Ye Hamara Con Hai – The 4th Annual Comic Con India 2014 – Day I

After a rather hilarious and strangely exhilarating day at the Comic Con in Delhi I sit down to ponder over the day’s events and maybe highlight a few choice memories with you, my dear readers.

Comic Con India hasn’t been running long – today was Day I of the 4th Annual Con – But in these few years I’m glad to see the strides that the community has made – the organizers as well as the visitors. In sharp contrast to the first Con I attended (held at Dilli Haat) it was great to see how the independent publishers, artists and authors have really grown in presence and can really hold their own. Gone (I hope) are the days that Merch alone rules the floor and its time for the indie guys to shine. For example, Meta Desi Comics, which is carrying my first attempt at writing a comic – ‘Holy Hell‘ (written along with Akshay Dhar and carried in Ground Zero Vol. II) had a pretty good day not just selling issues but also in general interest; which is fantastic because they’ve only really been in the game a year-year and a half. I know this because when I wasn’t roaming the convention floor looking for offers and checking out the cosplayers I was chilling in booth C12 annoying my writing partner and buddy Akshay (come check us out!).

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Funny Street Signs

They say art is only defined by our own personal limits (They in this case being an amorphous amalgamation of nondescript personage that I have clubbed together and ascribed a random saying to for my own narrative purposes).

It can take many forms and serve any purposes – to shock, to delight, to disgust, to placate, to amuse. Well, in the streets of Florence I saw one artist’s hand at work all over town, doing the last of these. What began with an amusing double-take on one street corner turned into a hunt for similar signage all over town. I share here some of my favorite examples of… Art? Graffiti? Childish pranks? Public disobedience? You decide.

And of course these particular kinds of signs aren’t exclusive to Firenze, look out for some in your own city. Who knows what you may find…

The Game Is A-Hoof – My First Comic!

I am super psyched to announce that my first attempt at writing a comic shall soon see the light of day! ‘Holy Hell’ is a (hopefully) fantastic little absurdist comic which will come out later this year as a part of the second ‘Ground Zero’ Anthology. Original concept by Akshay Dhar a.k.a Sipder42, Script by Mr. Dhar and yours truly and art by the talented Abhijeet Kini.

What follows is a short little promo to give you a taste of whats to come – hopefully it will catch your interest, or at least hold it momentarily as you sip your coffee or tea or Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.

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Spanish Escape

I just had the most wonderful long weekend in beautiful Madrid – What a great last hurrah before I fly back home to India in 2 days!

The pretence of the actual trip was to attend a one day conference on Intellectual Property organised by the Universidad Autonoma Madrid and Queen Mary University of London, which was great because it meant most of my fellow IP-ers were there in Madrid with me. We went to represent QM and have discussions around the challenges to Intellectual Property in the European Union – we got 3 days full of good food, wine and beautiful architecture in the bargain.

Despite the fact that it’s not a particularly big city, Madrid really does have a lot to see and do! I dare say that even with 2-3 days full of walking around (and lots of clicking with my D80) I still left with many things I missed out on. Well I suppose one should always leave oneself with an excuse to come back : )

My favourite part, hands down, was the first day when we took a super long walk through and around Parque de el Retiro, particularly because that was the one day where we got uninterrupted sun. The beautiful weather just made walking around the beautiful green surroundings all the more wonderful. By the end of the day, though my feet were worn and my legs heavy, my soul was rejuvenated and my heart light. The pace of life in Madrid seems so much more relaxed and spirited than London. If you visit I recommend you definitely go by the Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) – the name is a bit deceptive (it’s basically looks a large solarium) – but the surroundings are beautiful. There is large pond out front with a tall fountain, many critters and crawlers to look out for and even a small grotto some of you couples may want to sneak into ; ) and you can end your tour of the park with a visit to the Rose Garden, which has dozens of different species of roses (as well as other flowers I believe) and sit awhile just taking in the exquisite aromas. We also stumbled into the Palacio de Valazquez which is used by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia to host exhibitions. During our visit they were hosting  an exhibition of conceptual art by Cildo Meireles. I must say, I really did not get most of his work. Though some pieces did have intriguing designs and thought-provoking themes, most seemed rather mundane or banal, but therein lies the beauty of art I suppose – let each see in it what he will.

