In 2013 I had travelled to West Bengal to research the tradition of Patuya Sangit, which loosely translated means Scroll Singing.
The Patuyas have a rich way of answering questions with parables and stories, so when I asked what they thought an artist is, I was given this;
"A saddhu was sitting with his students when one of them asked, "What is an artist?" The saddhu answered:
"Two birds sat in a tree. In Bengal, people believe feeding birds brings luck and soon someone came and scattered seed. One bird flew down to peck, calling to his friend, "There's plenty, come and eat!" But the other bird only looked on. Soon the first bird called again, "Come on! Come and eat!" But the second bird just watched.
"In this world", said the sadhu, there are two kinds of people. Most are the bird eating. Some are the bird watching. The artist is both."
Peripatetic art practice is about being with the world in its immediacy. The story of the two birds reflects the idea that art emerges from an experience of life, culture, and environment, that significantly entwines with the stories of others.
My family have been on the move for millennia. Language, culture, and identity have been lost along the way, I have no idea who I am or where I belong.
Turning this predicament on its head, peripatetic art practice becomes about meditating on, giving form and materiality to the idea that I don’t belong to a country, but to a story that needs to be told. My practice is a process of involvement, of reaching out, taking the proffered hand, trusting. I listen, be with, advocate for, story others. I am a transient, wanderer, at times, waif. I often wind up in unfamiliar contexts where I may not know the language, environment, or culture where my work becomes that of opening to influence, waiting for the story to appear. It always does.
This form of practice invokes archetypal ideas of the Storyteller, Wanderer, Volunteer, Healer, and Activist. I am a chronicle-maker, a witness-painter. I distil moments of connection, revelation, bewilderment, and tragedy into tiny images on extremely long scrolls of paper. I carry my work everywhere. Anywhere is my studio.
The idea that I am an instrument of change, belonging with the story that needs to be told is powerful. I am working out and through “the anxiety of rootlessness” and so I am returning home.