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A solo debut, the ‘Cameos of a City’ exhibition housed 9 paintings at the Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai. Boxed in dimensions of 6ftx5ft, each canvas could literally trance you to a cacophony of subplots having you contemplate characters and their roles played within.

Living in Baroda, I’ve witnessed elaborate festive and cultural processions of religious communities that transform public spaces into massive collective playgrounds, an example being: the Ganesh Visarjan. These as well as my memories of travelling in the suburbs of Bombay, intermingle with new spaces of discovering significance, and become a trigger for me to negotiate new meanings from.

This painting could be interpreted in a thousand ways. Here’s my version: Life

Beautifully capturing tales of the cities Schon has lived in, he often heroes the very people he engages with daily, in his paintings. Be it a facial expression, quite argument, sweet gesture, a conversation brewing among a few chaps or even the dog resting under the cart on a hot sunny afternoon, he takes a keen interest towards these few little things; we would have otherwise turned a blind eye to.

Right from the genesis of time, we’ve found ourselves soiling in labor. It’s an endless cycle that starts at dawn and ends at dusk. We could be doing extremely well through the day only to come home in a drunken state, living without a meaning. Is there a purpose we’re pursuing or are we just okay with the rigid mundane cycles we’ve engulfed ourselves in?

Schon Explains," This portrait features a central sleeping figure on either side of whom is seen two men engaged in a game of cards symbolising The balance and play between the alter ego and the self, thus dividing the picture plain in two sections. These two opposing ends could also symbolise heaven and hell, or the good and the evil, and have scenes from daily life as a common thread that runs through and connects them."

Schon Explains, "Two men in the midst of a telephonic conversation. These two men are Balthus and Nainsukh, two of my favourite artists, and are on opposite ends of the painting divided into two pages symbolising different eras from art history. In the center of the painting is a representation of myself at work in my studio, thus talking of the world of art history, which opens itself up to me, bringing alive different characters and stories."

Schon Explains, "I often use structures in my paintings that are borrowed from miniatures as well as Russian icon paintings. The various narratives are placed within these structures, and are integrated and follow a certain visual flow."

Schon Explains, "The painting that depicts a writer typing onto the scroll from which a story comes alive. It symbolises life and talks of opposites such as birth and death, good and evil, joy and sorrow etc. A maze-like city is seen as a backdrop to this scroll, which holds in it various episodic narratives and related themes. The idea behind juxtaposing characters from various sources in a work is to bring about a dialogue between them that blurs the lines between reality, fiction, mythology, art history and daily life."

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Showcase 23 May 2017

CQ Interviews: Schon Mendes on Cameos of a City

Exhibited at Mumbai’s Sakshi Gallery, Cameos of a City holds a collection of 9 paintings. Mashing in chronicles from the cities he lived in: Goa, Mumbai and Baroda, he lays out multiple stories each interlinked to another. Quite a puzzle, the artist's’ work left us in contemplation and in search of a guide to solve the mysteries of his work.

Scrunching observations, experiences and memories into a pictorial tabloid of multiple images, you may need a little more than a minute to look through each of artist Schon Mendes’ canvas paintings. A solo debut, the ‘Cameos of a City’ exhibition housed 9 paintings at the Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai. Boxed in dimensions of 6ftx5ft, each canvas could literally trance you to a cacophony of subplots having you contemplate characters and their roles played within.

A solo debut, the ‘Cameos of a City’ exhibition housed 9 paintings at the Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai. Boxed in dimensions of 6ftx5ft, each canvas could literally trance you to a cacophony of subplots having you contemplate characters and their roles played within.

A passion so dear, painting wasn’t pinned down first on Schon’s list of professions to pursue. Born and brought up in Goa, Mendes pursued mass communication and video production from St. Xavier’s, Goa. Subsequently moving to Bombay, he began working at a production house as an assistant reality producer. Realising his call, he ended his stint at Mumbai and moved to Baroda on his sister’s invitation. This is where Mendes began his journey under the tutelage of artists Rekha Rodwittiya and Surendran Nair at the Collective Studio, Baroda. It was through the crucial 4-year learning period under the guidance of these artists that he developed a visual language and articulation as an artist.

Following a daily regime of studio practice throughout the year, Mendes carries a sketchbook all the time making sure he draws whatever he sees around; freezing a memory or moment in time. Using these as well as photographs as references for ideas, he ultimately develops them into acrylic canvas paintings.

Speaking of his inspiration, He says, “ My teachers Rekha Rodwittiya and Surendran Nair have inspired and instilled in me the importance of a strict discipline of long hours of studio practice, an awareness of one’s socio-political reality, and most importantly the fact that art and life are interconnected and inseparable, and what one is in every little aspect of one’s life, one is as an artist.”

He also says, “I have been greatly influenced by Indian miniature paintings and the work of the German photographer Andreas Gursky. The coming together of varied elements or ideas in the creation of an image is something I admire in both. Wherein a single aspect or section in it holds an entire world of complexity that becomes inseparable from the whole. When in the commotion of a teeming world the stillness of isolation can still be felt. For me it is often the isolation of the individual that contributes in an inexplicable but powerful way to the pulse of the crowd around him/her.”

Amazed by his cityscapes, CQ interviewed Schon Mendes. Here are a few excerpts from our chat:

You have lived in Goa, Mumbai and Vadodara. How have these cities or others (are there more?) influenced your work?

Having been raised in a Catholic family, the visual pageantry of rituals and church iconography is an influence that is often seen in my work.

