Occupying Facebook with Art

There is a meme going around on Facebook where you post a famous work of art as a status update, and everyone who likes the post is assigned an artist and has to choose another work of art to post on their timeline. I got to know of it via Bhooshan, and posted this one:

A great example of impressionistic painting – instead of photographic detail, the focus is on capturing movement and the *changing* play of light – both of those have come through beautifully here.

As a result of this, 42+ people liked it, and a bunch of those actually continued the chain and posted some lovely paintings. I decided that it was all pretty enough to capture in a blog post, so here goes the list. The caption under each picture is taken from the comments of the person who posted this painting.

Bhooshan’s painting that started it all for me:

I like the visual texture of this painting.

And here are the various people who posted things in response to mine:

BVHK posted this:

The Supper at Emmaus is a painting by the Italian painter Caravaggio who is known as an exponent of Baroque painting. I’m posting this because a. I found this painting very realistic b. Caravaggio is well-known for his use of lighting and I noticed the shadows etc. in this painting c. Caravaggio seems to be a very interesting character d. According to the Wikipedia page, “Caravaggio had a noteworthy ability to express in one scene of unsurpassed vividness the passing of a crucial moment. The Supper at Emmaus depicts the recognition of Christ by his disciples: a moment before he is a fellow traveler, mourning the passing of the Messiah, as he never ceases to be to the inn-keeper’s eyes, the second after, he is the Saviour.” and for a change, I sort of ‘got this’ So was very kicked about it.

Dhananjay Nene did a photograph instead of a painting:

This is a second in a series of six photographs of Rhein. There is something very special about the photograph. If you want to take a break and try to come up with some guesses, now is the time to do so without reading any text below. I’ll soon give away why this is a special photograph.
What is special about this photograph. Frankly it seems like a bland photograph. But it is an art created by subtracting rather than by adding. There is a substantial amount of editing that has gone into it including to remove dog walkers and a factory.
Something more curious about this photograph .. **drumroll** this is the most expensive photograph ever. A print was sold for $4.38 million. More details at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhein_II

Dipali Ekbote:

I choose today, Vincent Van Gogh’s Sorrowing Old Man (‘On the Threshold of Eternity’). As Van Gogh’s works go, this one’s very different in its brush strokes and the lack of vivid bright colours and depictions of several outdoor themes.
I first got fascinated with Impressionist art when, as a child, I found Camille Pissaro’s biography at my uncle’s house and loved it and the art for its lively, at times surreal form.
Van Gogh, a strong Post-Impressionist artist brought his own unique style of painting to what he saw but infusing it with the emotion of his mind. And what a mind it must have been. Living with acute and prolonged periods of mental illness, and being able to create the prolific works of art that he did, especially in the last years of his life. I think this work, completed two months before his death, depicts the artist’s anguished state so well. He chose to title it with “On the Threshold of Eternity” clinging to his faith in existence of a higher self and an eternity.
Don McLean brings Van Gogh to life in the absolutely wonderful song “Vincent” – a personal favourite. Do listen to it if you haven’t heard it yet. http://www.vangoghgallery.com/painting/starrynightlyrics.html

Neena Kamal:

Raja Ravi Varma was an Indian artist from the princely state of Travancore (presently in Kerala) who achieved recognition for his depiction of scenes from the epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. His paintings are considered to be among the best examples of the fusion of Indian traditions with the techniques of European academic art.
This painting is called Jatayu Vadham and the scene is from Ramayana. I personally loved the detailing in this one! Loved the way falling feathers, different emotions are captured.

Koushik Sekhar:

One of my favourite paintings is by Raza. I dont know why I like it – maybe I like round objects . It was my screensavers/wall paper for years.

Kanchan Pant:

Diego Rivera a mexican artist. Someone who’s style of large sized fresco paintings and murals I have loved. I love the warm colors of all his paintings and murals. Bold, simple and yet dramatic http://www.diegorivera.org/flowercarrier.jsp. I like the irony of this painting where there is beauty…there is also burden. You almost wait for that moment when the man is going to rise with the basket on his back.

