Catalogue foreword by Rebecca Campbell, 2014
India is all of the above - Bewitching, Bedazzling, Bewildering - and much more. I spent several months there in my early twenties, bombarded from every direction by the colours, noises, smells and its diverse culture. I was completely captivated.
The beauty, vibrancy and variety of its landscape; from densely populated cities like Delhi clogged with traffic, to the vast open landscapes of farmland in Uttar Predesh and deserts of Rajasthan. Travel south of the country, to Kerala, and you find the tranquil backwaters and manicured tea plantations spread over rising slopes. However, it is the people I’ve met during my time in India that have had the biggest impact on me. Despite the extremes of rich and poor, there is such a generosity and humour. Indians people are so industrious, not a scrap goes to waste.
My experience of India was life changing and there are so many wonderful memories...
Travelling on local buses crammed with people, shopping and chickens weaving through a sea of bicycles laden with goods. Camels pulling hefty carts, rickshaws packed with school children, enormous lorries, tuk-tuks, taxis and Ambassador cars. In this mayhem, a sacred cow wanders in the opposite direction!
Epic overcrowded train journeys across the vast landscapes. As the train pulls into each station, vendors rush to the window selling their wares, sweet chai and even sweeter sweets.
Visiting wonderful temples, palaces and forts, including the most famous, the Taj Mahal. No photograph can do it justice - the sheer size, the glistening white marble and the intricacy of the inlaid semi precious stones – completely breathtaking.
Seeing Holi, a festival where everyone is showered with multicoloured powder to celebrate the end of winter.
Watching the Fire Ceremony – led by priests carrying burning candelabras in front of their idols – snake its way though an ancient Hindu temple, to the deafening sound of bells and the exquisite sounds of sacred chants.
On Sundays - at a church in Kolkata - street kids turn up to be washed and fed. We washed them with hoses and soap, as they squealed with laughter.
The biggest treat came when crossing the Western Ghats, looking through the trees to see wild elephants playing in the river. I have always loved elephants; as I child I collected ornaments of them. Sometime after my return, I heard Mark Shand give a talk about his epic adventure riding his elephant, Tara across India. He became aware of their plight and set up the charity Elephant Family (elephantfamily.org). When asked to get involved by the charity, I jumped on board, taking part in several amazing projects to raise money and awareness, including painting two elephants for Elephant Parade, London. With the very sad news of Mark’s untimely death, I feel very honoured to have been one of his artists.
India has had a massive impact on my work, seeing the Mogul miniatures at first hand, their exquisite colours, detail and sense of design still influences my work today.
I recently returned. I was invited to stay with the most amazing, hospitable couple from Delhi who very generously shared their India with me. Once again I was completely captivated. It also brought back so many memories of my previous trip. This show of 24 paintings is the result.