For dinner on the second day we made out way to the Taberna les Lucio in the area known as La Latina. This definitely seems to one of the better areas to come to find a nice place to eat or have a night out. It was unbelievably packed and we had to wait some 35 minutes by the bar before we managed a place, but it was totally worth it. The food was light yet very rich and fulfilling and when we split the bill it wasn’t nearly as dear as I feared. I can see why Sean Connery, Sigourney Weaver and Bruce Springsteen all came to eat here.

Another place you absolutely must see while you’re there is Plaza Mayor. It is a magnificent late square framed internally by cafes where you can sit in the sun and enjoy some refreshing sangria and tapas. I recommend Cafeteria Christina – the staff was super friendly and he sangria was amazing! Or if you prefer you can pop nearby to the Market de San Miguel where there are dozens of food stalls that serve authentic local cuisine as well ones where you can pick up some ham or cheese for the road. It’s quite tight considering how popular it is and there isn’t really space to sit, so I recommend a quick bite and walk through rather than an extended chill session.

Finally, if you’re an art lover you should definitely pop down to the Museu Nacional de Prado. It is located near the Banco de Espana (Bank of Spain) and is one of the largest museums in Europe. And indeed it is massive! We roamed the halls for a full two hours and I we barely covered the rooms dedicated to some 2-3 artists! There are discounted entries for students under the age if 25, but if you feel like you don’t want to spend too much time in there anyway you can go for free from 6-8 pm. Like I mentioned, I am not super into art, and I am definitely not educated in the field, so I let my friends lead the way throughout. The artists they seemed to be particularly drawn to, and who the Museum seemed to have dedicated several rooms to was Francisco Goya. He definitely was quite diverse, but I think I was drawn to his “Black Paintings” the most. This series of works had some very dark and evocative themes – each painting seemed to portray feelings of dread, fear and rage. I’m not sure what happened in his life to summon this phase of his contribution to the art world, but it definitely led to some powerful images being put to canvas.

The one other artist I suggest you check out if you’re there is El Greco though my friend found his works to be lacking diversity, I found them to be quite inspiring, in fact when I walked into the room and saw the first piece I actually said “WOW” out loud. The work was titled “The Adoration of the Shephards” and indeed was aptly titled. His use if vivid colors within a pool of darkness built a beautiful contrast and there seemed to be almost a divine light from the baby Jesus in the middle of the painting, I genuinely thought at first that it was a result of the museum’s lighting!

All in all I am quite sad to have left Madrid so soon – there was so much to do and it is far less expensive than many other European cities. I could have quite easily stayed another few days, but sadly real life was calling. Some of my friend have commented that Barcelona is nicer – a question I look forward to settling for myself later his year when I take my 3 week trip around Europe with my best friend, till then let it be my favourite city in Spain : )

A Pop Retrospective: An afternoon at the Tate Modern

Today I went to check out the Lichtenstein Retrospective at the Tate Modern. It was an interesting experience. My exposure to the art world has been minimal and admittedly I look at most work as a lay man. But to some extent that is the beauty of the subjectivity of art. You don’t have to be an expert with a trained eye to be able to have an opinion. So here’s mine.

Lichtenstein’s work shows a remarkable diversity in its influences and its subject matter. It combines what may be described as “high” and “low” art. The latter of these, traditionally speaking would I suppose be linked to popular culture imagery over traditional themes. Many of his paintings, the “War and Romance” series to be more precise, feel like cut-outs or extracts from old comics, right down to the sound effects (like out of the old Batman TV series). They seem to represent interludes or moments that attempt to tell entire stories. And I can see how if one opened up one’s imagination one could build a running story across some of the works. What struck me about most of his work was the limited color palette. He seems to use deep contrast and bright colors to build a sense of drama in his paintings, a sort of invigoration.