Sarika Phatak Paranjape:

Presenting one of the not so popular art piece – Van Gogh amendoeiras, 1890, by the very famous Vincent Van Gogh. I dont know anything about art but it gives me great joy every time I look at this painting. The composition is fantastic. I aspire to look outside the window of my house one day and see beautiful blossom like this with blue sky and nothing but calm around me. To me, great art is something an art illiterate like me would look at and fall in love with!

Makarand Sahasrabudhe:

It was a difficult choice to make but I picked this one as an example of incredible attention to detail and an understanding of how reflections on a spherical surface work. I had the privilege of seeing this lithograph at the Escher in Het Paleis recently. A reflecting sphere hangs in the Palace and once can actually hold it like Escher did and see the room behind. Drawing what one sees is out of question…

Ankur Panchbudhe:


Here’s an art work I have liked for a long time – Velazquez’s Las Meninas – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Las_Meninas It’s a painting of a royal household, maids of honor (“las meninas”) to be specific, but it’s very real, sympathetic and elusive. It also has that portal-ish feel, as if the viewer of the painting actually disturbed the proceedings and made everyone to look at him/her.

Asmita Jagtap:


“The Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer Vermeer was a dutch painter who specialised in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. I find the picture intriguing, it seems as though the girl wants to say something but is hesitant and doing so with her eyes. This was one my very first encounters with art, about 15 years ago, and remains to be a favourite. I had made a pencil sketch of this, except there were no lips drawn, to highlight the hesitation. Will try to share if I find it (in the attic) Read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girl_with_a_Pearl_Earring http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Vermeer

Keep checking this page for updates for the next few days.

Talking to kids about Hinduism

There's a brilliant article by Devdutt Pattanaik on Hinduism and children, and is a must read for anybody who's interested in religion and are likely to be discussing this with kids. I think a lot of people end up treating kids as idiots when talking about religion in general, and Hinduism in particular, and consequently I think it is not surprising that kids go away with a very poor impression.

Devdutt gives a very sane and wise take on how best to do this. You should read the whole article, but here are some excerpts to get you interested:

What are some of the things a parent can do to get their child curious about their religion and culture without actually forcing them into learn about it?

By making the rituals fun. Rituals are about doing things. Rituals are choreographed to connect with us symbolically. Making rangoli can be fun. Cooking prasad can be fun. Doing puja – bathing the image, dressing it up, feeding it, singing songs to it – can be fun. The child will notice that the fun is associated with a deep reverence. Then he will question. Often this the point where parents turn rituals into "holy cows" and lose the opportunity to help their children gain an understanding of their cultural world.

My own moment of understanding of this point came when I read in my history books that Lokmanya Tilak pushed the whole 10-day, community Ganesh celebrations concept in Maharashtra as a way for getting people together and strengthening community ties. At that point I suddenly realized the social value of religion, and hence I've always been very supportive of the less stupid rituals and festivals, inspite of the fact that I don't really believe in God.

My other pet peeve about popular Indian religious writing is covered by the next question:

When it comes to Hindu mythology, there are either over-simplified books (geared towards kids) and there are the scholarly tomes. Neither is a good fit for a curious young person who needs something in between they can read independently. What kind of books would you recommend for them ?

My books! I became a writer because I saw this gap. Often the answers are not what the parents expect. The problem is that authors are burdened by wanting to make Hinduism look nice. The measuring scale is that of other religions. As a result writing becomes apologetic and defensive. People are trying but often I find writers have a poor understanding of the subject and so are unable to appreciate the complexities and so end up with awkward prose.

Try explaining the idea of Krishna surrounded by hundreds of milkmaids doing Raas Lila to a child. Are those girls, Krishna's friends? So is it ok for a boy to have many girlfriends? Are those girls his wives? So is it polygamy? Rather than answer such blunt uncomfortable questions, some writers escape into metaphysics – using words like Paramatma and Jivatma which, unless you are a believer, sounds like gobbledygook.

This really makes me want to go and buy Devdutt's books. I've already read his "Myth = Mithya" which I think is a great book. I'm now going to go and check outwhat else he's written.

