Monday, 18 September 2017

A Bavarian Adventure

[Published: November 12, 2008 Gulf News]

A fiercely independent lot, the Bavarians have always maintained a strong national identity. I enjoyed their hospitality in the summer of 2008, as I cruised the Rhine travelling south through Germany. 

From the valley we went down the Romantic Road of Rothenburg to reach Munich, the capital of Bavaria. The Rhine valley and the road to Bavaria offer a spectacular view of the region's vineyards, castles and ancient churches. And in case you think beer is all the Bavarians can brew, a taste of their white Riesling (dry, white wine), is a must to dispel this myth. 

While the countryside is a romantic mix of lush vineyards and fairytale castles across the valley and the countrysides you can also see train-lines and roads running parallel to the river, transporting industrial goods to the cities and ship yards almost throughout the day. There is no escaping the influence of the Industrial Revolution. 

A statue of Lorelei watches over the treacherous stretch of water near Sankt Goarshausen
But aside from the purpose of modern living there is always space for legends, and the Lorelei rock is evidence of that. The rock on the eastern bank of the Rhine near Saint Goarshausen rises up almost 132 metres above the water-level. Downstream the river is at its narrowest and deepest point, so the Middle Rhine at this juncture is difficult to navigate. This is also the narrowest part of the river between Switzerland and the North Sea and is infamous for its strong currents. The rocks in the area have caused many boats to capsize. The fable goes that a siren called Lorelei bewitched the hearts of the sailors and when they looked up  to the rock, their boats crashed and they sank  to their doom.

The main tourist attractions in Munich are Marienplatz, Glockenspiel, Saint Peter's church, Englischer Garten, Deutches Museum and BMW Museum. Unfortunately, we couldn't catch a glimpse of the Glockenspiel, known to chime with life-sized statues rotating in a mock dance, as it was being renovated. Instead we went to the café opposite, not surprisingly called as Café Glockenspiel, where we enjoyed some Bretzel and Bratwurst. 

The Giant Schnauzer is a working breed of dog developed in the 17th century in Germany. It is the largest of the three breeds of Schnauzer—the other two breeds being the Standard Schnauzer and the Miniature Schnauzer. Numerous breeds were used in its development, including the black Great Dane, the Bouvier des Flandres, and the German Pinscher. Originally bred to assist on farms by driving livestock to market and guarding the farmer's property, the breed eventually moved into the city, where it worked guarding breweries, butchers' shops, stockyards and factories. It was unknown outside of Bavaria until it became popular as a military dog during World War I and World War II.

Day two in Munich saw us exploring Marienplatz and after a hearty Bavarian breakfast walking the quaint cobbled stoned pavements was just what the doctor ordered. Once you reach the Marienplatz everything you need is within strolling distance.

The Old and New Town Halls look down on the golden Mariensoul. Saint Peter's church, just off Marienplatz, is the oldest church in Munich, and for a fantastic view of the city, you could climb the bell frey tower. There are local artists selling the city panorama in water and oil from the top of the church. 

Katz Castle (German: Burg Katz) is a castle above the German town of St. Goarshausen in Rhineland-Palatinate. This magnificent castle stands on a ledge looking downstream from the riverside at St. Goar. It was first built around 1371 by Count William II of Katzenelnbogen. The castle was bombarded in 1806 by Napoleon and rebuilt in the late 19th century, in 1896–98. It is now privately owned, and not open for visitors.

The Englischer Garten or English Garden is a large park in the heart of the city and is famous for beer gardens and nude sunbathing. Moving on from nature, in all her glory, to science and technology and a visit to the Deutsches Museum. It is one of the famous technology and science museums in the world. Eight floors of displays from boats to telescopes to robots; which is a great stop over for scientists or people who love machines.  

Idyllic countryside Bavarian cottage. Picture clicked to paint on the go.

The evening was spent outdoors, soaking up the last rays of the sun and the beautiful vistas of white houses outlined in dark wood. And just before night descended in her inky blackness, the sky came alive with the vibrant orange and majestic purple hues of another day gone by.

