Autumn Series 2016, Exhibition, North Sydney

I showed my Autumn series of 9 paintings and several art journal pieces, at the North Sydney Community Center, yesterday. It went very well and I am grateful for all the support that I got from friends. I had 11 sales of both paintings and art journal pieces. Quite a few visitors showed up. One of them was Vidya, my classmate from kindergarten, who was in Sydney on work. I told people that she had come all the way from California to my show!

We were at the gallery space the evening before, for set up. The staff at the center were very helpful – they gave me big sturdy easels to prop my four larger works. The five smaller paintings were held up by a hook system. There was a trestle table for the unframed art journal pieces and mixed media prose-poetry manuscripts. I had informed the gallery that I was expecting some elderly guests, so they even provided comfortable chairs for them.

I wore the cowl neck kaftan top that I had stitched from upholstery fabric, for set up. But the exhibition day just didn’t go as planned. I had had just five hours of sleep. It was really cold in the morning and I had a quick dunk-your-head-in-the-bathtub kind of shower. By 7, we were running late – the show was scheduled to open at 8 and we were yet to have breakfast. I grabbed the red maxi dress that I had made, and heels, and shoved them into my backpack, thinking I would go to the gallery and change. Then I whipped out the first thing that I found in my chest of drawers and pulled on a pair of jeans and my good luck charm – a necklace of wooden beads that a friend had made. Sam and I left first, running with our backpacks, my dripping wet hair flying in the wind. By the time we had caught the train and taken the bus, my thatch had air dried into big curly question marks. No comb, so I finger styled it en route to the gallery.

People were already there at 8 in the morning! My 90 year old friend Betty, who paints with me twice a week during her dialysis session at the hospital, thought that my grunge look and bed head hair was perfectly arty and she told me not to change. So the maxi dress and painful shoes stayed in the backpack. All my friends came dressed to the nines though! They teased me at the end of show, asking me to slip into socialite gear and click a few pictures so that the poor dress and heels didn’t feel so bad after all. I was too tired though.

It was a wonderful day, with friends and family and lots of visitors who appreciated the paintings. Many thanks to all my pals, online and off, who supported me so much with their good wishes and messages of love in the past few weeks. Sam, my ten year old ‘agent’, was most efficient in manning the art journal display and engaging the guests. Cheers to the rest of Team Prahlad too – Dada, Immi, Aids, and Ampallama (who made all my fantastic flyers, posters and promotional material and who helped me, even though so far away.) Feeling grateful and loved.

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Design Experiments

I have been designing and sewing my own clothes since the past ten years. I have an exhibition of my new series of paintings tomorrow. It has been so exhausting getting ready for the event. I decided to cheer myself up by making something fun and arty to wear.

The MIL and I were at this fabric heaven called Remnant Warehouse a few weeks back. They had a clearance sale going on and there were some really unusual fabrics. I wandered into the upholstery section and found a jazzy, gauzy, multicolored material. A 5 meter bit piece was going for just 20 dollars. MIL suggested that I buy the piece and replace the old throw on our couch with it. I had a crazy idea. Why not make a bohemian gypsy kaftan top with it!

This is not the first time that I am making clothes with furnishing material. I have made waistcoats and mini-skirts with upholstery fabric. When our dog Mia was a baby, she got super excited one day and jumped at the net curtains and ended up ripping it. I took the curtain down and made it into an A-line maxi skirt with a knee high slit (and a lining of course!). No one believed that it had been a curtain to begin with. My husband makes fun of me. One day I will walk into a party full of people, or a friend’s house, he warns. And I will sit down on the couch with a tall glass of orange juice in my hand. And the couch will be furnished in the same fabric as what I am wearing! That is yet to happen, but it is a scary possibility when I look at the number of clothes that I have in my wardrobe which have been made from strange fabrics from the upholstery section.

The kaftan top was very simple to make. I folded a large rectangle and sewed the sides, right sides up, with space for armholes. Then, I made a large flouncy cowl with the extra fabric and attached it to the neck, after finishing all the raw edges neatly. There was still a bit of fabric left over and I made Sam a large poncho top with it.

The red cowl neck maxi-dress was made from stretch fabric. Two meters cost me a total of 12 dollars ( yes, I do fashion on a shoestring budget!). It was a one hour dress – simple petticoat A-line design with a small cowl attached to the neck. A nice fitted belt and you’re good to go.

Wearing the kaftan top with jeans to the set up at the gallery tonight. The red maxi-dress is for the opening tomorrow!

