Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mysore Creative Spirit

Phosphorous, burning plastic, and singed canvas tickles my nostrils. Claudia and Shoaib are igniting little fires to start today’s art experiment.

I get a bit ahead of myself. I should explain. It started a week and a half ago, on a shopping expedition to Badsha’s Bazzar, the one across the vegetable market. (Highly recommended by the 3 Sisters for saree cloth, which Claudia was buying for a friend.)
We’d been to one shop and were unsatisfied, everything seemed more expensive than it should be and we were a little put off by the car-salesman tactics. To demonstrate the waterproof aspect of one silk, he poured a glass of water onto the textile, which then rolled around the cloth in droplets. It was cool to see, but didn’t entice us to buy. (Glad the fabric wasn’t flame-resistant. I would have hated to see him wield a blowtorch.)

We asked for elegant designs in purple and he turned out one after another befitting Barney in drag. Purple dragon meets Priscilla Queen of the Dessert. I reiterated that we wanted to see something “simple.” He looked at me incredulously and explained that what he was showing was quite simple already by Indian standards.

We slowly backpedalled out of the shop. The sarees he was showing us ranged from Rs1500 to Rs2500. Jaime had said that you could find an average saree at Rs200at the
cheapest. Hmmm.

The moment we walked in to Badsha’s we were greeted by Shoaib Chadkhan, a Mysore local (and artist—we find out later), who in an instant read us like a book. “You are yoga students?”

We affirmed his suspicions and asked to see some sarees in the elegant but not too pricey range in purple and orange. He got us straight away, pulling out these beautiful sarees (silks were also available, but were not in the budget), tastefully adorned. Within 5 minutes, Claudia has settled on a stunning orange saree with gold and aubergine detailing for around Rs500. We dared for more and asked to see their selection on shawls—our new uniform to maintain modesty’s sake.

Shoaib stepped into his element. He gave us a good look, surmising our type: western, yogis, travel, budget, and even took into account our skin tones and the colors we were wearing at that time.

Over the course of our shopping expedition, we established several connections, an unusually long list of mutual friends (all yogis of course, turns out Badsha’s is a favorite among them) and a love for painting and art. He asked Claudia if she wanted to collaborate. They swapped numbers. Then a week ago, an afternoon at Shoaib’s home/art space turned out three diverse art works filled with Claudia’s imaginative little creatures and Shoaib’s abstract ink blots and sweeping painted waves. As they swapped canvasses, I wrote snippets inspired by Shoaib’s recurrent theme: waves, of course.

In a lottery, we each took home a canvas. Shoaib’s will be traveling to the US with a yoga student friend, who asked for the piece.

Today, Claudia and Shoaib have graduated to bigger canvasses. More familiar with each other’s strengths, they launch to the meat and bones (or for the veggie lovers: potato and cauliflower). Shoaib burns canvas, takes scissors to a shawl, slathers paste on different mediums. Claudia lays out her paints and pours forth her darling creatures slinking out of Shoaib’s burn marks.

(I am busy making observations and writing this blog. I too come prepared with my own tools: my trusty laptop.)

Today’s work is different from last week’s. They settle into a groove, quicker than before, one-legged ink beings slither out of a hole in the canvas, a wave-like net await a fresh catch of creative monsters. The total effect is a mixed brew, a dark stew, abstract and textured.

Looking at them, absorbed in their occupation, makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Today, things are being created. Though this is true for every moment of every day, it is so good to see it in action. It’s a good reminder that we should all be creators in our own way, in ways that makes sense for us.

Images of the current collab between Claudia and Shoaib to follow. Still need to upload from Claudia's camera.

To see more of Shoaib’s work and the work of other Mysore artists, visit his blog:


  1. That you even know about Barney and Priscella Queen of the Desert, Kaz: THIS is another reason I love you so much. Thank you for sharing Claudia's time with us all too - oh how I miss you both in my day.

  2. Hahaha! Yes!

    Shoaib has amazing taste. :-)