Read on Bavarian cuisine here

Monday, 11 September 2017

Savouring Sri Lanka: Mountains are Calling

[This post was drafted a month ago, and abandoned in between when other distractions took over. I have no honest clue what my conclusions had to be on this trip... but I now conclude with some easy pointers at the end.]

Lush tropical scenery, healthy but delicious food, gorgeous beaches... effortlessly we found our comfort zones in Sri Lanka. Trying to teach our trained traveller's head to stop connecting the dots to everything you find in Lanka to India was a tough job. So we engaged in a mindful meditation to disconnect what we already know and reconnect with new eyes. My partner did that more authentically. He felt the urge to tonsure his head and wear local garments. He was mistaken as a buddhist monk - that he took as a compliment. While he perched on perfect postures to invoke the bliss, I meditated with watercolours on my travel painting pad. Here is a peep at the amazing time spent in this Island last month.
I made this painting while in Nuwara Eliya. It is featured in Emboss Art Magazine's current issue.

We landed in Colombo, just the day after monsoons officially ran havoc with heavy winds and rain. Accuweather reported 38 degrees celsius, but my phone marked 28! No complaints! Colder the better, especially when we were escaping the UAE heat. It was pleasant and rains swept us off our feet - literally pasting a smile on our faces - we had not seen rains for so long! Last was in Scotland - winter showers in January. That is not the same when yesterday you were in the middle of the dessert, parched; and today you are drenched in cold showers. It is amazing!

If you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka, read up on its various seasons. Example, March to May is best suitable for central regions - the mountains - as the beaches are either rough as well as humid and not ideal for relaxing. The southern coasts, believed to be the most beautiful, is best to be visited between October to February. June to September, best to visit northern part of the island (now open to tourist as Tamil rebel movement is reported to have been wiped off or contained effectively).

Our hotel in Colombo was sea-facing and we could listen to roaring waves all day and night. It was a first to watch the sea from the bathtub while soaking in the perfect holiday. Too lazy to go down for breakfast, we ordered room service. In my partner's words the fish curry that came with the string hoppers were the best he had ever tasted. I googled Sri Lankan staple fish curries and found out that they use different spices than coastal Indian flavours that it has close resemblance to. Turns out it is the pandan leaf and gorakka powder (garcinia cambogia) that gave the Sri Lankan twist, tanginess and deep colour. I picked a packet of these from the spice counter at Keels' - a supermarket chain you find everywhere in Lanka.

Train to Kandy

Next, we took a train to Kandy. It was a 3 hour trip and offered beautiful country sights. The landscape was dotted by white Buddhas all through. Interrupted by snack vendors at regular intervals, we munched on local treats and reached Kandy hungry for more. We visited the Center for Arts that displays Kandyan Dance and bought an artwork from an artist who was selling his paintings there. Later, went to the Tooth Relic temple.

Remember if you are visiting any temple, it is important to wear clothes that cover your arms and you should also be covering your knees. Because we were not aware of this, I was stopped at the gate for my shirt dress and turned away... soon to be rescued by a Sarong-lender who charged 200 rupees for one time wear. We took lotus flower offering for the wise one to whom the shrine is dedicated. Inside the temple it was a chaos. Just like the one you will see in any popular Hindu temple in India - crowded and with VIP lines! "But seeing so many people in a temple means people still have faith or hope, and that is a good thing," tells my partner.

The following day we went to Sigriya - the lion mountain. People say many dissuading and persuading stories of their visit to this 'must see' place in the island. For archeological reasons alone, one must visit this rock - climb all the way till its top, fighting the winds. It is a physical challenge that puts your stamina to test. The mirror walls must not reflect anymore... the paintings are not as magnificent... but they are all telling a story you will never know fully. All you can do is soak in the experience and wonder how and why they must have built a palace here, why it was given to monks to run a monastery... and what were those reasons that forced them to abandon this place. While walking back to your vehicle wonder how King Kasyapa's men must have used the laws of physics to spurt out water fountains without electricity? Wonder if today we are truly advanced or we lost it all somewhere in the past. The remains of man-made wonders rekindles the fire of imagination to a world that would have been so many centuries ago.

