It is easy to rush around, grabbing photographs and missing the wonder of the changing dance of light on the surrounding slopes and watery surfaces. I am standing in a favourite spot. Most of the time I am alone. A curious young motorcyclist comes and asks for ‘photograph’. His brief presence adds to the mood of the moment.
The early evening breeze rustles and whispers through the palms; birds seem unfazed by my close proximity; dragonflies pause from their flights. This is the photographer’s golden hour not only because of the magic of the changing soft light, but also because of these special moments in nature.
Many years ago I was flicking through a magazine and came upon an article about Andy Worhol’s swimming pool collection. I was mesmerised by the translucent turquoise; the patterns and ripples that transformed reality into an organic and abstract work of art. I have since been drawn to the liquid art of The Jubilee Pool in Penzance, now thankfully restored. When in India, I have the privilege of watching and recording the transient magic of the Cardamom House Pool. These are just a few examples of images that have been captured and give me pleasure.
Previously, I have designed four ‘portholes’, which I exhibited at Tuppenny Barn, as part of the Emsworth Arts Trail.
Many will know that I spend a lot of time each year at Cardamom House, in the foot hills of the Western Ghats. This is in Tamil Nadu, a drier state than Kerala. The sunsets can be spectacular; the birds and flowers exotic.
We are visited by many artists and some of my inspirations come from looking at their work. Some come armed with sketchbooks and notepads, others give us their website addresses. They challenge me to see through new eyes. They challenge me to take risks. They challenge me to work in different media.
My experiments have mixed results. I am learning all the time.
Just two weeks ago, I was in Tamil Nadu. It had been a long slog. Ian’s attention was on building a kiln and completing a first firing. Shankar had been studying the temple potter’s practices, to good effect.
Lighting the kiln
Mine was on getting promotional materials together.This included a photo shoot at the Children’s Project. The young people were wonderful and seemed to enjoy posing. They also picked out things I had not thought of, such as drinking from a jug. Whenever I try this I end up swamping myself. As always, Shankar’s photos were totally different from mine. He certainly has an eye for composition and making the most of the light.
I had also been invited to attend an event to celebrate the pregnancy of one of Samy’s neighbours. While the guests are focussing on the official photographer, I have an opportunity to capture special moments. This is principally a women’s event. Bangles are put on the arms of the woman. There is then a celebratory meal.
I love ‘poking around’ on Art Trails and Open Doors and Workshop Events. The inspiration comes in three areas:
- Looking at the work of artists, whether in oils, ceramics, silver, wood or photography encourages me to explore a wealth of ways of interpreting ideas and form;
- I am nosey and visiting artists’ studios and workshops gives me the opportunity to ‘nose around’ not only their studios, but sometimes their gardens and even homes and to gather source material;
- A sense of discovery accompanies following a trail, which leads me into previously unvisited areas of the countryside. Discovery of the unexpected can fuel my imagination, leading me into new artistic projects, both visual and word.
It was whilst chatting as we hung banners publicising the 2012 Emsworth Arts Trail, that it was suggested that we might be able to organise a similar trail in South India. I certainly don’t want to be a tour leader. The landscape photographer, Charlie Waite, has visited us at Cardamom House with Light and Land Groups on photographic tours of South India. This kind of tour may suit photographers. However, painters and textile artists have suggested to me that they want something different – a chance to appreciate the work of local artists, to investigate something of the complexity of the cultures and, importantly, time to ‘play’ with ideas and start developing projects that might be completed once back home.
So far, my thinking is that a two to three week trip might satisfy these needs. There’s an artist’s colony in Chennai. Mahaballpuram is the home of stone carving and also hosts a variety of businesses selling crafts from across India. Kanchipuram is known for its silks and saris. Pondicherry has a hotel associated with an artist in residence programme as well as a guesthouse over an art gallery. It is also a place to find ceramics and handmade papers and many other craft forms. Guests at Cardamom House, Athoor, can visit local artisans such as weavers and potters, as well as going to a flower market for a different form of artistic interpretation. It is here, in a rural area, surrounded by the vivid colours of birds, butterflies, flowers, rice paddies and palm groves, that artists might find the time to rest and relax and allow their ideas to germinate.
…. And then there are the Western Ghats, with their different landscapes, cultures and crafts. Further afield is Kerala. The possibilities are endless.