Interview with Anjolie Ela Menon, Contemporary Indian Artist, New Delhi
What inspires your style of design and paintings?
I have been inspired at various times by many people, places and events. I have been painting for 58 years so there are so many influences that have shaped me both as an artist and as a person. The list is long and often contradictory – first my amazing family, so many of whom have been great achievers and then the impact that literature, music, books and films have left on me. Shall I list them randomly? My father, my guru Sushil Mukherji and my lifelong friend Maqbool Fida Husain, Pupul Jayakar, Edgar Kauffman, Nisha Patel, KG Subramanyam, the Dagar Brothers, Semangudi, Bhimsen Joshi, Elizabeth Barrett Browning , Frida Kahlo, Proust, Dali, Romanesque sculpture, Vivekandana, Bach, Modigliani, Henry Miller, Pudovkin, Ingmar, Bergman, Satyajit Ray, Rublev, Bosch, Camus, Ayn Rand, Corbusier, DK Pattamal, Gaugin, , Shergil, Swamy Ranganathananda, Konark, Chartres, Ajanta and the Kumbh Mela have affected me profoundly and inspired me at differently times of my life. Inspiration in itself is a surprise that awaits one on a daily basis. Sometimes inspiration eludes, at other times it hits one like a hammer.
What about art for corporate spaces or Public Art?
It is difficult to define art for public spaces such as airports hotels lobbies, offices etc. Though I cannot say what attributes such art should include, I can define the genre by its negatives! Generally speaking nothing grotesque, nothing gloomy, nothing angry, nothing religious, nothing erotic, and nothing visceral, nothing that is pretty, pretty. I think this would be a good thumb rule.
Any message for budding artists and Interior designers?
My philosophy of a good home interior is almost the opposite of the current practice. White walls, really comfortable furniture not necessarily matching, in style or colour, overflowing book shelves, an accumulation of artifacts and photographs and memorabilia which reflect the character, tastes and history of the inhabitants. In other words “character”. A characterless interior is like a railway station. While we were viewing the preliminary architecture designs for the new ‘Bombay airport some years ago, the eminent designer Rajiv Sethi remarked ‘If someone landed in this proposed airport by helicopter they would not know which country this is, leave alone which city”. So it is imperative that good design should embrace the crucial elements of location, history and culture. It cannot exist without context; it must resist the “Macdonaldization” of the world. Designers must not take the easy way out by plastering the walls with cheap reproductions. It is better to persuade the client to buy a significant piece of art or sculpture. Less is often more, rather than a fit-the-budget excess!
I detest the current practice of uniformly placing remote ceiling spots which I find gives a cold and unfriendly feeling to a room. I am in favour of individual lighting for specific spaces such as table lamps, uplighters, bedside lights, bathroom lights that light up your face rather than the bathroom, hanging lights and most importantly, the lighting for paintings should be located approximately four feet away from the painting with a laser spot light focused to the center of the art work, rather than a light fixed above the painting that only illuminates the top of the painting. I am also not in favour of false ceilings for homes. Designers should try to keep the design minimal and avoid flourishes and ornamentation that will soon become dated.