I was also intrigued by his purposeful use of already existing images and reinventing them of sorts. It poses an interesting question about perception. Not to mention the questions it raises for a student of Law regarding non-literal copying, fair use, derivative works and like concepts. While some I can see could not be objected to for copyright infringement, because they are heavily transformative and recall different imagery than the original, others seem to be very close to the original, the impact being more in the representation rather than any transformative treatment of the work itself.

Though most of his work contained common elements, there is a great range of expression in his works. I was particularly intrigued by Room 7 of the exhibition, which consisted of paintings influenced by other artists’ styles. I could definitely see the influence of Picasso in a lot of these works, but with a more modern geometric and vivid expression. One work in this series that caught my eye was “Laocoon” – which was far more fluid in its brush strokes than any of the other paintings. It seemed to me a sort of “deconstructed” classical painting – with Greek figures and themes.

Lichtenstein created some interesting conceptions of the nude. His representations of the female form were far removed from the classical or romanticized nudes, which seem more somber and provocative. His paintings were more like cartoon-ized pages out of a Hustler magazine – playful and lively. One piece that was particularly interesting was a sculpture which showed the figure of a woman represented simply as Blonde hair, breasts and a stomach (possibly symbolizing the womb). I wonder if this was his comment on the objectification of women as simply figures of visual pleasure and conception.

I was also some what taken by his Chinese landscapes. While usually such works show an intricate blending of colors and subtle shading, Lichtenstein’s renditions were far more minimal and of course used his characteristic Benday dots and a sense of empty space.

While I was amazed by the sheer variety of his influences and the different styles he experimented with, I wouldn’t say that this was an artist I could really love. I have personally always loved the work created during the Renaissance period, particularly the work of Painter, Sculptor, Inventor and all-around genius Leonardo Da Vinci. Well perhaps “loved” is a strong word (we do as a culture use this word far more freely than we should – but that’s a discussion for another time). Lets go with the word “admired” instead. I suppose I prefer art that is more evocative and shows a depth that is evident in the work. I feel like a lot of Lichtenstein’s work was more a comment on the state of the art world or the changing conception of art itself, and being unfamiliar with that, it didn’t get through to me as much. I was visually pleased but could not say that the work did more for me than that.

If you’re intrigued go check it out for yourself, the show is on till May 27th 2013. Or catch one of the many other exhibits on at the Tate Modern.

 

I think the gift shop represented possibly the most humorous observation of the day – That of “low” commercial imagery, which was turned into “high” pop art, being turned into commercial products to be sold to the public as souvenirs – A true instance of life imitating art imitating life.

Immortalised on the Underground

Like the art on the London Underground? Well here’s your chance to become a part of it.

“Art on the Underground” is looking for a volunteer to become immortalised in a piece of commissioned art to be displayed in the form of a poster on the London Underground, celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Tube. The project is a part of a series of commissioned works which will be displayed in various Tube stations, including Mark Wallinger’s Labyrinth, a series of 270 works, the first of which is already displayed in St. James’ Park station. So if you’re interested in the idea of becoming mildly famous – I’m betting you’ll get a lot of “You look really familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?” – enter the fray and throw your hat in the ring.

Though I doubt I will apply myself  (I’m a bit camera-shy – prefer to stay behind the lens) I think it’s a great idea to have an average everyday commuter immortalised on the tube. In my opinion they should select a small group of individuals – to highlight the diversity of this great city. I don’t see how one face alone could really capture the people of London – but then again, it is the artist’s prerogative, I’m hardly one to comment on someone else’s process. I look forward to seeing the work once it’s finished – wonder who the lucky winner will be – it could be you!

A little bit about the programme running this competition – Art on the Underground is a programme run with the cooperation of Transport for London is a project that aims at giving international contemporary artists a unique platform (pun intended) to exhibit their work and at the same time give the masses who commute everyday something pretty to look at. Personally I think it’s a marvelous idea. Seeing beautiful and intricate murals, reading poetry or  seeing a new piece of artwork can give you something interesting to look at or think about, not to mention liven up your day and make the commute to work or class pass a bit faster.

