Venus Fouad contemplates a vision of the East painted under azure skies
Puducherry is a town in southeast India famous for its blue skies and its lovely beaches. Two years ago, the town hosted 28 artists from the nine members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and since then the exhibition has toured several Asian towns and cities. Last month it paid a visit to Cairo.
Puducherry Blue is not just about art; it is about the ability of artists to interact, the ability of cultures to extend an overlap and the fusion of styles that may result in the process. Asia has a rich cultural heritage which is not lacking in international appreciation, and yet the art legacies of locations such as Afghanistan and Bhutan are still unfamiliar to many.
The Indian Ambassador to Egypt, R. Swaminathan, who inaugurated the exhibition, said that the creative camp in which the exhibited pieces were created brought together not only artists but also dancers and musicians. The artists' camp was a variation on the art and scholarship of Tagore, the great poet whose message of humanism reached across cultural and geographical boundaries.
On another note, the ambassador stressed that last year's revolution had not impaired Indian-Egyptian relations, which continued to thrive in the commercial and economic arenas.
The exhibition showcased work by 28 artists from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Among them was Amitava Das from India, whose work referenced the fast changing new world around us with its violence, greed and occasional serenity.
Nepalese artist Erina Tamrakar offered her interpretation of women's issues through symbolism. Working in acrylics, she brought folkloric symbols into the canvas, incorporating such motifs as geese and cows to signify fertility and abundance.
Karma Zangmo from Bhutan used oxides in her powerful decorative work of folk and religious themes. Zangmo says that the camp gave her the chance to hold in-depth discussions with artists from various countries, allowing her to experiment with the fusion of Bhutanese and Indian art and to explore the art of painting in miniature.
Kyaw Shein from Myanmar used acrylics in his composition of serene urban scenes, while Maryam Omar from the Maldives used a variety of material to illustrate the diversity of human gestures in a world where individuality is under assault.
In his piece about Indian dancers, Niladri Paul offered us an intimate glimpse of the joy and vitality of life in the countryside.
The exhibition, which was held in the Egyptian Modern Art Museum, ended on 27 June. The opening night also saw the launch of a commemorative book featuring the Egyptian revolution and the celebrations marking the 150th birthday of Tagore.