Sketches: Performers Unique to Community

While searching for references for the performances I observed that I was inclining more towards feature films as a source for Visual references of Gondhal. Not that it is wrong to refer to feature films but the fact that constantly and consistently I turned to feature films first, caught my attention. I made peace with this idea that because these artforms were introduced to me through feature films, I must have turned towards them first.

Then I started searching for live performances when I realised that again I am referring to only feature films or staged performances for visual references. I realised I was discarding a lot of images and videos till a point I felt frustrated because there were no ‘nice’ visual references.

I discarded the images or videos on the basis of following points

  • Feature films and Staged performances in television shows
    • It is choreographed for purposes other than the original. Hence there might be loss of authenticity due to creative liberty- questioning context (Does authenticity of performance depend on the physical space, occasion and who it is performed for? Should we even look for authenticity when it comes to art?)
    • The performers are too dapper- (Does change in attire, colour schemes, instruments and body movements change the artform? Does it remain authentic then? What consists as core-something which defines the form of the performance?)
  • Commissioned live performances which happened at someone’s house – didn’t seem visually striking
Sketches drawn with references from feature films
Sketch drawn from videos and photographs of commissioned live performance. These show less dramatic everyday attire and little to no use of jewelry.

In search of better references, I started reading academic papers and books written about these art forms hoping there might be few authentic visual documentations. And to my surprise there were very few to almost none.

This made me realise –  

First. There is no proper documentation of any of these artforms or it is not available online for viewing or even as a reference. These artforms are so local and tightly weaved in a community, where finding an academician amongst them is very rare. Most of the sources I found who wrote about these artforms are

  • Academicians with best skillset and resources but who have no connect with the performing community (performers, viewers) of this artform hence lack the rooted approach, everyday stories, authentic viewpoints of the community.
  • People who might have some connect but cannot be accepted or easily discredited as academicians as they lack the necessary skills (proper academic language), academic community for review and support, resources for visual documentation or experts

I disapproved all the information I got from the above sources till a point I realised, this is what is available and hence this is all what I have! May be then, studying these performances and their context a secondary source have to be rethought.

Second. The ‘nice’ness of the visual references that I was searching for, comes from ‘my’ idea of aesthetics and not trying to see what aesthetic sense these performance-ecologies might have.

Points that I could Identify, which my subconscious imposed as aesthetic values for filtration

  • Frame- existence of composed and coordinated frame
  • Spatial Composition – of performers is more dramatic than actual performance in a house
  • Movements are more graceful in the feature films
  • Colours- the colours used in the attire, backdrop and physical setting of the performance are coordinated. This might not be the case in all live performance in the houses.
  • Music- Music was melodious, coherent, composed in a more dramatic way. The recordings are clear. This might not be the case with the live performances.

The photographs and Videographs of the live performances lack composition, stability in the frames, quality of camera is not very good leading to grainy or shaky photos and videos. The As these performances happen in someone’s house and neighbourhood, colour coordination, better sound and recording systems might not have been possible.

Sketch showing colour-coordinated attires and dramatic use of jewelry as shown in a staged performance

So, the references collected for drawings are from feature films, performances on stage, performance in houses uploaded as videos, photos, and blogs.

Now once the references were in place. Drawing was the next challenge. I have always overlooked and avoided drawing humans as I thought that I was not good at those. It had never mattered and hence I had not even attempted practicing drawing. While drawing these, I was in the spirit of exploration so most of the time I tried to work through the inhibitions

  • What if it doesn’t turn good/perfect (what even is perfect?)
  • What if I don’t get the proportions right?
  • It is going to take time getting used to a new medium. Accepting that the drawings are not going to be what I expect them to be.

Graphite and pen have been my buddies for sketching. I usually draw in a small book with graphite or pens. Changing the medium and size of the paper has brought new movements in the hand and hence a new style of linework, rethinking what to draw first, how to size, render, etc.

Following are few sketches made with paint, charcoal, graphite and pen