about the poetry that fascinated her so much, she explains: “What gained my attention that most was that they were precise and they did not use very heavy words. Most of the poetry uses very little material to create something that is so deep and has so much meaning. They are piercing and they kind of shake you up. Sometimes it can be light but it is very wise; it is something that you will come across when you’re talking to your grandmother or a wise friend. You don’t need any literary knowledge to understand the poetry you just need to be alive to understand. Even if you’re just living and not alive, they can wake you up. I also like the poetry for they are speaking to themselves and they also address a friend. And similarly in my paintings are also like a letter to each friend. Bhakti poetry or that of the wandering poets is like a call to another friend that is the inspiration I have taken for this show.”
Speaking of her life in Baroda which opened her mind in many ways, Karishma states that the culture of Gujarat and the politics of the state are diametrically opposite. “The place and people are very warm, but the politics is not really what the whole culture of Gujarat stands for. When I was in Baroda for example, poetry was very prominent, and I knew of people who would write poetry and publish their works regularly. They were so many publishers and the publications would be found by the railway station and the roadside. They had this monthly poetry publications coming out and if you picked up those publications instead of a newspaper, you would know what is happening in the world,” says Karishma.
She recommends that every person who wants to broaden their horizon should move out of the hometown and travel a bit. “After you come back you will see a lot of change in a place and also a lot of change within yourself will enable you to look at things from a different perspective.” She says. Karishma’s perspective made her look at things in our culture and made her realise that there are some things that are worth holding on to and others that needed to be let go of. “What is worth holding on to should be allowed to grow and let go of the other things. Helped me to make the choices that would not go into a regression,” she says.
Upon her return to Goa she was glad to find that the state had become very social and environmentally aware. “Be it working in outreach programmes to get people more aware about the mining issues and other issues around; in all the time I was here I never thought of it that way,” she says. Speaking about the prevalent notions about the people of Goa Karishma says that contrary to the popular belief that Goa has a very easy going population, we are not easy going, we are very active. “We are easy going in places where we need to be, but it’s ok that the notions is prevalent. People are stuck in their own old identities. We are all following our traditions, and we are also stuck in a certain way. But beyond that we are active. I’m of the belief that ‘my ignorance is only my responsibility to be eradicated’,” she concludes.
(Art exhibition titled, ‘In Retelling’ by Karishma d’Souza is being held at Fundação Oriente, Fontainhas, Panaji till November 9. It is open to all.)