In 2013 I had travelled to West Bengal to research the folk art tradition of Patuya Sangit.
Bengalis have a rich way of answering questions with parables and stories, so when I asked what their definition of an artist was, 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."
I see peripatetic art practice as about being with the world in its immediacy. For me the story of the two birds reflects the idea that art can emerges out of an experience of life, culture, and environment, in a way significantly entwined with the stories of others.
My feeling for peripatetic art practice stems from senses of being on the move for millennia whereby my family lost language, culture, and identity through their migrations and peregrinations. Although I have a passport, I have no firm senses about where I belong.
Turning this predicament on its head, peripatetic art practice becomes about meditating on, giving form and materiality to the idea that if I don’t belong to a particular place, perhaps I belong to the work of storytelling, and further on, to a larger story that is being told. My work becomes a process of involvement, of reaching out, taking the offered hand, and trusting. I aspire to listen, be with, advocate for, and mythologise. Doing so often means being transient, or wandering, or wondering why I am in a particular place. I often wind up in unfamiliar contexts where I may not know the language, environment, or culture and where my work becomes that of opening to influence, waiting for the story to appear, which 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 long scrolls of paper. I carry the work everywhere and anywhere is where I work.
The idea that I am an instrument of change, belonging with the story that needs to be told, is powerful as in working out and through “the anxiety of rootlessness” I am always in a sense returning home.