Page 10 - Anjolie Ela Menon - Inner Vision
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She then had the opportunity to travel to New York   wash  technique  that  would  later  influence                        Once the artist moved back to India, she got        should be in public spaces. These new monuments
         in the year 1959 and has often stated how          Anjolie’s signature. In the book Women Who Dared,                      engaged to Indian Navy Sub-Lieutenant Raja          of our times are the patrons of great art.”
         impactful that journey was for her. During this    Menon is noted as saying, “Toledo’s dream-like                         Menon,  a  childhood friend.  She  also  took  up
         time, she not only bore witness to the vast and    watercolours had transparency and were full of                         teaching at Lawrence School Lovedale during this    This  first  mural  for  the  Lucknow  Secretariat  was
         diverse  art  collections  of several  renowned    hidden  light.  The  technique  I  have  finally                        time which required her to take up residence in the   created in 1963 and was followed by a
         museums and galleries but was able to absorb the   developed,  though in  oils  on  a  hard  surface,                     Nilgiri Hills. While her time in the hills allowed her to   Russian-themed large-scale work for the Birla
         vibrant culture of Harlem. It resulted in a series of   certainly draws inspiration from that translucent                 create with freedom and release her creativity, she   House in Mumbai. She then went on to execute a
         paintings she created after being invited by Edgar   finish  to  which  I  added  the  patina  culled  from                found  that  teaching  would  stifle  her  personal   mural for the Fort Aguada Taj Hotel in Goa,
         Kaufmann Jr from the Museum of Modern Art to       ancient frescoes.  Though we had  no common                            growth as an artist. Post her marriage in 1962,     depicting Vasco de Gama. The triptych features
         reside in Fallingwater, a house (now converted into   language in which to communicate, there was a                       Anjolie left the school to move to Mumbai and       the explorer surrounded by shields and sailing
         a museum) built by Frank Lloyd Wright.             commonality in our approach to painting and I                          conducted a solo exhibition with Alliance           ships. This led to her being commissioned yet
                                                            think  we  influenced  each  other  greatly,  also                      Francaise the following year. She hosted several    again by the Taj Group to create another mural for
         Upon her return to India, the French Government    sharing the restless arrogance of extreme youth,                       such exhibitions following this, including one show   their Haveli restaurant in New Delhi in 1978. Using
         awarded Menon with a scholarship to study at the   having  been  much  feted  in  our  respective                         of her watercolours made during her overland trip   bits of her fresco training, the artist built a
         Ecole Nationale de Beaux Art in Paris. Living on a   countries at a young age.”                                           through Europe and Asia. This is her only known     beautiful ode to decoration typical of the Mughal
         sparse stipend and trying to prove herself among                                                                          exhibit of works in watercolours to date.           era with the patinated surfaces and colours she is
         other accomplished students, the artist worked     Her incredible use of colour, creating  multiple                                                                           known for.
         tirelessly. While life was arduous and her lifestyle   layers of oils over time to achieve a patina-like                  She moved to Lucknow when her husband went
         frugal, her paintings reflected a certain optimism,   effect,  has  given  her  the  stature  of  being  a                 out to sea for work, and following the birth of her   One of her most prominent works in murals is one
         and her signature melancholia would show up        celebrated colourist. Speaking of her use of colour,                   son, she was inspired to create a series of 1,200   that she executed for New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi
         later. She ended up graduating in 1961 with        she once said, “I hardly draw. I think in colour. Its                  pottery works in various glazes and designs that    International Airport. Resting in the VVIP lounge,
         ‘Premier Mention’, an accolade extended to a few   depth or intensity, translucence or opacity form                       were exhibited in a museum in the city. Her first    the work depicts the Lord Buddha in various states
         students.                                          the nuances of my whole creative output. It is with                    mural followed,  commissioned by the  UP State      of meditation. Another of Menon’s notable
                                                            colour  that one sings, with  colour  that  one                        Secretariat. This would be monumental to the        large-scale projects  was the large train station
         Her time here was also massively influential in her   plummets the depths. When I dream I see colour...                    oeuvre she built in the years to come as the mural   scene created for the Kolkata Metro at the
         works  as  she was  introduced  to  Byzantine and   the overlaying of harmony, discord, syncopation...”                   would not only allow her to use her training as a   Esplanade station. Executed in 10 panels on
         Romanesque art on her travels through parts of                                                                            ‘Fresquist’ to pay homage to Lucknow’s Islamic      fibreglass in 1989, the painting showed everyday
