Flora Fountain in Monsoon by S H Raza
I went to school around the corner from Flora Fountain so this painting is one that makes me feel nostalgic. I got to see Flora Fountain twice a day for 12 years. It was the backdrop to many bus parties and carpool conversations. I used to walk from school to my Aunt’s restaurant behind the fountain every time I missed my bus home, the promise of her food proving more tantalising than an afternoon nap. I can vividly remember trying and failing to find my footing on the uneven pavement as I wound my way past the sandwich walla (who still remembers me), the man who sold bhel puri, sev puri, and kachi keri when it was available, then the sugarcane walla, and finally the man who for reasons unknown sold large baby photos. Getting to see the top of the fountain emerge through a haze of dust and smog as I turned the corner was often the highlight of my day. I’ve always thought of the fountain as the anchor of Bombay, a structure that has witnessed the city’s past and is now witnessing it hurtling into the future. In this painting, one of Bombay’s familiar storms dissolves all the activity of this thriving area leaving the fountain and other colonial structures dwarfed by the foreboding sky.
Flora Fountain looks different now, surrounded by signs promising that Bombay is ‘upgrading’. I wonder what we’re upgrading to and when we’ll get to see it? But at the end of it, I know that Flora Fountain will be the one thing that remains the same, grounding the city in its history.
Lately I’ve been trying to hang on to summer so I’ve been listening to The Beach Boys a lot. This painting reminded me of the instrumental version of You Still Believe in Me by The Beach Boys from 1966. I sometimes think of rain musically and the rhythm at the start of this song sounds like rain hitting the pavement. The way the rain moves in the wind is sort similar to the way a conductor conducts an orchestra. This song helps me visualise each drop of rain as an instrument in the orchestra of Raza’s storm.
Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs album cover by Frandsen de Schomberg
Eric Clapton apparently chose this cover because the woman reminded him of Pattie Boyd, who he was in love with at the time. For me, this cover brings together one of my favourite paintings and one of my favourite albums. This painting reminds me of Picasso’s 1932 portrait of Marie Therese called Le reve. The interplay of blue and yellow work together harmoniously, foreshadowing the symphonic sounds of the album. The blue dolphin like shape on the right sometimes makes me think of the woman as a mermaid, but it’s her half lidded eyes that always draw me in. There’s a serenity in the woman’s face that inspires a sense of peacefulness in me. This painting has the capability of reducing my lockdown inspired stress in under a minute. Quite useful, I think.
This painting makes me think of Just Like A Woman by Bob Dylan, but specifically the version from The Concert for Bangladesh. There’s something so enticing about listening to George Harrison play a Bob Dylan song with Bob Dylan. I think the live version of this song is imbued with an energy and vitality that is slightly lacking in the studio version. Just like this painting, this song draws me in right from the first chords with its quietly captivating magic.
A Bar at the Folies-Bergère by Édouard Manet
This painting is temptation personified, like a tantalising memory of it was like to go out and meet people. I’ve visited this painting countless times over the past few months through the Courtauld Gallery’s online viewing rooms, but it’s not the same. You can’t see Manet’s luminescent brushstrokes properly through a screen. You can’t appreciate the way Manet makes you feel as if you are at the same bar, taking you back to 1882. I can relate to the resignation that the woman feels being trapped behind the bar since I feel the same way being trapped at home. Though perhaps she’s just exhausted from dealing with the man reflected in the mirror. In this painting from 1882 Manet manages to evoke a sense of nostalgia, a wistful longing for nights spent at bars and clubs. Every inch of this painting is so carefully painted, with such rich colours that it is as if Manet has painted with butter.
When I look at this painting I can hear the opening strains of She’s A Rainbow by The Rolling Stones. The deliciously rich tones of the piano and mellotron used by Nicky Hopkins and Brian Jones sound like the start of a good night out. It almost sounds like that part in a movie where the characters have just entered a bar and they’re about to have the time of their lives. I think it fits perfectly.
The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali
I’ve been staring at this painting on my laptop for almost 4 months now. There’s something about the drooping clocks that make me think of time slowing down and stretching out with no end in sight. In the painting the clocks don’t look like they’ll ever stop stretching. This feels all too real right now, as we enter what feels like the 2nd year of lockdown. I know this is a dreamscape of some alternate reality but the desolate landscape, populated by infinite time doesn’t feel too far off from my current reality. The landscape can seem quite hopeless but it does possess a quiet beauty. There is a sense of peace, a sort of coming to terms with the endless time stretched out in front of us, similar to the situation we find ourselves in right now. I’m worried that I’ve become dangerously accustomed to being in lockdown and won’t know how to behave once it’s over. When I look at this painting the song Day After Day by Badfinger comes to mind. The circular somewhat distorted shapes of the clocks seem even more distorted when paired with the repeating strains of the slide guitar. This just serves to re-enforce my feeling that time has been moving in never ending circles. This painting comforts me in the sense that I no longer feel that I’m alone in replacing reality with dystopian landscapes.
Untitled by V S Gaitonde
Here Gaitonde seems to have steeped his paint in tranquility before using it. The painting is imbued with a quiet solitude and serene radiance that is almost meditative. This painting looks like the physical representation of George Harrison’s Beware of Darkness. A warning against getting stuck in your head, something that is all too easy to do right now. I think this painting is as effective a deterrent as Harrison’s song, in the way that when I look at it I feel like I’ve been wrapped in a warm blanket of calmness. It forces me to stop and take a breath and reevaluate the deafening silence of this lockdown. Though maybe the silence isn’t so bad when it’s been wrapped up so nicely by Gaitonde?