“Sameer is what I call a compulsive sketcher,” describes art critic and writer Phalguni Desai. “Professionally, he is a designer. Most other times, he’s a traveller, a guy with a sketchbook lurking at the corner table of your neighbourhood cafe chain.” As an artist with the commercial venture BombayDuck Design to his name, Sameer Kulavoor dabbles in creative expression through minimalist and simplistic drawings. Sketching has always been one of his passions, as he explains, “Maintaining sketchbooks is an integral part of my visual art practice. So is the act of revisiting them, introspecting, identifying common patterns and making connections between drawings.” His visual creativity looks beyond the face value of the world, and brings out the beauty lost in smaller, simpler things.
Marking an important moment in his artistic journey, Kulavoor’s first solo exhibition titled Please Have a Seat will take place at the Artisans’ Centre gallery in Kala Ghoda from the April 22 to 30. A series of drawings that act partly as a travelogue, and partly as meditation on what it is to be, in moments of rest or contemplation, complete his exhibition. With a sense of raw simplicity in each piece of art, Please Have a Seat asks onlookers to pause from the rush and grind of everyday life and just observe the smaller details, reflecting on the beauty and possibility in every ordinary act, movement or thought. Taking a turn away from the commercial, it focuses on intimate human gestures through original and spontaneous drawings that capture the moment, in the moment itself. His images provide a kind of meditative stillness portraying the infinity that exists within every temporary human presence, and manage to amplify a hidden magic that most people don’t see.
As Desai puts it, Kulavoor’s suite of drawings function like repositories for actions, moods and the passage of time. She describes the possibilities that lie within each seemingly uncomplicated sketch, “A man lays horizontal playing with his phone - but he’s hardly at home, he’s whiling away time on a sleeper berth of a train on its way to Chennai. Two women you think you know have coffee together in a cafe you’re sure you know (but it’s probably not the one you thought it was). Hands of a squatting man, elbow up. You know he’s squatting not because you imagined the title, but rather because you saw the pressure lines where his knees should be. The title says he’s watching cricket, but he could also be chilling under a tree, chewing the fat. Whether he is old, young or going through a midlife crisis is up to how far your imagination can go.”
Each intimate slice-of-life sketch portrays a certain anonymity that is universal and relatable, leaving the viewer contemplating the paradigms of modern lifestyle and the lost, forgotten beauty of human moments. They have been created with minimal lines of a solid marker blown up as large screenprints on paper, wood and acrylic. Desai observes, “The good, the bad, the cringeworthy all presented together as a fact of life, infused with dry wit and humour, showing the audience something without letting them judge it too harsh. They remind us of the little things that we rarely notice until they’re large enough, like the beginnings of a wrinkle, the makings of a friendship, the birth of an idea. These happenings, which begin in the quiet of the mind are made loud in these offerings.”
Watch Sameer Kulavoor journey through the artistic inspiration behind ‘Please Have a Seat’
Transforming the ordinary of the everyday into something extraordinary isn’t an easy task, and Kulavoor’s images do it with clean, emotive lines of minimalism. His unique style is something to look forward to at his upcoming exhibition, as he tells us, “Its the first time my work will be in this kind of gallery space and the feeling is more of excitement. This is another step towards doing some of those things I haven’t done before. Throughout my career, I’ve tried to push myself to not settle and not get stagnant so fears/expectations have always been a part of everything I’ve done. Its great to feel like that rather than be comfortable and sit over past glory.”
Video credits: A film by Naman Saraiya w/ help from Sourya Sen.
Additional Camera: Tuhin Mukherjee
Line Producer: Achal Gupt
Camera Attendant: Sachin Gawde Sound
Recordist: Pradeep Mondol
Music Courtesy: Sandunes
Equipment Rentals: Camera Plus Pvt. Ltd
Special thanks to Samira Kanwar, Arjun S Ravi and The Coalition.