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Between Bordeaux and Hyderabad

An international exchange programme has the potential to nudge artists to explore newer realms while presenting their impressions of a region’s people and culture.

French artist Emmanuelle Leblanc spent five weeks in Hyderabad between September and October this year. During the first week, she took in the surroundings, got acclimatised to the people, sounds and colours. “I walked near the Charminar, Chowmahalla Palace, Golconda Fort and Qutb Shahi Tombs,” she says, talking to us amid setting up her artworks at Kalakriti art gallery, for the ‘Vernissage: Plus verte ailleurs’ showcase of artworks that emerged from the cross-residency exchange programme between France’s Bordeaux Métropole and Hyderabad.

The programme was a partnership between Kalakriti, Krishnakriti Foundation and The City Hall of Bordeaux. It was Emmanuelle’s first visit to Asia; meanwhile, Hyderabad-based artist Sunil Lohar explored Bordeaux for six weeks.

A series by Emmanuelle Leblanc

Emmanuelle explains that her paintings shouldn’t be seen as individual pieces but as a continuum. She began the continuing series 12 years ago, and this includes her artistic impressions gleaned from her residency programmes in Germany, Belgium and Italy. Some of her paintings seem like splashes of colours — frames of sunshine yellows, oranges, deep blues and leaf greens. She was a colourist for textile and interior labels before she became a full-fledged artist and this is her take on abstract minimalism. “You can look beyond the colours to soak in sunrise or sunset. It’s up to the viewers,” she says.

Her colour palette has gone through a change since the time she arrived in India, to include burnt orange and leaf greens. Pointing at the frames, she says, “I’ve never used these colours before. I spotted these shades of green in Mughal miniature paintings. And I’ve named by orange painting as ‘orange kesari’,” she remarks with a chuckle.

Emmanuelle Leblanc

Emmanuelle Leblanc  

Emmanuelle sees her work as a bridge between figurative and abstract. She moves away from the usual imagery of arches of Golconda Fort and Qutb Shahi Tombs to take a closer look at “patterns” in nooks and corners: “There are patterns all around us, in still life, architecture, people and animals.” Emmanuelle paints with oil colours on plywood and has done 250 paintings for her continuum series, 24 of them coming from Hyderabad.

She plans to travel to Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi for an Alliance Francaise project, which she plans to showcase next year.

By the slender vines

Sunil Lohar is a practising artist and teaches at IIIT (International Institute of Information Technology) Hyderabad. While teaching art for first year B.Tech students, he has seen how non fine arts students fearlessly question the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the works of master artists. The unhindered discussions made him take a fresh look at art and unknowingly shaped his perspectives when he travels.

A painting by Sunil Lohar

Beyond the picture perfect Bordeaux architectural landmarks, he observed that the economy hinges on tourism and the wine industry. His watercolour series depicts Bordeaux’s landmark monuments as though they are metaphorically propped up by the slender grape vines.

Between Bordeaux and Hyderabad

His large scroll paintings are a mix of watercolours and charcoal on rice paper. “I was in search of legends of Bordeaux. There wasn’t much, unlike India that’s driven by fascinating mythological stories,” he avers. What caught his attention him, though, is the dark history of slave trade Bordeaux was a part of. One of Sunil’s scroll paintings has an ornate door that Bordeaux is known for, hiding its grim history behind its picturesque façade. He depicts how slaves were transported in exchange for commodity. “The art studio in Bordeaux was a little taken aback at this interpretation, but they were gracious enough to appreciate my work,” he says.

(Curated by Ruchi Sharma, Vernissage is on view at Kalakriti till November 15)

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