Portraits by a Lady
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The architecture of Ayatana Art Gallery near Golibar Maidan is one you can romanticise. On merely entering its premises, one blocks out the frantic traffic on the crossroads in Camp. Straight down the main gate is the terracotta-roofed cottage, which is flanked by trees,
the greens complimenting the cottage's ochre walls, black doors and windows.
We are met first by a village girl in colourful clothing, standing coyly in a painting hung on the wall facing the entrance. Along with other participants, we get seated and await artist Manjari More, who is to conduct a workshop on portraits. The workshop begins as soon as she arrived. We all walk into the all-white art gallery with black criss-cross rods on the ceiling that accurately shoot white light onto paintings hung on the walls.
More, a graceful middle-aged woman with cropped salt-and-pepper hair, sits on the floor facing the class. She hands out mirrors to every participant and asks them to begin with a self-portrait, which, according to her, would be a good warm-up exercise. The idea is to start with a
face we see often and hence, hopefully, would render with ease, without spending much time on understanding its features.
We instantly get down to beautifying the drawbacks which we thought our face had.
Everybody's self-portrait has inaccurate noses, among other minor flaws. The cause of the mistake, she explains, was seeing and drawing our reflection, which was being viewed from above in a mirror placed on the floor.
The next exercise involves drawing a subject on the same visual plane. The participants are expected to draw More.
Since we are doing an awful job with drawing, we volunteer to model. One must accept the lack of talent, and sitting motionless for 15 minutes didn't require any.