Old Dutch Hospital that retains the colonial campus, now an upmarket shopping and dining area. We went there to dine at the popular cricketing heroes-run Ministry of Crab. They were fully booked until months ahead! So we dined at Black Pepper that served amazing food. Their menu showed the map of Sri Lanka and the dishes that belonged to its various provinces. We took a full tour! :p [That is Ashvin with his new look... that lasted not more than a month. Obviously!]
On our way back to Kandy we stopped at Dimbulla cave temple and roadside clay pot shops. I am slowly moving from non-stick to clay in the kitchen, as an attempt to stay closer to nature. It was a long tiring day, and I had bouts of motion sickness interruptions all along.

Upwards to Nuwara Eliya

Climbing uphill via train to Nanu Oya on the misty mountains of Nuwara Eliya... some where here Sita was held captive in the Ramayana epic. We spotted a deer too.
The highest point in Sri Lanka, flanked by tea gardens, one may be reminded of Ooty, in Southern India. But this was not Ooty, it was another high range with tea and floating mist-laden clouds. It was the place Sita from Ramayana epic was held captive. Ravana was thoughtful to have kept her here for anyone can be easily wooed here. The nature is at its splendid best. I made three paintings in the following few days spent here, before we returned to Colombo.

See Sri Lanka's flora and fauna here

Things you must do in Lanka:
1. Eat:
a). Slabs of roast paan - A village-style white bread used to mop up dhal or curries, eaten with a spicy coconut sambol or spread with sweet jams. Paan came to Lanka with the Dutch and stayed back for good.
b). Kitul - An ancient sweetener. The syrup is often used as a sweetener in traditional desserts, like kiri peni, a creamy buffalo milk yogurt with palm syrup drizzled on top. Kitul is extracted from fishtail palm trees.
c). Pork and Seafood in Sri Lankan spices. Pork prepared in Northern Island spice traditions is simply out of the world. One could say that for the crab curries with the southern twist too.
2. Shop:
- tea
- earthern ware (from roadside, non-touristy areas).
- go colour blind at Barefoot Colombo and pick everything for self and gifting.
- local spices/spice medicines for your kitchen.
- blue sapphire from authorised dealers.
- Celon arrack - a national brand (or coconut arrack) - gift for whisky connoisseurs.
- Seeds from botanical gardens (the green channel allows carrying them).
4. Watch:
- Kandyan dance (not just because it is ancient and beautiful but your ticket will save this art form from dying out).
- Misty mountains
- Sun rise and set at the majestic Indian Ocean.
- Leaves and fruits at botanical gardens

Things you can skip:
1. Visiting its nature/animal reserves. This will help curb/shut down commercial/untamed human excitement to deplete nature and exploit animals for tourism - like safaris or elephant rides.
2. Buddhist temples. Though beautiful they are chaotic/crowded and not-so-tourist or peace friendly. Skip it especially if you are not much into spiritual curiosity, or from Japan (keen to visit all Buddhist destinations).
3. Ayurvedic gardens. They are a scam like in India and targeted at the western customers. Go to India, if you want some serious ayurveda or yoga learning and keep your research outside the internet, because they are all google-points rigged.
4. Malls. For obvious reasons.

Sri Lanka is a good place to go back for your (5-star spending) money's worth - peaceful, healthy and lot of water - roaring in its oceans and falling from its clouds to drench its mountains. Don't listen to me. Go. See!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Serving and Savouring a Sadya : Indian community dining in its complete spirit

Today I received an sms message asking me to book Vishu sadya and Vishu kani for an affordable amount in the UAE by contacting the given number. And that is how I thought I must amuse myself with this write-up on cooking up a sadya in one's own kitchen no matter how busy you are and how extensive the sadya items seem!

With the great Malayali festival Vishu coming this weekend, the mouth-watering feast or sadya is sure to be eagerly anticipated by anyone who has experienced the grand spread.
A sadya is a traditional feast from Kerala that marks the celebration and is a careful mixture of foods that optimises taste and the health benefits of the dishes.

Ayurveda classifies foods into genres — hot and cold — and designates a time in the day for every kind of food to be eaten.