On a related note, many years ago, meetu and I were browsing in Crossword, and decided to buy the entire set of Amar Chitra Katha comics they had. At that time, we did not have children, so this was sort of an impulse buy. Years later, now that I have children, I'm really glad we did that, because I read Amar Chitra Katha stories to my children at bedtime. And we have lots of fun discussions. From stories of ancient India (Ramayana/Mahabharata), to Shivaji and the Marathas and the Mughals, to the Indian freedom struggle, they are a great source of brilliant stories that kids absolutely love.

So you can imagine how glad I was when I saw this advice from Devdutt:

Do you have any recommendations for daily reading that may help a young person to navigate with greater confidence through their life – specially when the world outside is very dissimilar to the world inside their homes ?

Step 1: Read the Amar Chitra Katha. Step 2: Discuss the stories and don't let the comic be the end. Discussion is the key. Stories are to be told, not read. Step 3: don't reach a conclusion, don't justify, don't apologize, don't defend … just try and understand why the story was told by our ancestors.

Read the whole article.

Posted via email from Navin’s posterous

Announcement : The sad demise of Youth

This was just written by a friend of mine (who is turning 45 this July). Blogging it without comments (some identifying details have been redacted):

Dear All
I regret to inform you of the passing away of my Youth yesterday. The end finally came at 10 am on 6th April 2010 when the diagnosis of impaired glucose tolerance (a kind of pre-diabetes state) and a bizzare lipid profile were confirmed.

Some of you knew my Youth very well, others had only recently become acquainted. Youth took charge of my life in1982, when I joined medical school in Xxxxxx, India. Youth took over from a reasonably co-operative and shy Adolescent who had done nothing remarkable during the preceding 8 years. It was a heady time, and Youth had little time for niceties. Youth started by re-writing the rule book and throwing out all existing rules and limitations. Youth introduced me to a world of late night parties, drinking excessively, driving recklessly and missing classes in the medical school. Hangovers became a very common occurrence, and heartbreak was the order of the day. Youth was also highly principled and believe in old fashioned concepts such as liberty, fraternity and equality. This led us to get involved in multiple disastrous challenges with the Authorities, who at once stage even issued arrest orders for Youth's involvement in a strike by resident medical officers at XXX Hospital, Xxxxxxxx.

Youth finally took me to UK in 1991 and I had an excellent time in London over the next 8 years. During this time, Youth became quite disciplined and we managed a few important acquisitions – in 1995, Youth spearheaded our acquisition of the Membership of the Royal College of Xxxxxxxx and 1996 saw us acquire the Xxxxxxxx fellowship.

London also saw the birth of Xxxxxxxx, my first son, and many felt that this would finally slow down Youth, but these fears failed to materialise. Youth continued to be as irresponsible and care-free as before, taking  momentous decisions with very little preparation. One example of such behaviour was returning  to India from UK in 1999 with no stable job and no plan of what to do in life.

The last ten years have been a difficult period for Youth, with the ongoing battle with Middle Age for control of my life. However Youth continued to sparkle and there were many an irresponsible and gay night when Youth was completely in charge and there was not a hint of maturity or responsibility around.

I hope we will all remember Youth as this positive, irresponsible, reckless, cheerful, optimistic character who defied all odds and was up to all challenges. His passing will be missed by me and I am sure by many of my friends.

In view of this sad incident, Middle Age has now taken charge of my life and will be responsible for all future decisions on my behalf. Some of you may be well acquainted with Middle Age while others have only seen Middle Age from a distance. Let me assure you that Middle Age is a very responsible, stable, level headed person and I am certain that I am in safe hands. I hope you will extend all support to Middle Age during this difficult transition as you have always done so in the past.

As you all know very well, we are now on the home stretch and Middle Age is only temporary arrangement for the next few years, until more permanent and final arrangements are confirmed.

sadly yours

ps. as per centuries-old tradition, a Wake will be organized at my residence on XXth July 2010 to celebrate the passing away of Youth. You are all invited to attend and remember our dear old friend in an atmosphere of gaiety  and fun. I am sure this is the way Youth would have liked us to remember him. Please do not forget to get your own poisons – alcohol, cigarettes, or any other addictive substance that you are in love with. The Wake will end only when the last member of the group has passed out.

Posted via email from Navin’s posterous