The Search for Everything

Tuesday, 30 January 2018


Between two lungs, a conscious of mine took a deep breath. Flighty thoughts strayed into desolate plateaus under the view of a vigilant sun and moon, my half closed eyes. But my meek hands rested like the anchored rocks of a cavern, I suddenly found myself in. Darkly lit and tinged with rays of red, among the many quieted ones, I waited in the cavernous theatre. His grave was on my mind.


July 26, 2017
Cemterie de Pere Lachaise, Paris

Though spring had dawned in, the overarching trees cast darkness into the cemetery, furtively silencing a sprightly morning. Something unsettling lingered on, perhaps what I read into the wee hours of morning. It eventually was buried into my heavy tote bag as I walked through the land where many shared the same fate as my book. Pere Lachaise was lined with majestic tombs, a few gilded in gold and guarded by finely sculpted angels, while some were lost in the hills of retired souls. In search of him, he got me feeling lost, just like in his book, for he was nowhere to be found in the cemetery.

I always thought that prestige was immortal, but his discreet hiding questioned how much he coveted fame. Perhaps, it was that last wish to respect the ‘primordial silence’*. Passing by Eugene De La Croix’s decadent tomb, a swift left and quick descent on a raggedy slope led to him. There he was buried under apathetic twigs and parasitic wild grass, his white marbled grave only bore a name and a simple cross. It was a clean slate, purely reflective of whom he was.

The Pere Lachaise Cemetery marvelled me with its stunning crematoriums and the design of the tombs 

I stood in silence, positively disappointed. My sound mind was soothed by the bare inflections of the rustling leaves. As my fingers ran through the engraved ‘M’ on his tomb, it took me the first time I learned to emboss letters on cartridge paper. The humming of the machines, the agility of my hands and finally the indentations marked on the paper. The aged grave looking weary and discolored, it shared a semblance to the practice papers smudged by my careless inked palms. A small feeling would sprout I assumed, rather it was a wave of severing remarks; unresolved ambitions and the warmest embraces that were all felt in the moment my fingers ran through his name. But all those moments were deeply earthed into the soil. They rested by his grave, just like the book that calmly settled in my bag. Perhaps the words Merleau Ponty left to me in his book were the biggest gesture and his obscure explanation.


January 16, 2018
Rose Theatre, London

Enclosed in the cavernous theatre, we were silent in our bat-like robes, one could not tell anything with all the silence, but pride prevailed in the air. I tried to think of one defining moment during my academic year and it was the day before my submission, I told my lecturer, “ I have never enjoyed a more grueling and engrossing conversation with my mind and body.” My visit to Ponty’s grave made me discover his notions, which eventually changed my approach to my dissertation and then my attitude of what I wanted to pursue. My earlier fight for the straight A’s and prestigious job did not become trivial but differently interpreted.  The only thing I wanted was to discover an experienced world and thus I delved intently into phenomenology. Thus when they called my name, and when I walked up to the stage, I knew graduated with something beyond a distinction but an overpowering mastery over my life. And that evening I toasted with wine, quoting Ponty, “We know nothing through our intellect but through our experience.”

Graduation day had had conspired me to walk a different route
which landed me at a book sale and thus Cezanne's letters was gift to myself

Some of us were dubious about our Master’s. There were many questions on why I took a sudden flight to London, abruptly cut off my life in Kochi. Speculations such as cannot tolerate the intrusive society, plans to fall haplessly in love, or just another degree to add on to the curriculum vitae. And now returning to Kochi also drew a lot of concocted answers, “Oh she just went to have fun, she did not go there to hunt for a job, and she just wanted an extended vacation.” The new year’s pressures to boast of something afresh is inevitable, I have absolutely nothing on me, apart from a jovial graduation photograph.

But many little things mattered, my first ultramarine screen print, a boating trip at Richmond, reading out letters in a park, getting my apron stained with paints, the letters of Van Gogh and Virgina Woolf, stumbling upon polaroid in Paris, illustrations on postcards at Covent Garden, a rendezvous with a music composer.  I won’t say they all lined up to make me who I am now, but I figured out the beauty of living, lies between fatal and delusional honesty. So when I graduated and tossed my hat, I promised myself to write about one valuable lesson I took away during my breathing space at London. That started with one honest letter.


Written Indeed

The bus made it though the steeped hill and finally stopped at George Street. I felt like if a bus could overcome the hill, I could get out my slump in spirits. It was one of those days, where are we going with this? I decided to settle by the boating lake at Richmond, it was time let to go of this strive for perfection. I then wrote to my closest friend. Until the letter was crisply folded and tucked into the envelope, I figured my next moment like this should be by the Parisian banks. 