In traditional households where they adhere to ayurvedic norms, sadyas do not feature non-vegetarian items, as mixing dairy and meat produces harmful toxins in the gut that can result in various ailments, ranging from skin conditions to malfunctioning of organs and nervous system in the long term.

Food is served on green plantain leaf, which when scarred by your nails as you scoop up the dish helps add fresh chlorophyll to your diet, which is highly beneficial for health.
Thottukoottan (those that you touch with finger tips and savour) items are readied two days prior to sadya. Manga curry (mango pickle), Inji curry (ginger relish) and vella naranga curry (white lime pickle) Tcha! ♡

The basic sadya is supposed to stand true as a feast and have every form of food produced in the state — fruits, vegetables, roots/yams, gourds, grains, seeds and dairy. Sadya will have a mixture of fresh and cooked ingredients of every texture — solid, liquid, semi liquid — covering a spectrum of taste — salt, sweet, sour, bitter and spicy. Sadya is served with warm cumin water, which helps digestion.
The big sadya lesson I have learned is that no matter how busy life is, a little planning can do wonders. We lead a work-centric life in the UAE, and many of us are pressed for time after office hours to cook even a simple dinner, so to dare to prepare an sadya spread can seem a challenge. But the good news is that it is not impossible, or expensive.
If you are open to microwave cooking and not too fussy about the traditional procedures that vary across the 14 districts of Kerala, a good sadya can be prepared, even after work or on a working week. But I must confess I threw away my microwave few years back and have understood that with effective planning you will not miss a microwave. 
Luckily for those who celebrate, this time it is on a Friday! UAE's weekend!
Fresh coconut and coconut oil, mustard seeds and curry leaves are must-haves in most Kerala recipe, and plantain leaves are to be used as plates. Start from left to right on the top half of a horizontally laid plantain leaf with the narrow end to your left and serve the dishes in order.
A typical Onasadya comprises the following items from left to right on the leaf: 1) injicurry/ginger relish; 2) narangacurry/white lemon pickle; 3) mangacurry/red hot mango pickle; 4) pachadi/cucumber raita; 5) red beetroot kichadi or white sweet pineapple raita; 6) mezhukkuvaratti/banana-corm-runner beans fry; 7) aviyal/mixed vegetables, made by cooking slender long pieces of corm, banana, drumstick, brinjal, cluster beans, cucumber and ash gourd cooked in a rough gravy of coconut ground with cumin, turmeric, tamarind and garnished with raw coconut oil as well as crushed curry leaves.
Then there is 8) olan/stewed red beans and ash gourd in coconut milk and 9) kalan/thick curd and half-ripe banana stew on the upper half of the plantain leaf. The lower half of the leaf is to be spread with the following dishes, again staring from left to right; 10) upperi/banana wafers; 11) chakkaravaratti/fried banana chunks tossed in jaggery; 12) pappadums, 13) poovan banana fruit. These items are to be confined to the one third of the lower half of the leaf.
The 14) rice, is to be mixed and eaten in courses with 15) paruppu/boiled lentils with a spoon of warm ghee; 16) sambar (the popular fiery dish); 17) pulissery/buttermilk soup; 18) rasam/lentil soup; 19) mor/seasoned buttermilk and finally — 20) adaprathaman/brown kheer made of flat bits of rice dough cooked and mixed with jaggery and coconut milk, flavoured with cardamom powder and garnished with fried cashew nuts, kismis and copra/dried coconut bits.
Of the above dishes, I’d advise you to buy and prepare in advance items one to three and 10 to 13, which will keep well. On the previous day prepare items 9, 17 to 19. And finally on the D-day (or V-day cos it is Vishu ;)) cook items four to eight, 14 to 16, and 20.
Vishu Sadya 2016
***The joy of community dining***

What is community? A place where everyone can find a place, whatever their outlook and beliefs may be. There is an explicit connection between food and love, according to Jean Vanier, in his book Community and Growth. The time when the joy of eating and drinking merge with the joy of meeting people - is a marvellous human moment.

