THE JOURNEY 2017-18 BY PREMJISH
One fine day I got a call from Anahita informing that I have been selected for the Art Scribes award. I was happy and at the same time also surprised that I got the award as it is one of the rare awards instituted to encourage art writers and curators in India. The award covered the flight tickets, a generous stipend, food and lodging for free an offer which one rarely gets in the current economic crisis art world is going through. I am really grateful to Prameya Art Foundation and Clews Center for the Arts/La Napoule Art Foundation for this amazing opportunity.
Very soon I was in France, visiting the old Chateau de La Napoule which was hosting me and the other residents who were part of the 2018 arts residency programme. I still remember the first day I reached in La Napoule. It was raining and it was silent everywhere. The sky was grey and in the next few days it started snowing. It was the first snow in 20-25 years which Mandelieu-la-Napoule had seen. and it was my first exposure to a snow fall. The landscape was highly surreal as on the one side there was the French Riviera and on the other side were the lofty Alps mountains. The Chateau located in front of the French Riviera dates back to 14th century and has since then witnessed many important historic events some of which had physically affected the castle. Its fate was changed in the 19th century when two American couple Henry and Maries Clews decided to buy it and settle there. The castle bears the marks of Henry Clews’s artistic impressions especially in the form of sculptures inspired from “oriental” animal figures. We were served served breakfast and dinner in the dining hall of this magnificent building. We ate, discussed, gossiped relishing the beauty of the landscape and the stained glass doors.
Some of the residents were allotted their studios and rooms in the chateau while some of us stayed in the villa next to the chateau. I too got a room facing the riviera but apart from that I was also allotted a studio space for myself. This was quite unexpected as a writer I never had a dedicated space for myself to sit and think. I took this as an opportunity to initiate a conversation with my fellow residents about what does a studio space mean to them. It opened a new set of thoughts about the idea of studio itself. This was one in the series of conversations which we all took part in. It was an enriching experience as they all were from diverse backgrounds.
I had applied for this residency and the award with an intention to further my engagement with art criticism and its history. Being in France meant that I could spend more time to explore the early history of art criticism by exploring the works of Diderot, Baudrillard, et al. and the role of Salons. Being in Southern France has many advantages. First of all it is a beautiful place with cities like Cannes, Antibes, Marseille, Nice, etc. nearby. I spent most of my time visiting Cannes and Antibes to see how the beauty of this landscape inspired a range of artists belonging to the Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist tradition. My focus shifted to studying the role of landscapes in French Art through a psychoanalytical perspective. I regularly visited the museums nearby to see the works of Picasso, Renoir, Manet, and also got the wonderful opportunity to see the works of Fluxus, Yves Klein, etc. In Marseille’s Mucem I was able to see a rare exhibition of Picasso’s costumes and a brilliant survey of the history of photo books. There we also saw the apartment complex Unité d'habitation designed by the famous Le Corbusier. During my stay for one month I could explore all these historically important sites, museums, cathedrals, islands, etc. and also develop my thoughts on art criticism. Some of the evenings I would go for a bicycle ride on the gorgeous Alps with my fellow resident artist Markus. The residency opened up avenues for me to think, write, read, explore and interact with artists on a daily basis. It gave me the time frame to think and work on the topics which I wanted to work for a long time. Also, La Napoule has become part of my memory forever. I am just waiting to return there some day.