Art is a natural extension of novelist-poet Vikram Seth’s literature. The writer says he likes to paint— both in words and colours — to create organic shapes with distinct calligraphic identities and poetic sensibilities.
The author of A Suitable Boy, who went public with his mastery over the intricate art of Chinese, Arabic and Devnagari calligraphy in his anthology of poetry, The Rivered Earth last year, unveiled three word paintings for Absolut Vodka’s creative art brand in the capital.
The acrylic paintings with multi-dimensional surface textures in basic earth colours of orange, green, blue, gold and black, were conceived around the impressionist motifs of Absolut Vodka bottles framed by calligraphy for a new-media text-art effect.
Below each canvas were etched two lines of Seth’s poetry to capture the essence of the visuals.
‘I have studied Chinese calligraphy for 15 years from my master Zhao Yizhou. When I was in China [early in his career], I used to write calligraphy with a ball pen. That is how it happened,’ Seth recalled during the unveiling of his paintings.
Green is the theme of Seth’s Pyasa Pyala [The Thirsty Cup] that takes off on Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s Madhushala in Devnagari calligraphy.
‘The canvas represents the shringar rasa [love],’ the writer said.
The third canvas, Na Main, Na Mai in Urdu and Nastaleeq script, painted in a palette of blue and gold, is ‘shanta [peace] rasa’.
‘In Blue and Gold, I watch the evening sky/Darken, till neither remains nor I,’ Seth says of the canvas in a rush of nostalgia.
It was Arab Spring when Seth was painting the canvas and his teacher, Nasser Mansour in Jordan, had to vet the writer’s calligraphy before he decided to exhibit it, the author recalled.
The writer shifted home to England after buying a country home, the old Rectory in Salisbury owned by maverick 17th century metaphysical poet George Herbert, in 2003.
Currently the writer is waiting for A Suitable Girl [sequel to A Suitable Boy] to emerge ‘as and when she chooses to’.