Nourishing this space from where we can create our best work, our best life and share the joy with others is simply brilliant! This is possible when we acknowledge that it is in the stillness of this space where it all happens. This space where all creative expression, peace, light, and love come together is powerfully energising and renders a calming experience. I thank our loved ones for continously helping us deliver our bests.

This Friday, on April 15, 2016 we arranged a Vishu sadya for 23 of our close friends in the UAE. They are truly kind souls who express love in ways I may fail to explain with my limited vocabulary here. I was swamped by help from every direction on the day of the sadya. While I was busy with the chores that belong to the 11th hour - checking and ticking off the list for items that need to go on the leaf - suddenly felt a sense of inexplicable calm taking over me. I noticed that all around me, everybody was finding chores to do, and they were all happily filling in/flowing out magically... from our kitchen to every corner of our home. I was not even sure if I had anything more to do. I felt lucky to savour the joy of happy people busy doing their kind gestures. I was instantly satiated! My heart was lighter and full... and now I was seated too... with 28 items making one after the other to the bight green banana leaf... it was time to savour it along with all this joyous company!

I love sadya!!

Thank you for staying blissful in your abundance and spreading this weightless emotion among your loved ones and beyond. <3
Happy Vishu!
PS: If you missed the Vishu sadya, not to worry... with LuLu around any day can be a sadya day if you are in for some extra action! And follow Blukitchen to stay inspired all year round as well as get some key sadya recipes for free!!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Rainbow of Chaos

In all chaos is the cosmos. There is a secret order in all disorder. Claude Habib's Chaos Mist, is not just an art solo... it is a slice of her soul! Your soul! Only if you look deep enough to listen to the silence. The chaotic silence. That which speaks with with objects tied and nailed, stung and hung, smeared and pulled, to tell the story in more than one chaotic ways.

We are living in an era where everything has simplified itself beyond recognition with the help of fundamental principles, symbols or emojis. This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing. How responsible is our generation in taking account of this momentous transformation of humanity. Will it destroy itself through the might of its own technology and science as evolution is unstoppable? What until then?


"We are because of the chaos. Everything is from chaos. You, me everyone around us come from and are chaos," says C. Habib.

Here are some pictures from last evening's opening.

Beautiful winter night sky over Paris-Sorbonne Abu Dhabi

 C.Habib's solo art show titled Chaos Mist will show until February 20, 2016

Chaos Mist: The artist represents the disorder of order and the cries of calm, in a number of philosophical mixed media artworks that show a complex system with an unpredictable behaviour as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in the inner soul conditions.

Certainty? or Freedom?: White plastic Mask

Goal: This one is my personal favourite... I happened to see brain and spinal chord... all twisted and propped. Almost yelling out that 'you need to shovel out that which lies beneath to reach your goals'.

Water Under The Bridge: She used to hate this but has simply come to accept it.

Untitled: "Sensitivity of tiny changes in initial conditions or seemingly random and unpredictable behaviour that nevertheless follow precise rules appears in many of the models in these disciplines."

Visitors at the venue

Unfinished Painting: "Taking a step forward into nothing and it's just as I am about to fall, support rises miraculously beneath me."


Bluvian moment with Claude Habib, founder of La Parole Art Gallery that was established in 2009. She is a Philosophy graduate with higher education in Painting and Drawing from University of Fine Arts in Beirut. She also has a distinction and certificate in History of Art from the Paris Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi.

C. Habib plants a brilliant new feather in Abu Dhabi's art cap! 

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

‘Enough with Praise and Clapping’

There is much interest internationally on what is going in the UAE's art scene... the West as well as East currently seem to have no direction else to look at right now! This is one of the most memorable interviews I had this year... and of much relevance what I just mentioned... hence sharing it on my blog.

The interview was published the The Boutique Magazine, an independent home grown Emirati magazine that talks about art and design among other topics of aesthetic relevance.  Posting the text below for a closer read:

Interview by Archana RD aka B’lu, an artist-journalist based in the UAE who writes on global art and culture

The Citizen E Art Gallery curator, and one of the most important voices in the UAE's art scene, Jalal Luqman reflects on what lies beneath the 'Art of Word' exhibition

Q. Why the ‘Art of the word’? Please spill the inspiration to the event title and lead us to any current/news relevant events that have had an impact. 

