December 29, 2015

A Teatime Adventure with Bakula Nayak

by Sonaksha Iyengar

Images copyright Bakula Nayak

Old papers, ink and tea — the essentials to churn out magical stories and fill up mundane days for Bakula Nayak, an artist whose first solo exhibition Make Art…Make Love…Make Tea was on display at Kynkyny Art, Bengaluru. The illustrations feature dainty teacups, birds that knit and sweater-wearing animals that act as a portkey to a world where she floats after the chaotic mornings with her three children rushing to school.


Adventures-Await    In-a-Bind


Bakula enjoys making stories, whether it is at the airport with her husband or when she’s walking on the streets and spots an intricately designed balcony. It started with stumbling upon 500 love letters around her house that were exchanged between her parents. “They were the most loveless couple I’d ever seen and suddenly after they passed away, I found this stash of letters. It was intensely romantic for me,” she confesses.

Collector of anything old, Bakula decided to combine her love for storytelling, inking and old papers together to create a series of mixed media illustrations. She dusts off old paper with new realities and adds ink, colour and lots of food to the mix. “I can never be sure how the paper will react to pens and watercolours since they are so old. I lay them out in the sun regularly, work with clean hands and keep my curious kids away,” she says about the process of maintaining vintage paper.




A self-taught artist, Bakula’s approach to colours is instinctual as opposed to the planning and thought that goes into the inking, influenced by her education in architecture. She adds, “I usually start with painting the things I know – the bottle, blue or the milk, white and then go on from there. I keep the colours to a minimum so that the details of the inking doesn’t get lost.”

As a child, she didn’t draw mountains, houses and v-shaped birds. Her mother asked her to draw events reported in newspapers and she was always told to have a concept. This set the premise for her future illustrations that are woven together with dialogue, anecdotes, people and imaginary characters. “As a nine-year-old child, I had to paint Sati and Indira Gandhi’s funeral. I’m thankful my mom really pushed me to think about a concept before I drew.”



When she’s not sipping her cup of tea and going on a journey to alternate realities, Bakula and her creative soul mate Pallavi Nopany, work on branding at their advertising agency, Pack of 2. They work together towards projects that have a sense of craft, history and storytelling. However, Bakula admits that she has considered quitting her job; she says, “I’ve found my place in these illustrations and everyone around me is pushing me to go for it. Pallavi doesn’t hold me to it since she understands I really love this. I prefer having my creative freedom and time when I’m working and I’m thankful my husband has been a constant support to do what I love.”



With trashy Bollywood music in the background, self-declared tone-deaf Bakula lives in alternate universes while going through reality. She enjoys romanticizing the mundane nitty-gritty of everyday in her illustrations whether it is the stacked up pancakes for breakfast or cookies and milk before bed. Bakula sets papers found at flea markets and estate sales as the backdrop for illustrated tales. A legal document from Travancore Kingdom about a land claim case becomes the perfect reminder of her super mom powers of investigation every time ice cream goes missing from the fridge. A paper with unpaid dues becomes the setting for a little bird stuck in a pickle jar aptly titled In a Pickle.



The exhibition at Kynkyny Art, Bengaluru, takes you to whimsical Bakula Nayak’s everyday teatime escapade — walls lined with book sculptures, bird cages, typewriters, vintage white suitcases, three mason jars filled with sweet treats and of course, a teapot to serve the magical potion. Her illustrations are a space where dreams are juxtaposed with reality to elicit a love for little details and gestures that are otherwise lost in a frenzied completion of to-do lists.

As Bakula says, “I think now, more than ever, we need lovers, dreamers and poets in the world.” With an empty teapot and the doorbell ringing, it’s time to jump out of the parallel universe created with meticulously detailed inks and yellow paper, but the air is filled with a lingering hope to return with new tales and characters.

Bakula Nayak’s works are available at Kynkyny Art, Bengaluru and Emami Chisel Art, Kolkata.

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