KOCHI: When artist Manisha Gera Baswani began to consciously capture the moments she spent with her guru and mentor A Ramachandran, it wasn’t anything artistic, rather an attempt to bring her reclusive teacher out of his shell.But, the art in her venture was not meant to be lost and what started with her teacher grew, along with it capturing many more artists (or friends as Baswani calls them) in their private spaces.
The over-400 photographs, a labour of 12 years, titled ‘Artist through the lens’ are on display at Kochi Muziris Biennale as a collateral event. “Many think this is an invaluable archive of our artists, but I would rather call it a look behind the ‘art’. I should thank them for indulging me in their precious space,” says Baswani, who recently was in Kochi.
Baswani’s collection captures many of our artistic minds in their raw and natural selves - the shadow of Valsan Korma Kolleri seen beside his work, artist Jyoti Bhatt deep in thought, Anant Joshi in his workspace, Nilma Sheik in a thoughtful moment - the images are ‘art’ in themselves.“Being friends with them is what helped me with my work. I was never an intruder, but was like a ‘fly on the wall’. I was with them and they could carry on with their work oblivious to my presence. This helped me capture them without their artistic baggage in their true spiritual space,” says Baswani.
For someone who started as a painter and then turned into a photographer, Manisha Baswani says creating this invaluable treasure has made her less judgemental and has enabled to view every artist with a ‘beautiful equal gaze’. “Before, I was appreciative of certain artists and their works while some I refused to acknowledge. But, seeing them work and inhabiting in their space has given me a pure view, I can now connect and respect the work of each and every artist. This has made me a better artist too, one with a cleaner and honest mind set. This reflects in my work too,” says she.At the Biennale, ‘Artist through the lens’ is being sponsored by Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and is supported by Saffron Art Foundation.
Baswani says it was a conversation with Riyas Komu at the India Art Fair last year that enabled her to showcase her works here. “Given the audience that visits the Biennale, it would be a good venue to share this,” says Baswani who is still in a ‘beautiful high’ after Biennale experience.
“Such art fests elevate people to a higher level. This experience has enriched me and I think, it has made me a better person,” she says adding that she will be back to Kochi soon.
“I am planning a event for children in Kochi, something that will help them better their visual culture. Children should be taught to observe and see things in a particular manner. I also want to take them to a tour of the Biennale,” signs off Manisha.