Looking through the lens

Looking through the lens

Photography workshop

The Jor Bagh metro station from today will display three prominent works of French artist Pascal Monteil that seek to explore and reinterpret Persian and Indian miniature traditions. But on Saturday, enthusiastic and amateur photographers will get a chance to get a masterclass from Monteil in a workshop ‘The World Upside Down: Modes of Representation in The East and the West’ where he will discuss world art histories and their modes of representation.

The coincidental happening of these events is part of a stragetically-planned initiative by India Habitat Centre’s year-long photography festival titled ‘Habitat Photosphere’ and this international workshop is the first in the series.

Monteil employs a different technique called ‘digital painting’ in his works where photography and painting come together. He then adjusts, superimposes and revises images on computer to create images that fall between the line of surreal and real.
“For the last 20 years my work has been to undermine walls between painting and photography. But for me it is painting. Photography only provides components. The ultimate goal is the painting and the emotion it creates with its photographic appearance,” he tells Metrolife.

“Years after years, traditional painting has been increasingly entering in my work... sometimes substituting the photographic components I used before. I am not
a photographer capturing the instant, as my works require three years of development and execution in most of the cases.”

Of the three displayed works, Monteil shares “Eden” is his “most Indian work
made till date”. He has been connected with India ever since he started his artistic journey and had viewed Indian landscape through the frames of western photographer which he thought were descriptive, but boring. However, his perception about India changed completely when he discovered a series called ‘Kolkata’ made by Raghubir Singh.

“India fosters my artistic creation,” he says. “‘Eden’ for me is a mountain for spiritual refugees. It is a tribute to what I learnt from India — the coexistence of multiplicity of thoughts, of spirituality, of approaches and ways to live which may be in contradiction with each other.

Alka Pande, curator and art consultant, Visual Arts Gallery describes Monteil as an “incredible storyteller”. “These imagined  landscapes  emerge  from  his  lived experiences  and  his  training  as  a painter. A  peripatetic  traveler,  his  paintings  are replete  with  historical  and  cultural  references. He through  his  lyrical  renditions  tells  stories  about  his  travels,  which  he  takes  from  time  to  time,”
she says.

Taking the participants on a beautiful journey from Rome to Tokyo and Lahore to Fatehpur Sikri, he would share anecdotes from his personal journey and would discuss specific paintings. “The workshop proposes a reflection on various art histories - the Japanese lithography, the Indian and Persian miniature, the Western painting.”

“Artistic choices made at the same period of time - 13th/14th century — by painters in Lahore, Tokyo or Firenze were very different, not technically, but due to their philosophies that we're moving them. The world was not represented with their retinas but with their spirit. This is the heart of my researches and this workshop,” he says. With the onslaught of mobile phone camers, everyone these days claims to be a photographer. This, in many ways, has diluted the essence of being a photographer. But Monteil feels “what defines the photography is not the ability to take a photo, but gaze and thought.”

“Photography may embrace a vast diversity of approaches, from staging approach to instant photography. One can make powerful works using photography, painting, sculpture or even textile. What is important is the ambition you are implementing. Medium used is of little importance and photography is an appropriate
medium to think the world,” he says.

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