400 years apart…

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Bibliothéque Nationale de France in Paris by Henri Labrouste  (1862-68) and Basilica San Lorenzo in Florence by Fillippo Brunelleschi (circa 1420) 

 

 

 

 

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In their silence they speak…

I wander aimlessly through those winding streets, accompanied only by the sound of my steps over the cobbles, the air carrying the distant murmur from people in cafés mixed with the joyous sound of a late-afternoon musical party, when these sculptures stop me. Serendipitous instances at the turn of streets, usually occupying a humble corner are lovers forever engaged in a passionate kiss; kids forever lost to their frolic play; a thinker eternally contemplating; a fair lady forever in waiting for her loved one to return, her eyes carrying all the melancholy of the world.

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Fussen
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Koln

 

In the flowing, intangible experience of a city, in its winding streets, varied roofs and drawn windows these sculptures, propping out at the most humble and unassuming places, stop me and make me wonder. They make me wonder at the world to which they are eternally lost; at the world they dispassionately see go by, detachedly surrendering themselves to the stream of photographs with the tourists or to the empathy of a lonely traveler such as me.

They engage me, in their frozen instances, as mnemonic reminders of a place, fixing their essence to my mind’s eye, to haunt me later with nostalgia. I find such sculptures to play an important role in fixing the place in our memory, in trying to make tangible the intangible character of a place.

But above all, sculptures such as these, have the ability to slow us on our way, make us pause and remind us to our immediate existence. They demand from the passer-by their empathy and their imagination, the two under-used of human faculties, to see through their eyes, the world that was, the world that is, and the world that will be.

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Eindhoven, 16 April 2016

Caught in a Fairyland…Füssen

Christmas Diaries ’15

 It is quite unusual and funny that, having grown up in one of the hottest part of India and not until 16 that I had the opportunity to see what snow actually looked like, my idea of Christmas was that of magical lights, carols, fluffy snow and fairies and the mystical Santa-Claus. Maybe it was all for  the Cartoon Network and their Christmas themed cartoons of Tom & Jerry and the fairy tales that are to be blamed! But nevertheless, they have created in me a fantastical world of magic that stayed only within the domains of my imagination until I visited these small magical Bavarian towns of Füssen, Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Weiskirchen and of course the famous Neuschwanstein Castle!

Idle small towns, singing in silence, distant sounds of laughter and church bells spinning a harmony echoing through the snow-clad Bavarian Alps, I spent my first Christmas in Europe here! Thinking back in retrospective, I could almost feel the crisp smoke from chimneys rising against the backdrop of the snow-clad mountains, the shop windows in these silent towns inviting me into their mystical world, the smell of Glühwein and the infectious joy of Christmas. So infectious is this landscape that I can understand if not even admire with compassion the ‘mad king’ Ludwig’s obsession in creating his ‘Medieval castle’ (of fantasy) at a time when architecture and engineering were going towards the construction of the likes of the The Crystal Palace.

 Nevertheless, what catches me unawares and haunts me at times are the sound of my lonely steps on the medieval cobbles of Füssen, as I haunted through its winding streets under the full moon, silently witnessing the mystic characters from the squares and shop windows come to life, ignoring me, going about with their affairs like they always have for centuries!

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And of course the trip would have never been this good if not for my very good friends Rahul and Krithika and the very good friends I made Harshil, Manoj and Arun!!

Füssen, 25 December 2016

 

The man who loved much…van Gogh

My recent visit to the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam has in fact left me speechless with such a positive effect. While I have always been inspired by the works of Vincent van Gogh, to see them in real has had an effect that words could hardly describe.

Some of the emotions I’ve tried to capture, but words fail me. I am limited by my language trying to describe the works of a man who saw the world in its most beautiful and vivid self. Of course, the digital reproductions themselves do no justice to the actual colours that shine in all their brilliance! (none of the images that I saw prepared me for the actual experience!)

Some words with which I tried to capture the experience in futility,

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Almond Blossom, 1890

“Here I am,
I stand before the works of a man who loved life as much as it can be possibly loved,
so much so that his love, earning and pain seeps out of his canvas to hold me in a heartbreakingly beautiful trance.
Here is a man who painted love in all its innocent beauty.
Van Gogh!
Oh! how would it be to live inside one of his paintings?!”

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The Pink Peach Tree, 1888

His was a world that added beauty to beauty, a different more sensitive way of looking at the world around. Each brush stroke, I could feel, was a splash of emotion.

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Wheat field with a Reaper, 1889

“The beauty of van Gogh’s paintings are so intense such that its beauty was radiating as the golden rays of the Sun at dawn that made everyone, everything basking in its radiance as lovely and beautiful as the paintings themselves”.

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Garden of the Asylum, 1889

What am I seeing in front of me? Emotions! Not views or visions, but emotions and feelings given birth by brush and paint! Before these paintings I stand naked and innocent!

