Monotype Printmaking – New year in Old India
Tonight I will be attending the opening night of my featured artist show at the Glasgow Print Studio, titled New Year in Old India. I wanted to use printmaking, particularly the medium of monotype printmaking, as it reflected the hand-made element of the everyday art discovered on my trip in January 2018. India was a vast country of overwhelming experiences and choosing what to to portray about this exotic and crazy country was once of the biggest problems. There were the colourful people and buildings, the cows and animals everywhere on the streets, the amazing food, the mix of religions, the Ganges river and all the activity around it, but the one element that stood out was that we had happened to be travelling during the Indian New year.
On the 14th January we were meant to fly from Chennai (madras) in the south of India to Varanasi in the north, via Hyderabad. The airport was in chaos as the planes could not fly due to the extreme amount of smoke hanging over the city (here is my husband’s more detailed account of that). The smoke was from everyone spending all night, burning their unwanted and old possessions, as is the tradition on new year’s Eve. In the south New year is called Pongal and revolves around festivals where a porridge meal in consumed in vast quantities. We arrived in the north, a day later than planned, and found the festival was called Maker Sankranti there and was celebrated with the frenzied flying of kites.
In the ancient city of Varanasi, pilgrimage capital for Hindu people, there were kites everywhere, hanging in trees, from lamp posts, power lines, in the river and even draped on the animals in the streets. The evenings were the time that mainly young men, would congregate on the rooftops to try and capture each other’s kites in a power game. One man tried to tease a monkey with his…the monkey won! There was a real party atmosphere with music playing and the flutter of kites in the breeze, while the skies turned from blue to orange, as the sun set over another busy day.
For my show, I have created a wall of monotype prints that tell the story of the kite flyers, of how they fly their kites for fun, but also in a bid to fly the highest (the higher the kite, the higher the ambition of the owner) or to capture an opponent’s kite in a viscous cutting manoeuvre, involving the use of a deadly glass coated string called Manja. I wanted to portray the beauty of the scene above Varanasi on those evenings, but also to tell the story of the detrimental results of man chasing his desires.