Daily Archives: September 3, 2010

Interview with… Andrew Logan

Photo: R. Raghu

The hotel room is all muted tones of olive green and cream, and I’m worried. It doesn’t seem like the right backdrop in which to photograph the famously colourful designer, sculptor and painter Andrew Logan.

Then he emerges, resplendent in a bright pink, orange and green pant-suit (with sunny yellow socks and bejewelled black shoes) and a glowing piece of his signature mirrored jewellery at his neck. “You don’t need to worry about colour,” he says with a twinkle.

That’s all right, then.

An interview with Logan is a fascinating journey through four decades of fabulous art and fashion, and even more fabulous friends and parties. A distinctive figure in the world of British art, Logan has spent the time since he finished qualifying as an architect at Oxford in the 1960s being ‘determinedly alternative’.

“In the U.K., there’s a system within the art world,” Logan says, adding wryly, “I’m not part of that system.”

His objective from the beginning has been very simple – to infuse a little magic and happiness into people’s lives. “My work is about celebrating life and making people smile, if even for just a little while,” he says. “You’ll find very few artists doing that; it’s such as simple message, yet so little used.”

So his quirky, one-of-a-kind jewellery pieces, for instance, are all bright colour and glittering pieces of mirror and glass, with, more often than not, a smiley face worked in. Even the vast art installation project he’s currently working on in Chennai for the new Hyatt hotel on Anna Salai is cheerfully, colourfully avant-garde, based on bees and flowers and the theme of interdependence.

And his ‘Alternative Miss World’ event – which has been around since the 1970s and is the subject of a recent documentary film – is all about imagination, transformation and a lot of crazy, wonderful fun, where people (a colourful cast of characters over the years) turn out in outrageous costumes.

“I call it a surreal art event for all-round family entertainment,” he smiles. “I carry on with it because it’s all in fun – there’s no huge money involved or sponsorship. People don’t enter to win; they just want to be part of the event. And I’ve always loved giving parties, ever since I was 10 years old!”

That’s also the reason his museum – The Andrew Logan Museum of Sculpture– was opened in Wales, in 1991, making Logan the first living UK artist to have his own museum. “My sculptures are just there, to be looked after and to be enjoyed, without all the implications of exhibiting at a gallery,” says the artist, who grew up in the Cotswolds.

While these otherworldly sculptures and installations reflect his love of the fantastic and the magical (the Cosmic Egg, displayed at the American Museum of Visionary Art, Baltimore, and his Pegasus series, for example), his larger-than-life abstract portraits of friends and family, the famous and the infamous reflect his love for people and their eccentricities (many are displayed in the National Portrait Gallery, London).

And all his works reflect his obsession with mirrors – specifically broken mirrors. “People tell me, ‘Oh, you must have so much bad luck!’. I say, if you remake the broken mirrors into the most fabulous thing ever seen, how could it be bad luck?” says Logan with a grin. “I just love how broken mirrors fracture images – it’s like looking through a hole and seeing another world!”

Over the years, he’s become a well-known figure in a number of worlds – fashion, fine arts and performing arts — though he is frequently accused of not being a ‘serious artist’. “They say, ‘You can’t possibly be an artist because you like to dress up and show off’,” he says casually.

But fans of his work aren’t complaining – they’re just glad to be part of his ‘Worldwide Happy Club’. And Logan is clearly not troubled. He just lives in his – what else – fabulous glass house, with its sunshine yellow walls, along with his better half, Mike Davis in London. He conducts workshops at the Jaipur festival every year and spends every winter in a 250-year-old palace in the middle of a coconut grove in Goa.

“February in London is dark, cold and just miserable, and I’ve had enough of those,” he says, smiling. “For the rest of my life, I’ve decided to spend it somewhere lovely and warm.”

It’s all quite as magical as his art, really.

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Article: His Master’s Voice

The Hindu

The relationship between K. Balachander and Kamal Haasan defies categorisation. Director –actor, mentor – protégé, father – son… all those lines have been blurred in the 40 years that they’ve known each other, creating a bond that’s unique and unconditional.

So when the veteran filmmaker couldn’t make it to Trivandrum to speak at the felicitation function of his protégé due to ill health recently, he grew upset. But his lovingly crafted speech reached Kamal Haasan nonetheless, one more in the series of touchingly genuine letters Balachander has sent to the actor over the years.

“Here are his earlier letters to me, that I’ve framed,” says Kamal when we meet in his office, displaying the neatly preserved pieces of paper. “I call them ‘my degrees’.”

They span the four decades that the two have known each other, beginning with the first one sent in 1977 after Balachander saw 16 Vayathinile. “I receive them only when he thinks I deserve it – I have to work for them!” says Kamal with a smile.

This particular occasion was Kerala state government’s felicitation of Kamal Haasan for 50 remarkable years in cinema. In the letter, Balachander says, “From babyhood to childhood, from adolescence to youth, from manhood to middle age, I have been part of this magician’s life… Kamal has evolved into everything that I have dreamt he would be. Indeed, I should never be surprised by anything he achieves, yet I am constantly amazed.”

It is high praise, so much so that Kamal himself was quite overwhelmed. “I had to read it out to my sister, who was witness to my early dark days, when my mother was afraid would happen to me,” he says. “But I knew I couldn’t without choking up, so I asked Gautami to read it out for me.”

It is, he says, everything he always wanted to hear from Balachander, his guru, the man he thinks of as a father figure. “I use the word ‘guru’ for him in the mythological sense – all other educationists ask for payment for knowledge imparted; this gentleman paid me and taught me. What a journey it was for me, after I met him at the age of 17 and a half.”

In the letter, Balachander describes this journey as one of mutual learning. “I did not teach him everything he knows. He just absorbed everything I knew. The rest he discovered himself by asking, probing, begging, watching, observing, reading, demanding, investigating, improvising, experimenting, experiencing, learning and not being afraid of stretching himself beyond his own limits,” he writes. “I only gave him the platform and the opportunity to discover himself. In the process, I was blessed enough to discover myself.”

For all their mutual regard, however, Kamal describes their relationship as having remained respectfully formal. “I prepare even for a conversation with him – I never want to say too little or too much. And I never disturb him except when I feel I’ve done something worthwhile,” he says. “It’s a rare relationship – unconditional and professional.”

The depth of the relationship is evident in Balachander’s letter. “I have long since lost the taste, appetite and hunger for personal applause. All I wish for now is to hear the applause, the cheers, the trumpets and the music singing [praises of] Kamal Haasan’s genius,” he writes. “No one has staked his reputation, repertoire and resources for the cause of cinema as much as he has. It is not mere pursuit of fame and fortune. In fact, he has lost more than he has gained. It goes beyond that.”

As this special relationship turns 40 next year, it seems certain to continue to mature like fine wine. “To have won a place in his heart among all those he has mentored and created itself is a distinction,” says Kamal.

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