Living in Baroda, I’ve witnessed elaborate festive and cultural processions of religious communities that transform public spaces into massive collective playgrounds, an example being: the Ganesh Visarjan. These as well as my memories of travelling in the suburbs of Bombay, intermingle with new spaces of discovering significance, and become a trigger for me to negotiate new meanings from.  I use these images of festivals as symbols of culture and practices, and their relevance to my experiences and memories.

Living in Baroda, I’ve witnessed elaborate festive and cultural processions of religious communities that transform public spaces into massive collective playgrounds, an example being: the Ganesh Visarjan. These as well as my memories of travelling in the suburbs of Bombay, intermingle with new spaces of discovering significance, and become a trigger for me to negotiate new meanings from.

Cameos of a City

What is the ‘Cameos of a City’ collection about?

My fascination has always been the city and interweaving diverse narratives together, but talking about the people that comprised of the city was the most important aspect for me. Through the works in this show, I talk about these people and attempt to give the viewer glimpses or cameos of the various aspects of the city reflected in the people who comprise it. The name “Cameos of a city” is metaphoric of the glimpses that I encounter through the people that make up this composite whole that we call a city.

This painting could be interpreted in a thousand ways. Here’s my version: Life

My fascination has always been the city and interweaving diverse narratives together, but talking about the people that comprised of the city was the most important aspect for me.

How and why do you interlink these narratives and characters across your paintings? Are these characters in the paintings known to you?

I enjoy the prospect of bringing in characters from various sources such as art history, fiction, mythology and daily life and creating a dialogue between them within my work. I am interested in the narration of multiple stories, and in the process, the creation of spectacles through these images. Like a never-ending epic, my paintings become the storyboard of a world I live in.

Beautifully capturing tales of the cities Schon has lived in, he often heroes the very people he engages with daily, in his paintings. Be it a facial expression, quite argument, sweet gesture, a conversation brewing among a few chaps or even the dog resting under the cart on a hot sunny afternoon, he takes a keen interest towards these few little things; we would have otherwise turned a blind eye to.

My attempt as a storyteller is to sew all stories together into a larger narrative, wherein they can be seen separately as well as collectively. Characters from art history find their way into my paintings. An example of interlinking of stories and characters can be seen in the work featuring two men in the midst of a telephonic conversation (Untitled 2). These two men are Balthus and Nainsukh, two of my favourite artists, and are on opposite ends of the painting divided into two pages symbolising different eras from art history. In the center of the painting is a representation of myself at work in my studio, thus talking of the world of art history, which opens itself up to me, bringing alive different characters and stories.

Right from the genesis of time, we’ve found ourselves soiling in labor. It’s an endless cycle that starts at dawn and ends at dusk. We could be doing extremely well through the day only to come home in a drunken state, living without a meaning. Is there a purpose we’re pursuing or are we just okay with the rigid mundane cycles we’ve engulfed ourselves in?

Schon Explains," This portrait features a central sleeping figure on either side of whom is seen two men engaged in a game of cards symbolising The balance and play between the alter ego and the self, thus dividing the picture plain in two sections. These two opposing ends could also symbolise heaven and hell, or the good and the evil, and have scenes from daily life as a common thread that runs through and connects them."

Schon Explains, "Two men in the midst of a telephonic conversation. These two men are Balthus and Nainsukh, two of my favourite artists, and are on opposite ends of the painting divided into two pages symbolising different eras from art history. In the center of the painting is a representation of myself at work in my studio, thus talking of the world of art history, which opens itself up to me, bringing alive different characters and stories."

My attempt as a storyteller is to sew all stories together into a larger narrative, wherein they can be seen separately as well as collectively. 

How do you put these narratives together? Do you work on individual stories and then merge them together?

I often use structures in my paintings that are borrowed from miniatures as well as Russian icon paintings. The various narratives are placed within these structures, and are integrated and follow a certain visual flow.

Schon Explains, "I often use structures in my paintings that are borrowed from miniatures as well as Russian icon paintings. The various narratives are placed within these structures, and are integrated and follow a certain visual flow."

Elements I come across in my daily life such as highways, flyovers, buildings, maps are often used as dividing elements in the works and most importantly, they are receptacles which hold within them little cameos of human interaction and behavior. These stories often flow from one to the other as well as contain stories within stories

Which amongst the collection’s 9 acrylic paintings is closest to you and why?

The painting that depicts a writer typing onto the scroll from which a story comes alive (Untitled 1) is the work that is closest to me, as it symbolises life and talks of opposites such as birth and death, good and evil, joy and sorrow etc. A maze-like city is seen as a backdrop to this scroll, which holds in it various episodic narratives and related themes. The idea behind juxtaposing characters from various sources in a work is to bring about a dialogue between them that blurs the lines between reality, fiction, mythology, art history and daily life.

Schon Explains, "The painting that depicts a writer typing onto the scroll from which a story comes alive. It symbolises life and talks of opposites such as birth and death, good and evil, joy and sorrow etc. A maze-like city is seen as a backdrop to this scroll, which holds in it various episodic narratives and related themes. The idea behind juxtaposing characters from various sources in a work is to bring about a dialogue between them that blurs the lines between reality, fiction, mythology, art history and daily life."

Finally...What are your plans for 2017? Could we expect an upcoming collection this year?

I takes me 3 months to complete a painting. Prepping up for a solo show would mean devoting 2-3 years alone to it.

Keeping the theme of ‘cameos of a city’ in mind, I am currently working on a set of paintings that speak about the lines of communication that run through and hold a city together, and the unseen people who work tirelessly behind the scenes. By bringing these people to the forefront, I attempt to give them the importance they deserve.