Summers by the Richmond Boating Lake 


July 20, 2017
The Boating Lake, Richmond

My Dearest,

Are you one of those tortured artists?
I would bite my tongue every time someone asks me this; for many imagine my bed stand would have bottles of anti-depressants and charred cigarettes, followed by crumpled papers. I wouldn't know what to say, for I rise at six in the morning and do not have a mind that roves at night, also I have a memory that cannot be disturbed by a bottle. Thus many are so foolish to think we’re all drunkards who have to be creatively inspired.

For the past few days, I have found no solace visiting museums and staring hauntingly into paintings. Even by the promenade, there’s been no pleasure seeing the glimmer of water like artists must have then. But I have trapped myself in the library, reading letters only to be amused with artists’ and writers’ wisdom. Van Gogh, Woolf, Matisse, Cezanne have consumed me with their turbulent brains. For they read, devoured themselves in challenges, flogged their doubts and daringly worked to be articulate. The artists of the past were erudite, candor reined, no balderdash or high talk. They didn’t seem to charm anyone; there was no need to boast of one’s intellect. I feel these days; we do, like cowardly lions.


Letters to Theo, " If I don't do anything, if I don't study, if I don't go seeking any longer, I am lost. Then woe of me.
That is how I look at it: to continue, to continue that is what is necessary.
But you will ask, what is your definite aim? 

Projects and essays have never been futile, for I feel every time I write or make, I learn a few lessons in time. But this time my dissertation awakens something harsh in me, how much of me do I see, have I been dangerously academically faffing. Eventually it got to me, I’ve been stripped off my cockiness.  All the thoughts about my carefree appearance made me wonder, do I have a well-seasoned mind?

Yesterday’s lesson
I was asked what was cohesive in my collection
beyond colors, lines, and alignments
There wasn’t an inkling of my challenged mind
My journals should have been shredded, answers no where
Papers looked good in stores, but my work made no impact on them
I have been in constant self-doubt
At the workstation my legs are agitated, my hands are finicky
Self-doubt and harmony are allies

Everyone thinks design’s form only count. Earlier I wondered what would make it look good and persuasive, but the more I read, it never felt enough. There’s no space for errors, mind resorts to brandishing techniques or literal interpretations. Rewired to not to make art trite, never be caught drowning when research is on the surface. These days, my bloody body is propped on the chair, I feel a certain rush, “ Have your impulses betrayed you?”

At the LetterPress workshop, the best saying when you're afraid to make the final touches 

 I look back, for I felt some words been callously used; ethos has been dangerously abused. When I write a piece, my professors take a seat and know whether my piece has been scooped from an empty bowl of hope or whether my mentally exhausted brain has been married to my piece. Effortless or not, every electrified nerve of mine cried and rejoiced when it came to life.

I don’t care if I don't have a job yet, or the fanciest credentials, but this is one thing that uni  has taught me. Stay loyal to your heart and work hard for your ethos, never be afraid to dig deep into yourself and question the true purpose of what you write or make. Give your Pinterest board a rest, manifest with yourself, sketch, rip your books, fail, create solely from a ‘neglected self’ and suddenly the world sees sit. I tell myself to understand what I design and write, confront how I feel about it, but never make something just look good. It gets us nowhere. Make everything conscious process. I promise myself to write solemnly and design with a meaning that crawls into my skin and beats with my resonant heart. To feel my nerves implode and sink into dangerous ruts of confusion but rise above with the profound fury. It does not happen all at once, but I hope it gets better in time.  So the next time I create, I swear so ardently to think deeper and go beyond superficialities.

With love
Atheena


My first experimentation with screen prints and a dedication to Yves Klein's Ultramarine 

So when someone asks, why did you go to London, I won’t be able to say anything. Perhaps ‘’Lose yourself’ would be apt, but it was beyond that. Merleau Ponty has always has always had a composure when it came to understanding the relation between an objective and experiential world. He believed that nothing determines one from the outside which  disciplined me to see the world in a way of my own. The course has changed, the run has begun. This time, it’s with my  wilful lungs, I take a deep breath and  run with resilience. Open out to the world, for nothing is a mystery when you’re in search for everything.


While working at the screen-printing workshop



I would like to thank Dr. Chris Horrocks and my workshop guides Ioannis Belimpasakis & Mar Rubio who motivated me immensely. Chris has been always taking about my experiential side and my phenomenological liking, thus I had to write about Ponty who is a great influence. The photographs are quite vague, but they’re captures that influenced my project. I would like to thank my closest friends who have to deal with my weirdest letters. Regarding the title, Search for Everything, John Mayer calmed my nerves when I wrote my dissertation critique and it very much lingered into this story as well.



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