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Landscapes, Ruins and Forts

Princess goes on boat ride
Ink and colour pencil 30 x 42 cm


Golconda Fort Classic
Ink and grey wash A4 paper


I have learned to improve my ‘seeing’ in India through photography, trying to follow what the French Painter Fernand Léger, a cubist, surrealist and industrial painter said: “Photography is the same principle as a painting (….) beauty is everywhere around us, it is teeming, but we have to ‘see it’, to isolate it and to frame it through the lens.”

I love the wonderfully varied landscapes of India – green or dry plains of Rajasthan, thick forests of the Himalayan hills, banks and ghats of the Narmada, tea plantations of Kerala, rice fields of Orissa or marshlands of Bengal … I also like the busy streets with colourful crowds, or quiet culs de sac where you bump into quirky surprises. Quite often I have been tempted to cut off a piece of derelict wall, steel a cycle rickshaw, take away the painted door of a truck, or collect pieces of rubble, pipes and sink, just to reinstall them in a spacious loft. The street of India for me is its first Art Gallery. Home interiors in India offer a sharp contrast with the aggressive outdoors, they give shade, a cool respite, they are clean with incense, shelters of peace and may give you a moment of bliss away from chaos.

Forts and ruins
As a traveller, I went to see many like Mehrangarh, Chittorgah, Amber or Golconda near Hyderabad. I have visited the incredible temples of Elephanta, Khajuraho, Puri, Sarnath. I also discovered the aquatints of the Daniell’s and looked at many photographs of Indian landscapes, forts and ruins, for instance Bala Hissar in Kabul. Why am I so attracted by forts and ruins in India? I feel they beautifully express both the grandeur of India’s history and also the passing of time. Glory on one hand, decay on the other hand. And the destruction process is so strong with the forces of nature that – I feel – it is part of Indian metaphysics.

I started by making small ink sketches, either live or from a photograph, with pencil, ink and wash in small formats and gradually shifted to the ‘imagined fort’- a fort that I reworked as real but is not real. Later, moving to ‘Abstract Forts’, where I try to suggest a fort by a few strokes of ink and wash and finally, trying some variations on mid-size formats in Acrylic, influenced sometimes by Victor Hugo, Nicolas de Stael or Gauguin.

Michel Testard

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