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The Glass Menagerie

Chinnu skipped up the cobbled courtyard to the old house where Mashi was spreading a large straw mat in the verandah. Mashi smiled and brought out the box of miniature glass animals. They were Chinnu’s favorite toys ever since she had been three years old. On most days of her summer vacation, she would go to Mashi’s house to play with the glass menagerie.

Aami appeared from behind the voile curtains playing with the ruffles on her skirt like a happy little schoolgirl. She was Mashi’s oldest sister. Someone once told Chinnu that Aami was almost as old as Chinnu’s mother. But that hardly mattered. Chinnu thought of her as a fellow ten year old. From time to time, Aami would dip her hand into the wooden box and pick out a tiny glass horse. The rough folds around the corners of her beady, slanted eyes would stretch in delight seeing Chinnu smile. She seemed to know that the horses with their transparent manes, their pouting mouths perpetually frozen in a perfect kiss, were Chinnu’s favorite animals. She could sit for hours holding and arranging the delicate pieces of the beautiful glass menagerie.

“Fresh fish! Sardines, Mackerel!” A shrill voice suddenly rasped through the courtyard. It was the new fisherwoman in the neighborhood. Chinnu had seen her just the day before at her grandmother’s house. The woman set her wares down and ambled up the courtyard with an exaggerated swing of her lungi clad hip. Her lips were stained scarlet with the juice of the betel leaves that she chewed sloppily. She came up to the steps of the verandah and spat into one of the orchid pots. It was then that she saw Chinnu and Aami sitting on the mat.

The fisherwoman looked at Aami, let out a yelp and recoiled, “Ayyo! Creature! Dreadful!”

Startled by the sudden sound, Aami struggled to her feet. She hobbled towards the courtyard, the sunlight bouncing off her large bald head. It glistened like a glazed boulder with its patches of wispy grey hair and mossy brown spots. Then Aami suddenly moaned, making gestures with her gnarled hands. The terrified fisherwoman screamed hoarsely, stepped on a pot and fell.

“Ho! Ho! Relax sister!” laughed the old gardener looking up from his work behind the orchid pots. “It’s just an Idiot. Mun-Go-Li-Yan I-Di-Yet”. He mouthed each syllable loudly with the air of an English professor. “Don’t be frightened, it will not harm you. Haven’t seen one this hideous before, eh? Freak of nature. Won’t harm you though, the brainless beast!” He winked at Chinnu and chuckled.

Mashi came out the door to see Chinnu flinging a fistful of glass animals. They hit the gardener in the face like a shower of tiny diamonds. Some broke and scattered, tinkling on the cobblestones like little bells.

Mashi grabbed Chinnu’s hand and slapped her sharply across the face. “What has gotten into you! Are you crazy?” she barked. She looked at the bewildered gardener who was holding his mouth. “Baba. Are you alright?”

The glass had nicked him. The fisherwoman was up on her feet again and was dusting her sore bottom.

Mashi stared at Chinnu, her face distorted with anger and disbelief. “You apologize to him right now. How could you do such a horrid thing? Why?”

Aami had disappeared behind the voile curtains into the house. She was still moaning. The gardener and the fisherwoman watched in dumb anticipation, their faces tense. Chinnu’s cheeks puffed up and she slowly met Mashi’s blazing gaze. She grabbed her slippers and ran down the courtyard, grinding a shard of broken glass into the cobblestones.

© Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad 2016
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Three of my white horses from my series of horse paintings:

 

White Stallion
Acrylic on board
60″X60”

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Detail of galloping horses
Acrylic on canvas
20″X24″

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Serene
Acrylic on canvas
36″X30″

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The Prahlad Gift Hamper

For many years, I have been gifting my friends handmade things for birthdays, weddings and other special occasions. I have always liked the idea of personalized gifts. They may not be fancy like store bought gift options, but I like the personal touch and the sentiment attached to them. Besides, I thoroughly enjoy surprising people with gifts!

I am going to a baby shower today! I have known the mom-to-be, for a while now. We moved from Bangalore to Singapore around the same time. And now, we are here again in the same city in Oz, a few suburbs apart on the same train line! She’s expecting a girl, so I followed an online tutorial and made a pair of newborn baby girl’s shoes and a pillow. My mom-in-law, who is currently visiting us, is an avid knitter and she made the most exquisite woolen sets for my kids when they were babies. MIL said that she would like to make baby booties and a bonnet for my friend’s baby. Now Vivek and the kids did not want to be left behind, so they said that they wanted to make some small things too. So, Samarra stitched a baby head band with a rose, Vivek made the origami animals ( we’ll ask mom and dad to stick them in the crib, baby) and Aiden volunteered to make the card that goes on top of the hamper.