         Europe  and West Asia. Witnessing the cave         Menon chose to return to India by road, along with                     architectural wonders but also help her discover    scenes  and  people  on  a  railway  platform.  She
         paintings of Italy, the Romanesque churches of     her friend Shama Zaidi, first visiting Greece, then                     her love for masonite and employing ink-wash        would go on to create several other noteworthy
         France, and the Byzantium spread over Greece       Beirut, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Iran, among                            effects using oils on it. It would go on to become   murals, including one for the Modi House at Amrita
         deeply moved her. Medieval Christian art elements   other Western Asian countries. She would also                         something that Anjolie would continue to be         Sher-Gil Marg and another for the Welcom Group
         can be seen in her figurative works to this day as   gain inspiration from this journey, doing a series                    indelibly associated with.                          in Baroda. Both of these were inspired by different
         the subjects feature elongated limbs and an        that chronicled her 4-month-long journey over                                                                              regions, the former dealing with South Indian
         averted stare with hollow eyes in the style of     land in splendid intense watercolours, the only                        Menon trained in the art of fresco at Ecole Des     subjects and the latter depicting market scenes
         Modigliani. This, combined with her personal       evidence of her work in this medium. These                             Beaux Arts in Paris, learning the painstaking       and activity of Gujarat.
         experiences of living in France and seeing a vast   sketchbooks featured passing landscapes with                          process of building three layers of plaster, created
         wealth of western modern art, would play a major   barely-seen  figures  or  small  houses  off  in  the                   with river sand and lime, with the last layer being   The  pentaptych  ‘Mutations’  is  another  fine
         role in the art she created during this time.      distance and the people she saw on her travels.                        mixed with water-based paints to make them an       example of Menon’s experiments with refreshing
                                                            Her fortuitous meeting with British archaeologists                     essential part of the layer. This last layer itself   what a mural is seen as. Using computer-aided
         “My  early  work  was  so  influenced  by  early    in  Syria  also  seems  to  have  influenced  her  to                   would take six months to slake, making this         art, she explores five different forms of a woman.
         Christian art, that there were critics who, when I   incorporate elements of the ancient into her                         medium a more intentional and laborious one than    Now at the NGMA in New Delhi, this mural would
         came back from Paris, said what is this Western    works. The mid-1960s saw the arrival of hints of                       the oil paints Menon was used to. The large         inspire many artists to come to use computers to
         influence  in  your  work?  I  had  a  very  Western   melancholy in her work with Christian iconography                   amount of time that the process took would          assist their artworks. ‘Two Faces of Ayesha’, a
         upbringing, I have an American grandmother and     playing an understated role. Although Anjolie                          discourage people in India from commissioning       mixed media on board work, is an example of her
         my mother had died early, so our grandmother       Menon says that she, herself, isn’t very religious,                    her to create one in the country despite her        pentimenti  works.   A   14-panel   work    in
         brought us up. My aunts were also French. My       there is a large body of her oeuvre that continues                     training. However, she was highly sought after for   Vishakhapatnam by the artist would explore
         grandfather was Bengali. We always had             to  be  influenced  by  religious  art,  especially  the                her mural and public works.                         ancient Indian art inspired by the murals seen in
         European food on the table, wherever we were in    ecclesiastical. Among the many religious icons,                                                                            Lepakshi temples. Commissioned by the Life
         India; my father was also in the army so we moved   including Christ, the Madonna and Child has been                      Her interest in allowing audiences visual and       Insurance Corporation of India, the mural is now
         a lot,” Menon once told Open Magazine.             one of her favourite subjects to return to over the                    physical access to her works by placing them in     dismantled.
                                                            years  in  different  forms.  She  was  later  also                    public spaces comes from the need to
         It was also in Paris that Menon met her friend     influenced  by  Buddhist  imagery  and  Islamic                         democratise  art.  She  has been  noted  as  saying,   She  also created  a large  mural for the Mumbai
         Francesco Toledo, a Mexican artist whose works     calligraphy and incorporated them into her                             “Once paintings disappear into private collections,   International  Airport  in  collaboration  with
         were executed with the extensive use of an ink     paintings and glass works.                                             you don’t see them again. I feel the work I do      Australian photographer Robyn Beeche. While the

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