Home Art/Culture Even Stones Can Speak! An exhibition by Yajanika Arora

Even Stones Can Speak! An exhibition by Yajanika Arora

An artist ‘finds’ herself while sketching historical ruins

By Bushra Alvi, TwoCircles.net

New Delhi: “Each stone has character, a story to tell, a mystery behind it, maybe some sorrow hidden within its crevices,” says artist Yajanika Arora whose solo exhibition, Shahar-e-Dilli is on at India Habitat Centre.

The exhibition is a collection of sketches of monuments of Delhi which Arora has made over the past 3 years. What is special about the sketches is that the artist has not depicted the monument as a whole but whatever nooks and corners or pillars and arches she found most interesting.

She chose to sketch ruins rather than modern buildings as she is intrigued by them. “I love old stuff, cracked stuff. Old things have so much character. Just like every line on your face tells a story, so do rocks. They also have a personality. For me rocks are like a living thing. Rocks have a certain kind of pathos especially broken rocks yet they are so arrogant and full of character. You can’t just ignore them. They are so strong; they have stood for centuries and will continue to do so. Basically I feel they talk to me and I listen to them.”

The artist is passionate about history especially the history of Delhi which is so absorbing.

Yajanika Arora at the exhibition

Arora, a Broadcast Media Professional, studied Applied Arts from Faculty of Visual Arts, BHU and went on to specialize in Desktop Motion Graphics. She has worked in a TV production house for several years and thereafter set up her own production studio – Design Access. She has worked mainly for IMG-TWI, National Geographic Channel, ESPN, Star Sports, Ten Sports, DD Sports and ZEE Sports.

Arora has been sketching since childhood but her work demanded that she sit more at the computer that at the easel. She picked up a pencil after a gap of 16 years. Her return to this form of art was a part of the process of healing, a form of therapy. Arora disclosed that a few years earlier she had suffered from severe meningitis with sixth nerve palsy which complicated her case even further. She was bed ridden for two years and almost blind for 9 months. Even though she recovered well there were dips of depression.

“I had been on steroids for three years and underwent brain surgery too. I didn’t know how to string my life together again,” said Arora. Encouraged by her husband and other family members she started sketching again. It was never meant to be a collection for display but simply sketches that would help restore my confidence. It worked like a therapy for me. “Earlier I felt as if I was living in a vacuum, a dark black hole where I didn’t want to reach out to anyone. One picture took about a month to complete. Even after I recovered I wasn’t energetic enough. I would get fatigued easily, but the strange thing is that while sketching I would never get tired. My passion for what I was doing gave me this energy.

This helped me to come out of the big hole into which I had fallen.” She used to spend ten hours a day sketching.

Talking about her sketches she says that on trips with her children to Mehrauli Archaeological Park and Lodi gardens she had taken pictures of different corners and angles of the monuments and this is what she had with her to get her started. Most of the pictures were taken in the late afternoon. Referring to these on her iPad, she made the sketches.

Corridor in Old Fort (One of the sketches in the exhibition).

The first in this series was Agrasen ki Baoli. The drawings have been made with glass marking pencil, a medium she experimented with during college as she discovered the depth of the picture was very good. The pencil is very delicate and crumbly and also very sticky. It takes about one or two blades per pencil. The method applied is not lines or shading but creating the picture with innumerable dots and strokes no more than 1 mm. This is very intricate work requiring a lot of details making this a tedious process which requires great concentration and focus by the artist. As the work progressed she could feel it come alive on paper. On completing each sketch she felt elated; an immense sense of satisfaction on having accomplished something

Over a period of three years she made a set of thirty sketches. She used only black and white tones as she says this goes well with history and she feels it captures the character of the buildings well.

In another exhibition to be held in September, Arora looks forward to displaying a collection which covers more monuments from all over Delhi. If one were to sketch monuments only in Delhi, one lifetime is not enough says Arora. The history of Delhi fascinates her. It is like the proverbial Phoenix, ravaged and destroyed many a times, nevertheless it rises and here is where Arora draws a parallel to her own life.

One would imagine she has some training in architectural drawing but Arora disclaims that.
“In Art College you are given a project and they let you deal with it according to your perspective. You are not taught anything. It’s like looking within and doing it. So each artist has his or her own perspective of a certain thing. It’s basically visual.

For me this was a miracle as I was waiting to ‘see’ things literally and use my hands. When you are a healthy person and then go through a phase like this you get sensitive about everything, grateful for everything. The fact that I am standing here talking is such a big gift for me.”

While medicines can fix your body it cannot repair the mind unless you yourself want to do something said Arora. “It’s the light within; it’s your spirit which helps you. I believe that there is someone up there and He holds your hand and guides you. I believe in the higher power that has got me through so many things.

“God has given each of us a package, sometimes we use it and sometimes we don’t. For me, through this medium…it’s as if I’ve found myself.”

(Fifteen sketches from the original collection are on display at Dilli O Dilli, IHC, till 27 March 2013.)

(Bushra Alvi is a writing and editing professional based in New Delhi)