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Wheat fields under thunderclouds, 1890

“I could almost be there, inside the painting. The storm brewing. I could feel the wind unsettling the dust, ravaging the wheat. A lone bird hastily flying past to her nest and a distant silhouette of a farmer hurrying to his hut all the more accentuates the loneliness of the position.

I could feel the loneliness of van Gogh himself deeply affecting my heart. There are no signs of the peasants whom he admired so much. Is this paradise? ”

 

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Field with crows, 1890 – one of his last paintings!

 

“…. And it does me good to do what’s difficult. That doesn’t stop me having a tremendous need for, shall I say the word — for religion — so I go outside at night to paint the stars, and I always dream a painting like that…”

Vincent van Gogh,  letter to Theo van Gogh, 29 September 1888

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Self portrait with straw hat, 1887

“…. and up from my rotting corpse, trees and plants and flowers will grow,  

and the Sun will warm them and I will be in them,

and nothing will perish, 

that is immortality”

-Edvard Munch, 1890

van Gogh museum, Amsterdam, 24 January 2016

Image References

First days… Eindhoven

I can say that Ahmedabad was instrumental in directing my imagination towards Europe. Europe has captured my fascination ever since I had the opportunity to listen to Doshi sir narrating his experiences of Paris, the posters of Rome and Palladian villas in Sangath, the international atmosphere and above all the movie ‘Midnights in Paris’ !  Finally I was travelling to the land of my dreams, a change ! If I am to be honest, it was a shock beyond description finding oneself in a small city where the streets were empty if not for the occasional car that would strictly follow the traffic lights; glass buildings with no signs of life either inside nor on its outside and above all the deafening silence! I would yearn for some loud conversation, if not simply any conversation! When on rare occasions it happens, I cling on to it as I would for my dear life! Orderliness and silence are indeed sharp weapons. I even allowed my mind to take consolation that I can go back home for the summer (which was only coming from my desperation and it is not the same now). But as it would turn out to be, there has indeed never been any moment to think of silence thereafter. In fact I have never been kept so busy for such prolonged period of time in my life. I must admit it’s not easy for me considering I’m a person who could enjoy the moments between the each ‘tick-tock’ of a clock but at the same time I cannot deny that I am beginning to enjoy this phase – like how one would enjoy a tiring exercise!

But at the same time I am stealing moments here and there to enjoy certain hidden treasures that everyday life here offers!

Eindhoven, 08 December 2015

 

A symphony in gray… Köln

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It wasn’t the best of  days to visit Köln. The sky was overcast, its grayness blanketing the stones of the city. The cold ruthlessly penetrating my body, keeping comfort as elusive as the wind. Maybe that is how Köln is supposed to be experienced. I could not bring myself to imagine myself experiencing Köln in any different way. It brought me to experience the materiality of Köln, the stone that which was molded into massiveness of the Dom, into the severity of the Romanesque churches, into the immaculate patterns of cobbles that made each fallen autumn leaves stand out as flaming feathers. Anyone who comes to Köln, first meets the Dom – its massiveness unfathomable. One wonders if it is the radiance of the bluish gray stone of the Dom that paints the city in a hue that makes it memorable.

Words will fail me if I, even as mush as, try to describe the experience that was Köln. It is a symphony in shades of gray. Köln could not be  experienced better if not on a cold and gray overcast day. It is this climatic atmosphere which compliments the atmosphere of the place. The place molded by the severity of stone. Maybe I was in the best of the days in Köln. The day in which Köln was meant to be seen.

But I can see how unjust I am in being unable to fully express the experience of that day. But how could I if it all is as fleeting as it were in a dream? I feel ill-equipped to tackle these experiences !

 

Köln, 28 October 2015

 

All I could remember was a dream …

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Words, photographs, sketches will all fall hopelessly short of trying to describe this place. Maybe I wasn’t even there. Maybe it was a dream I had. Maybe it was a place that you could only be in your dreams. All I could remember of the place were those soft lights reflected like a million little lanterns in the cobblestones that were caressed all day long by the soft drizzle.  The twisting streets that took me through unanswered doors. The streets lit softly by the windows that offer a peep into the unassuming household making art out of everyday objects. The incessant sound of people gaily conversing which the air carried, an alley explored to find a cozy restaurant that’s tucked in its compactness. Fairies walking the streets, couples holding hands softly, the sound of hard footsteps echoing trough the cobbled street and the hidden gardens set silently along the canal’s edge. I was like a ghost, wandering silently lest I should disturb this harmony. A girl as fair as an angel tying her bike to those finely crafted bridges; a person hurrying into the alley to join some friend after work; a couple contemplating the display on a shop closed for the day imagining some wonderful future. Fleeting emotions that will haunt me on many a silent nights.

Maybe it was all a dream! Maybe I never moved an inch from my bed!

Utrecht, 07 november 2015