A. When we look at letters regardless of what language or what alphabet they relate to, we get drawn to the phonetic association of the letter, but there is more to it. If we look at letters, or words as images, lines, dots, curves and streaks then we admire the visual element of it. The way a Chinese letter or word may appear to a Chinese is different than an Indian who does not know how to read Chinese, so the Indian enjoys the visual element of the Chinese word, and vice versa.

Q. Could you visualize Citizen E Gallery to become a museum of the UAE through all ages?   

A. No, Citizen E’s function is not that of a museum, Citizen E is an art gallery with an open mind, we work with the established artists, while we support the newcomers who want to learn, we listen when no one else wants to listen and we help when others are to up in the sky to help the small person.  

Q. How would you curate a show that consisted of the peculiar nature of design as the central focus of the art?  

A. If we take the titles away, and we do not pigeonhole practices we will fail to find any difference between art and design. There is no clear definition of art. Also what is design? Is it art with function? So do we mean art has no function? I don’t waste my time categorising the function. I see the raw act of creating and dreaming, regardless of the materials that are used, or what the function of the resulting work is. So in short the answer to your question is - letters and words are neither design nor art, it is the artist or designer who transform the letter or the word to something else.
Q. What do you consider to be your most successful shows from the previous experience? How do you measure success?  

A. Success as a curator or a gallery is the amount of exposure the artist gets, and how much of that exposure translates into sale. Artists like all other humans need money to survive. Enough with the praise and the clapping. So to me one form of success is when we have an exhibition where there are sales. Another more philosophical politically correct answer would be, to consider the exhibition a success if the message in the artwork helps improve the surrounding environment, helps enrich the viewer and to elevate the art and culture society.

Q. Is there a natural connection between calligraphy and the art of the land? 

A. Remember way before language was ever created humans communicated through drawings; they kept historical record of their travels, their lives and their hunting parties, so yes calligraphy in my opinion is closely related to the people of every land. 

Q. Have the ‘general public’ really had as much contemporary art as they can bear in the UAE?  

A. Building an appreciation for art in the UAE is going to take a long time, however attracting the international art love to the UAE will take much less time. There is never enough contemporary art in the UAE, and as long as humankind walks the earth, there will always be contemporary art. And the more the UAE attracts it, eventually the general public will get used to it and grow to learn about it and appreciate it.  

Q. Has the development of the emirate helped you in collecting or exhibiting? 
A. Well as an artist who started before the art revolution of the UAE I believe I had my share of publicity locally and internationally, as a gallery it is great because after a long track record as an artist my gallery gets credibility based on my past experience.   

Q. What was the process of curating the current exhibition – please run us through the story – how the idea came about? Please share if there were any special memorable episodes this time. 

A. It was very simple. I was planning to have a calligraphy exhibition, then I noticed that some of the hardcore calligraphers were too confined to the proper rules and regulations associated with their art, this automatically alienated many artists who produced beautiful artwork which had calligraphic qualities yet did not conform to any rules (very similar to my approach to art, rules and being 'proper'), so I did away with the rules and opened it to anything with a word or a letter of any language and every culture, and the Art of the Word was born.   

Q. Is there a future for such exhibitions?  

A. If we count the applications we received, then yes. They did not stop pouring - I had to stop accepting them very soon after I announced it. However, we are yet to see the viewer’s opinion and that will be known after the opening night.   

Q. How much influence has grass root local history/art movements contributed to your themes and new displays?   

A. I stand at the crossroads of time, I saw the past, I see what is happening now, and based on where I have been and where I am, I have an idea of where we are going, and this is the reason I give particular attention the locally grown artists. When I say the locally grown I mean all artists who are in the UAE, who grew here and became Artists on Emirati soil, because they are the ones who are the true historians of the land, they are the ones who’s art will tell a true story of what happened here hundreds of years from now, yet in this new art revolution where only the new and the foreign is appreciated the locally grown talent will be left behind unless people like me have their back. 