The competition closes March 20th 2013 at 11.59pm and is open to all UK residents aged over 18. So if you’re interested go check out Art on the Underground and fill in the form. Be sure to read the Terms and Conditions and have a look at the waiver form though (he said knowing that almost no one would ; p)

 

Web Comic Review – Commissioned Comic

Ever find yourself thinking in D&D? Well, Commissioned Comic is pretty good at illustrating just what that might look like. I found myself genuinely intrigued watching the lines between real life and RPGs blend in this web series. I think the reason contemporary geeks might find it particularly appealing is that it envisages the hypothetical hilarity of pitting the contemporary geek – you know what I mean – still slightly socially inept, but not always the clichéd image – massively thick glasses, pale as all hell from a lack of sun, pimpled like we’ve never heard of Clearasil – against real life social “quests” like talking to that hot girl at the bar or confronting a nasty neighbourhood dog. I mean I can’t be the only one who has had day dreams of casting a “knock” spell on a locked door when you can’t find your keys or wished I had a particularly high CHARISMA or DIPLOMACY skill – you know, to get out of sticky situations, or into them if that’s your aim.  If you hadn’t guessed yet by the way, I am particularly partial to the Wizard/Mage classes. I haven’t played the classic D&D myself but have always been a huge fan of the many RPGs that D&D gameplay has inspired such the Baldur’s Gate series or Neverwinter Nights.

Back to the focus of our review though – Commissioned Comic, by artist Obsidian, is a nice concept. There are plenty of web comics that focus on gaming or revolve around the antics of classic characters, but this web comic takes a different perspective – that of an artist who is commissioned by different characters to do their portraits (thus the name) and his party of D&D gamers. As mentioned before though, its novelty lies in the mash-up of the realms of reality and imagination. However, though I love the gameplay dynamics, I didn’t find it particularly hilarious. Interesting yes, but not laugh out loud. I can see myself popping back once in a while, but I don’t see myself following religiously.

Apart from the comic series the site also makes available single sketches by the artist – the Art Barf! series. These could be anything really – dungeons settings, combat scenarios, character portraits, classes/races, monsters. They are stylistically quite different from the comic itself. In fact I would be hard pressed to club them all into the same artistic style – they seem to employ quite a diversity of brush strokes (theoretically speaking – I mean they’re created in Photoshop, not on a real aisle), thematic perspectives and color palettes.

The artwork has evolved since the comic started – going for more realistic detail. I suppose if I had been following for a while I may not have noticed, but since I read through a whole lot of the comic for the purposes of this review, it’s quite apparent, even though it’s not drastically different. This isn’t a feature unique to this particular comic. Many web comics evolve artistically as time progresses, while others choose to maintain an element of continuity. I suppose this is really a choice left to the artist. And yes sometimes more defined artwork can make the comic more appealing and attractive. But I would just mention as a thought that artists should be careful with this choice. It might not seem like a major change, but in my opinion the feel of a comic does depend to some extent on its look and artwork. For example – Cyanide & Happiness has a very distinct art style, and it suits their formula.

Checking out the comic and the Art Barf! art work is of course free, but they offer a host of extras for those who want to join the ranks of their premium members, including invites to Convention after parties, exclusive sketches and desktop backgrounds and high-resolution comics. Check out the comic here – Commissioned Comic

Graffiti

You probably see some everyday but rarely mind it. On the sides of bridges, on walls in vacant lots, beneath your very feet as you walk on the pavement. Graffiti really can be found anywhere and everywhere. Some consider it a symptom of the degeneration of society, as eyesores that debase the value of properties and are a sign that “the neighborhood just isn’t what it used to be”. Some see it as a means of expression, to rebel and shout out against a society that they feel misunderstands or mistreats them, used when the words that come from one’s throat just aren’t enough. Some even see in it a new art form, a way to show the world their talent and their skill.

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