So here they are, the little handmade things in the Prahlad Gift Basket, for a precious baby girl who will debut in a few weeks!!

Here is Aiden’s note to the baby:

“ Dear Baby, Welcome to the world. The world is a very fun place. It is a beautiful thing. You will see wonderful stuff around you. Have a phenomenal life. I will come and play with you. My dad is very good with babies. He will come and babysit you. Love, Aiden”

 

The Prahlad Gift Hamper

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I made some cloth shoes

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Sam’s baby head band

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Grandma Aruna at work on baby booties and cap

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Baby head band

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Finished booties

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Cap and booties set

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Dada the origami enthusiast

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Aiden’s letter to the baby 🙂

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Five Autumn Haikus

Ruby, umber, gold
Fallen leaves in whirling dance
Pall like, falls the cold.

~

Blemished apples blend
Into the brown of the grass
Harmony in death.

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Magpies’ black and white
Dot the red thread tapestry
Rust carpet rustles.

~

Mist of evening rain
Smoothing down the yellow elms
Scent of sweet decay.

~

Ravens in the fog
Perched on bare balding branches,
Watch daylight dwindle

© Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad 2016
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Two autumn paintings from my Odes to Common Things series. The first one is of the maple tree outside my son’s classroom. The second one is a tree in Roseville, on my daily walking route.

 

Maple
Acrylic on canvas
18″18″

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Red
Acrylic on canvas panel
18″X18″

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Transforming Chance Finds

On most weekends, Sam and I go on long walks together, up in the northern suburbs. We usually trek across two suburbs and one of our favorite fun activities is looking for ‘chance finds’. We keep a lookout for interesting odds and ends – metal pieces, twine, marbles, glass bits, wood chips, pebbles, leaves and twigs. If we find any of these, we bring them back to the studio and then think about how we can make them into interesting crafts.

Sam and I once found tiny round pebbles with smooth surfaces, and we thought it would be a great idea to paint cats on them. We used a fine brush and acrylic paint to fill in the fur patterns. After we made three sleeping kittens, we thought they needed a mommy around. One of the larger stones from our bag of junk, became mommy cat.

Last fall, we collected a whole bunch of dry leaves. We pressed them in heavy books and waited until they were completely flat. Then we applied white glue to one side of the leaf and pasted card paper onto it mkaing sure that there were no air bubbles. When the glue dried, we cut off the excess bits, following the edge of the leaf. Once the leaves were thoroughly dry, my kids painted patterns on them. We had ‘more than a hundred of them and we gave away some to friends. We used the rest to decorate their bedroom walls, used some as bookmarks or generally left them lying around. They were so pretty, they cheered up any surface.

Another time, we were waiting at a bus stop when we saw some really pretty weeds by the sidewalk. I remembered that I had issued a book on printmaking from the library. Sam and I gathered a whole assortment of weeds that day. Back at the studio, she and her brother applied a thick layer of acrylic paint on a flat palette. Then they pressed the weeds down, using a tweezer. The weeds were then lifted and pressed onto white paper. They printed some really delicate patterns that day, which they later made into thank you cards for friends.

 

 

Painted stone mommy cat

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Stone Kitty

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Found some pretty weeds. Now to print them!

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Sonny boy dips weeds in paint.

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And prints them!

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Printing with weeds, paint and tweezers

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Dried leaves for painting

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Leaves backed with paper and painted with patterns

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Pretty designs

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For Uncle Venu

 

They walked through
labyrinth like lanes, littered
With the yellow,
Of sweet oleander,
Crossing a creek on a rickety snake boat,
Skimming a slow rivulet that led
To the wild white beach
that their uncle, with his smiling eyes
had promised, they would love.
She and her brother
Dangled from his arms, swinging,
A spring in their step,
Listening to the far away throb
Of mighty ocean
Drumming the shore.

It loomed into sight,
Blistering, glinting in the midday sun
Burnished beads of bright burnt silver
bouncing off the skin of rolling water.

The little one; with no sense
Of dimension or scale,
Ran squealing,
His arms stretched out
At the sight of the surging froth.
And a head of waves rose fangs first,
Crashing savagely,
Gouging the earth beneath his feet.

They gasped in stupefied horror
As the mass returned to the sea,
The little one gone
in its confusing whiteness.