Q. Do you ever get negative reactions to art in show?  How do you counter art criticism?
A. When one has spent as much time as I have in the field, you learn to pay attention to who and what is important, remember every person has an opinion, I don’t have time to listen to negativity - life is too beautiful to waste.  

Q. When you programme your titles, what informs the connection between the collections and topic?    
A. I just keep it simple, something that everyone can understand and relate to.  

Q. When people read Citizen E brand name, do they too often think only of Emirati? Was this challenging?  

A. Not at all, E can stand for Everything on Earth, Emirati or European, you make the E what Ever you want it to be

Q. What’s next project in the pipeline?  
A. To bring back Jalal’s Art Trip in 2017.

Q. What would be your ideal in-gallery photography policy? How much value do you give/associate to photo publicity/campaigns to art events.

A. We are surrounded by snapping pictures and videos, our brains have become accustomed to receiving thousands of images a day, unlike the old days, now we see much more visual garbage that for us to pay attention to what is important swiftly gets buried in our brain by a new pile of visual garbage. My ideal photography policy would be to look at the art and not take a picture of it for at least 15 minutes before you reach for your smart phone to click a picture of it. Teach your memory to preserve the image of the artwork, then after you are done you are allowed to snap away.

PS: Thank you for reading and staying inspired in art all around you!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

While You Are Sleeping

That is the title of this work here below. It is showing at an art exhibition titled “Realism: Two Angles” in Abu Dhabi. 

In this interview, visiting Crimean artists Katerina Spirtus and Andrey Dudchenko, the duo behind “Realism: Two Angles” spill their mind. Katerina mentions the challenges of an artist mother, while Andrey tells how money helps you stay inspired in life. 

Katerina's works reflect occupied Crimea's affected psyche in all areas of life, whereas Andrey's interests perhaps are those... snatched away and approximated moments of fickle life, watching beyond the object’s limits, the tale without words. He attains through his frames a state when the object stops being itself. It becomes the certain abstract physical form, attractive and trembling... the results can be compared to a visual extraction of meditation. His inputs pushes the viewer to a state of inviolability, making the time to stop.

Emerging Crimean artists Katerina Spirtus and Andrey Dudchenko at the opening of their show Realism: Two Angles in Abu Dhabi

Visitors at N2N Gallery in Nation Towers, Abu Dhabi
One of Andrey's works from show. The artist loves the works of Middle Eastern art scene's
emerging Syrian artists Houma Al Sayed and Tammam Azzam.
The visiting artists with Natalya Muzaleva, Founder and Artistic Director of N2N Gallery. The gallery is actively striving to bridge Abu Dhabi to the vibrant and emerging art scene of the Eastern Europe. 

Selected excerpts of the Q&A

Describe yourself in 100 words

Katerina: I have always been interested in art. When I was six I started going in art, so I have been an artist all my life. I like discovering the world and to learn new thing, especially something that I have not done before, like skating or even playing on a piano. I like people so much, they make me fell alive and push me do my art. There is a miracle in my life - my daughter Eve who does not let me stay in one place and who makes me change and grow. After her birth, my paintings are filled with completely different content - they have more peace and wisdom.

(Adds) In my opinion, being a mother and an artist is very difficult task.

Andrey: I am man of creativity and my whole life is about art. My father was an artist and I grew up in an artistic environment surrounded by talented people, so there was no other way for me than to become an artist.
Most of the time I spend deciding on what I should paint. However, once is done decide on my subject, nothing can stop me. Every time I paint, I fall in love with my work. However once it is done I fall in love with the next one. The world is full of interesting things, and it is hard for me to limit myself.

How did you meet each other?
Katerina: We attended the same Art Academy, where we met and fell in love at the age of 17.  We have never been apart ever since; we travel and paint together. Andrey is my support and my inspiration.

What is your future plan?
Katerina: This is the first time that we are visiting the United Arab Emirates and the first thing I am going to do, when I go back home is to express all these new impressions on the canvas.

Andrey: My future plan is a new series of works. I have also been inspired by this incredible country.
How did the UAE exhibition happen and how is it going?

