In Bengal, I found an idea of the artist and a metaphor for the relationship art can bear to life:
"A saddhu sat with his students under a tree. One student asked, "What is an artist?" The saddhu answered:
"Two birds sat in a tree. In Bengal people believe that 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 simply 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."
One idea of nomadic art practice emphasises paying attention to subtle changes in culture, ecology, and environment and forms the first layer of my framework for relating to the world. A second layer reflects the story of the two birds, whereby what I make reflects my life. A third layer connects the archetype of the Artist with that of the Volunteer, the Healer, and the Storyteller.
In this kind of practice I put myself out in the world, proximate to issues on the ground, I listen, be with others, act in solidarity with, and in service of others. I cannot categorise what I am doing and making, which blend together, are happening out of each other, and in which work and I appear to be always forming.
This is not a comfortable practice. I am often working in transitional, improvised, and makeshift conditions. I never belong. What I make is shaped by acts acceptance of not belonging, of inhabiting a perpetual threshold or liminal space.
I like to think that I am belonging anywhere and everywhere, and wherever the story is. I may be always working out and through' the innate uncertainty and mutability of journeys and “the anxiety of rootlessness” is, but as long as I practice, I am always returning home.
The immersive, often embedded way in which I work brings gifts, different senses of belonging arriving not from place but in the form of abiding connections and relationships. Understandings arriving through my practice open up opportunities for advocacy, agency, collaboration, and reciprocity. Such developments evolve, expand, and distinguish my work with social, immersive, and empathic painting.