The next torrent brought him back,
Caterwauling,
Riding the head of swarming foam.
And he grabbed his uncle’s arms
Hearts pounding wildly
As the sea teasingly receded again,
Having enjoyed its joke,
Waving a smug finger in their faces.

The stunned brat, he chuckled
While his sister looked cross –
In this rescue drama,
The sea had taken her new pink sandals
And it hadn’t returned them
The way it had, her brother.

Their uncle laughed
Above the din of crashing water,
Relief, in his smiling eyes.
They had seen enough of the sea for the day
they said,
And they turned back, tracing their way
Past rivulets and lingering pathways
Of strewn oleander,
Stopping at a shoe shop in
Where he bought her flip-flops,
Snazzier than the pair the sea had claimed.

Standing two decades on,
On the smouldering hot sands.
She muses
About a pocket in time that holds
Echoes of that white hot afternoon,
Of meandering lanes,
shed oleander,
Memories of waves and pretty sandals,
Of an uncle in his youth,
His laughter ringing above the crash
Of metallic waves,
A remembrance
Of his smiling eyes.

A soul that prematurely departed,
At the age that she was now.

© Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad 2016

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Sharing three paintings of the sea, from my Odes to Common Things series

 

11.5″X7.5″
Acrylic on card

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11.5″X7.5″
Acrylic on card

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11.5″X7.5″
Acrylic on card

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Identity

I wiggle identical sawdust copies
of my father’s rose pink toes,
Caress soft waves –
A paler imitation
Of my mother’s dense dark ringlets.
Irises deep sienna, like hers,
Fingers tapering, long, like his.
His features set,
In the bones of her oval face.

I trace within me –
Grandma’s culinary improvisations,
Nervous impatience,
Curious compulsions.
My aunt’s absurd eosinophil count,
Pineapple allergy,
Pollen dread,
Reptilian birthmarks and solar rosacea.

Grandpa never held a paintbrush,
But he wrote like a calligrapher.
No one ever saw piano keys,
But a great-uncle did die mid-song,
Crooning at a temple concert.

When it’s not great-granddaddy’s mania
Striking at times,
In the form of four paintings in one night,
It’s the dear aunt’s deep, desperate despondency,
Sinking cold talons for weeks,
that occasionally comes to dwell,

Imprints in every sinew and bone –
Both the joyous and the disquieting,
I trace the blueprints of who I am
In the ones whose blood
Flows in me.

(c) Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad 2016

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On my 28th birthday, in a really bizarre coincidence, both Vivek and my brother who had flown in from the opposite ends of the world, bought me the same gift – identical coffee table books with beautiful photos of Vincent van Gogh’s works.

I gifted one of them to my kids much later. My younger one, flipping through Vincent’s self portraits asked me, “Mamma, is Vincent van Gogh your dad?”

Now I can’t tell you how delighted I was to hear that! The more I thought about what my son had said, the more it struck me that there was indeed an uncanny resemblance there.

So I dug up some old photos of my dad through the years. I noted with amusement that he had looked like Rob Zombie at one point, minus the dread locks. Then there was the Captain Haddock phase followed by the ongoing Mehmood Ahmedinejad look. My prediction is that when he becomes a grand old man, he will look like Prince Michael of Kent (Ok ma, you can stop rolling your eyes now!)

Sharing two portraits that I made of my parents, three years ago. In my dad’s painting, I have aped Vincent’s strokes, swirly background, turquoise and orange color palette and given him the sombre expression that is so not him but is so typically Vincent.

I rarely sketch with charcoals, but when I do, I only draw my mother – her amber eyes just come alive in charcoals. She is my muse and I have made several portraits of her. This one is my favorite though. This is how she looked in 1981, aged 28.

 

mom

Ambily
Charcoal on paper
20″X24″

 

 

 

 

dad

“Van Gogh Panicker” Vijayakrishnan
Acrylic on paper
20″X24″

 

Before The Rains

By the river’s edge,
I dab smooth swatches
of mauve sky.
The banks in the distance
seem to rise and fall,
Like floating docks.

Then the smells change,
the sounds change.
Roosting hawks screech from the sycamores.
In a rapid whirl of wind
and billowing leaves,
Sparrows hide in the thickets.

I kneel on the creaking boardwalk.
And watch the blues become greens become slate.
I won’t make it.

I close my eyes and
the skies lash open…

 

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South Bank, Macritchie,
Acrylic on card,
6″X8″
En plein air

 

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