Katerina and AndreyEverything happened thanks to the gallery. The gallery management discovered us and invited us to exhibit our works at Abu Dhabi. The opening night was very nice, with a lot of people from different cultures, with different interests. We felt a strong response to our work. We are deeply honoured to see that people are interested in our work.

What motivates your individual style?

Andrey: The nature and everything around me can get me inspired. The most important thing is to find the form, the image that fit my current mood.

Katerina: People! I like and appreciate all people who coming to my life. They influenced me and in turn I get my inspiration from them. In difficult moments jus a few friendly words are enough to make me take the brush.

Who are your icons and why?

Andrey: In my opinion there is the only one answer possible: the God.

One living person you like to thank

Katerina: I am grateful to my mother and grandmother, who have supported me and still keep supporting me in my endeavours and successes.

Andrey: My father. I was attracted to the fine arts thanks to him. He was and still is my first teacher and my biggest support throughout my career.

Message to aspiring artist

Andrey: The most important thing is to stay focused, to analyze and think. You need to find some expression, the main idea you want to depict through your work. Style will be gradually develop itself through practice.

Katerina: To be a hardworker, not to be lazy. The more you work, the more you think, and the more quality you reach in your work.

Who is your favourite art teacher and why.

Katerina: I’ve had many teachers, and all of them were very talented. They all played an important role in my process of establishing myself as an artist. My most important would probably have to be Professor Michael Guida, a world-renowned artist. He was my main guide in learning the art of portrait painting, and I have learned a lot from him.

Andrey: This would have to be my father, first of all. As I have already mentioned he was my first teacher, and he took the most important role in my artistic path. I have also been learning from well-known artists such are Titian, Greco, Rembrandt.

Most inspiring Middle Eastern artist.

Katerina: The Middle East has offered a particularly unique art to the world which is excellent in its kind. I honestly admire the unique art and tradition of this region. It is very hard to pick only one artist, but if I had to, that would have to be an astonishing Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian.

Andrey: I really appreciate the works of young Syrian artists Houma Al Sayed and Tammam Azzam.

Most inspiring modern contemporary artist

Katerina: Only one name comes to mind: Alexandr Gnilickiy. In order to understand why, just take a look his work.

Andrey: There are many very talented artists all over the world and each country has their own brilliant contemporary artists. That is why is difficult for me to choose only one.

Most inspiring realist artist 

Katerina: I am in love with works Andrew White. He is the master of realism.

Andrey: I have to say that I am not a fan of realism in its purest form. I do adore the works of the American modernist artist Georgia O’Keeffe. She is a part of school of realism, but at the same time her art cannot be considered as direct realism.

Your favourite place to live and work.

Katerina and Andrey (in one voice): Crimea! It is a beautiful place, our homeland and the place where we grew up. It is the place we understand the best and love the most.

What does money mean to you

Andrey: Money is a tool to achieve our independence and to allow our children to build a financially-sound future.

Katerina: I absolutely agree (to Andrey).

What do you think of UAE's art scene.

Andrey: This scene is recognised all over the world for its rapid and dynamic development. We are particularly impressed by the wisdom of its leaders of this country who recognised the economic potential of cultural tourism. They were able to position the UAE on the global art map and surely this position will be even more important in the future.

What do you aim to achieve through workshops in Abu Dhabi

Katerina:  My expectation was to get a new experience and new emotions by teaching a different group of aspiring artist. And I definitely got what I had wanted. First of all, I was pleased by the number of students, and how they were grateful for learning new things and persistent in the learning process.

For more details contact the gallery:
Mobile: +971 50 594 0794
Tel: +971 2 665 9858

The two artists, who are partners in art and love, base their artistic expression in realism, which they interpret in a different way, both iconographically and stylistically. Still, their individual poetics are connected into a common endeavour to achieve a new kind of idealised subjective realism. These similarities and differences will be the backbone of the exhibition setting. The show opened on November 24 at N2N Gallery at Nation Towers, Abu Dhabi. The exhibition will run until January 10, 2017.

Season's best wishes. Thank you for staying inspired in art all around you!

- B'lu