A studio is a place to work, most artists will say matter-of–factly. It is also a space to ruminate endlessly on a colour, struggle to arrive at a certain clarity, grapple with the idea of one’s self and the world, and to bear the bloodied birth of a breakthrough. This stays true to the etymological origin of the studio as a place ‘to study’.
Most importantly, it is a place to submit—with some recklessness—to a form as it takes shape, following its own inner logic.
Studios aren’t even a fixed place, in the case of some artists. While Krishen Khanna has been descending the stairs to the twilight of his basement studio for decades, Jogen Chowdhury makes his studio wherever he is for the week, between Kolkata and Delhi and Shantiniketan. Studios can resemble cavernous, messy warehouses, with materials strewn about “as if it were a site of a burglary” as contemporary artists, like Riyas Komu, who work with mixed-media will attest, or a mini-museum that showcases a personal collection of folk art that is a constant inspiration for Manjunath Kamath. For Anjolie Ela Menon, the studio is the right setting for the local characters to seep in, like the colours, into her canvas.
Then, as many artists will reluctantly accede, sometimes it’s simply a place of quiet to allow for the voices in the head to be heard, or a place of escape from the nagging disquiet of a bemused family! — Madhu Kapparath
ANJOLIE ELA MENON (pictured above) Nizamuddin West, New Delhi
I’ve worked out of this space, amidst the bustling Nizamuddin basti, for the last 22 years. I like that it isn’t a gentrified area. There’s so much going on, I’m in these people’s lives. They are my friends, and it’s inspiring. There’s a certain economy in the way people live their lives here, a certain generosity. The seasons have a meaning in the basti, the festivals; they live by the sound of the azaan. The characters from the life outside come into my paintings.
The basti wasn’t so crowded then—a lot of construction has come up all around it since. I’ve felt sometimes that this space is too small when working on my big canvasses but, in the end, I want to stay here as long as I am painting.