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Bakula: Keeper of memories

Bubbling with wit, romance and conversations that wind in and out here – is a show that can wrap you in its narrative

Bakula: Keeper of memories

At the IIC, you can be rooted or you can transport into a magical realm of novel stories by the talented designer turned artist Bakula Nayak, who has her solo exhibition until August 28.

Old paper, decadent sepia-toned stunners become backdrops for a series of stories with birds an animals and mushrooms and shrubs and bushes and plants and flamingoes. Bubbling with wit and romance and conversations that wind in and out here is a show that can wrap you in its narrative.

In an interview, Bakula said: "I realised that it's my imagination about what I could do with it, that excites me – rather than the paper itself. To me, old sheets of paper are my canvas and I can visualise all kinds of stories that others can't. It's a glimpse into somebody's world."

"I'm not an illustrator who knows how to tell a story, I'm a storyteller who knows how to draw," he further added.

'Draw' is just an understatement, here are meticulous moorings, minimal and maximal, full of a contoured dexterity rarely seen in today's world where art students do not want to draw.

Bakula's tensile and intricate pen and ink drawings and illustrations, jam-packed with witty, delightful and queerly curious characters just tumble out – there are birds with hats, penguins that dive, fish that wear pirate eye-patches, friendly cats who dine with fish, and snails that pile on top of one another in gay abandon.

Bakula's works are both full of vintage vitality sometimes traditional sometimes contemporary. But absolutely out of the ordinary and at the same time ageless and unique for their treatment and tale bearing affinities.

At the heart of Bakula's work are her – romantic inclinations and her love affair with all things antique.

You can sense that she has hung around hrift shops, antique stores and lived in the West. She knows how to sniff out old magic stifled in everyday elements and with a few leaves and flowers and shrubs and a few creatures threw in elevates the mundane into delightful, dreamy and illusion incantations through her art.

Her collection of 3,000-odd papers include legal documents from pre-independence princely kingdoms in India, music sheets from across the world dating to the 1920s, old maps of India and America and unusual notes like a love letter written on the letterhead of the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Her love for old paper and old things belonging to yesteryear come to fore – some objects belong to personal history, when she says: "An example is when my father worked with Dr Abdul Kalam and they were at the Thumba Rocket Launching Station. He wrote a letter to my mother on one of the documents saying how bad the food is there and how he learned to make the custard, which is all he was making for dinner. The rocket painting was my first."

Bakula's friends hand over old forgotten worn out things to her. "I bring out hidden stories that have been alive for over a 100 years now. I feel like I am the keeper of memories," she says.

Uma Nair

Uma Nair

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