In Bengal, I encountered an idea of the artist that offered me a powerful 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."
Peripatetic art practice emphasises noticing and mapping subtle changes in culture, ecology, and environment. It draws on ancient paradigms of the travelling storyteller and social frameworks that relate to the world in its diversity. Peripatetic practice connects the artist with new stories through which we may reimagine ourselves and our world. For me peripatetic practice invokes the work of storytelling, which I perceive as a calling to places myself out in the world, proximate to issues on the ground and where making art is as part of and in response to life,. For me listening and being with others is as much a part of making paintings as is wielding materials. This is a challenging form of practice involving working in transitional, improvised, and makeshift conditions. Here identity shapes not through placement but through acceptance of being at a threshold or liminal transient space and where working out and through' the innate uncertainty and mutability of journeys and “the anxiety of rootlessness” is part of the way of the storyteller.
Exploring localities I walk, wander, oscillate, carrying materials of paper, pencil, sound recorder, watercolour, sometimes a camera. I use a cross-disciplinary approach integrating anthropological and artistic methods in social, immersive, participatory, and embedded ways. Observation, in-situ and life drawing, gleaning, and filming combined with listening, ‘leaning’, and being with people over time are how I learn about the lifeworlds of people and their stories.
I am a chronicler, creating scrolls that diarise and chronicle life in field drawings, notes, and paintings. Alongside painting I record the sounds of where I am, making audio works that contextualise, mirror and expand the stories in my paintings. As archives the scrolls and audios testify to the unfolding nature of my journeys whilst offering a panoramic view of life across cultures and places.
The way that I practice tends to yield abiding connections and relationships. As themes of belonging and home propel my work, I have developed long-standing relationships with individuals and communities engaged in struggles to be homed. Understandings arriving through my practice open up opportunities for advocacy, agency, collaboration, and reciprocity, important developments evolving, expanding, and distinguishing my work as a socially engaged painter.
My practice-led PhD, completed in 2017 explored nomadic art practice through the lens of painting (School of Art and Design, Australian National University). I have a Masters in Fine Art (Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda) and a Diploma of Teaching. Alongside research with storytelling and painting across cultures, I continue making scroll archives and collaborating with subject communities. I am presently developing my PhD thesis into a book to be published by Springer Nature.