Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Drawings of Kastelli by Asit Poddar and text by Hatto Fischer (2006)

Athens 2006

Impressions made upon Asit Poddar coming from India when he arrived in Greece for the first time, and therefore in Athens prior to traveling on by boat to Crete, were not only captured by drawings. He had also in mind other contrasts captured by photographs of buses in Athens compared to the ones driving through the streets of Kolkata in India. He maintained India has its own colourfulness and noise to add to what can be experienced in Athenian and later on in the streets of Kastelli in Crete.

As this was a part of the first Kids' Guernica exhibition organised by Poiein kai Prattein in Greece, and specifically in Kastelli, Crete this action by Asit Poddar made it into being more than a mere exhibition. It included already aside from 18 peace murals exhibited in the school yard as well poetry readings, workshops, dances and of course plenty of good food thanks to the great hospitality of the Cretans. This was brought about in particular in Kastelli thanks to the mayor, Nicos and the association of women who cooked for all of us. And then there were these drawings by Asit Poddar.

In a quiet, that is at first unnoticed way, Asit Poddar went through Kastelli with his drawing bloc. It made me realize an action like this is like an observing eye for details as to what such a community entails not only in terms of its physical structure, but where the men gather or how youngsters race through streets never conceived for cars. That calls for a collectivity of intersecting lines marking junctures between vision and real limitations within such a city or rather confined space. The church is often set apart, another space, while the men remain sceptical about peace symbols such as Picasso's pigeon since over used by now to recall peace is possible when in fact war continues to reign. The men in the Platia have grown sceptical. They did not go to see the exhibition of the murals in the school yard, thus, the participants of Kids' Guernica had to go to them and talk with them over coffee while heavy smoke drifted across the table. Always, there were smiles but their faces showed that they kept a great distance to the visitors. After all they would be gone in three days time and then the clock would wind further on to make another notch for another year gone by.

No, the men in the Platia maintained that they see only war all around them and if not close by than at such a distance that the shots may not be heard but the repercussions can be felt. Kastelli is in particular sensitive to that issue. Close to Iraklion, there was around that time a lot of talk about extending the already military airfield since the plateau allows a level landing compared to the rest of Crete. That made it remarkable to see in the exhibition murals of peace and in the background the military airport. If that is an answer by children wishing something else than tools of war than the mural from Afghanistan shows how. These tools are put into a meat grinder and out come tools needed for education: pencils, rulers, erasers etc. So to come back to the drawings of Asit Poddar, they remind me of what Philippe Herring said and which stands in the tradition of Vincent Van Gogh, namely drawing is one of the most honest ways of expressing oneself.

Asit made the following drawings during the Kids' Guernica exhibition in Kastelli, April 20 - 23, 2006


Array of houses




Doors as secret entry points

Details are not electic for then it would mean sadness that not all is being observed while there is much wastage in whatever is being described. It should be remembered here the eyes observe the difference between houses at home and those abroad. Thus the drawing reflects what striking details manifest themselves the moment one enters a different space such as to be found in Kastelli, Crete.

As an impression the street becomes like floor boards of an imaginary stage while the doort takes on something similar to a veiled face of a woman wearing more than just a scarve to hide her face. Then another look can follow the glance of children down the street.

The rope leading to a bell makes electricity seem obsolete or at least within this space intertwine with different levels of communication. At the same time, it does appear a bit confusing since it appears as somewhat arbitrary within that specific triangle to be discovered when following the line of the rope going upward to what appears like a lamp and not a bell.

The rhythm of the location in space and time seems modest, like a casual presence. There is no need to be historical at this place. Time is what this building has made available over time.

The upper window is just waiting for more discoveries of the 'self'. It cannot be made out easily by simply passing by. No, one has to stop and see. Like the observing eye things can be more easily watched when letting the eye glide over the terrain of the entire building. Such a drawing is not just a mere stop to look at the house. Rather it is a discovery of details.


Mother and child with bicycle

In between houses this drawing depicts not only a simple street scene. For the angles and corner stones of the pavement indicate a glance down the street towards the next platia. Since the mother accompanies her child with bicycle, it can be taken as metaphor for the future path that child shall take when growing up in Kastelli. Where will it be in 2026, that is twenty years from now? The drawing reveals the curiosity of the stranger wishing to know what future awaits the child. Walls, windows, balconies and roofs, they all seem to give an answer. This is the trusted environment in which growing up means taking root in the local environment. It determines from then on the particular identity, the feeling one has for a special place. There seems to be a small altar to the right of the mother and child. It appears fixed to the wall of the house like a sitting statue of a different time, a reminder of the Cycladic sculptures with their lean faces. Another time. Indeed, details matter.

A portrait

The portrait links a gesture in the face with the arm leading on the hand to pronounce something to lean on.

Whatever you can think of life, it is an aspect to be considered. It marks a person for life. So this face tells the story what happens when growing old. There can be told the physical strain in the face. It is like rain on the roof. Pounding away at times, water like time comes and wears down even the most resistent materials like the stone. Man should not be oblivious as to what he can give while still alive, mentally and physically. There is time for that to be done. It is not heavy at all but lightness comes with trust and light in the eyes. Deep inside such a glance there are more spaces to be discovered, spaces of time and of experiences. This is Crete where Minos had build the labyrinth but a true person in its depth is not like a labyrinth but rather a recollection of memories which take you into the future. Just follow those eyes. They make up the difference as explained or underlined by the overall posture. It underlines a mildness and a certainty of being although of a different kind when compared to the Cretan people. The language of the hair (Pierre Paolo Pasolini) or the lines around the head explain why. Yes, there is possible shouting, the shaking of the fist, but not a readiness to become violent even when it gets rough at times during conversations in the taverna. There is above all the determination of the lips. It says it all. As if a parrot was sitting on the shoulder to let the man revel in memories of children. It is a moment when not sadness prevails but a man reveals to himself what was once to be a child and dreaming to become a pirate.



Church in Kastelli

The church is a most curious building since the front door is really at the back of the church so by entering at the back you may look at the altar up front. Such a design the artist captures in his sketch. He makes the front door at the back disappear to complete the impression. It leaves the eyes free to wander around, from the back wall over to where the church bell is hanging in the church tower. Or the plumber fastened loosely the drainage pipe to collect the rain from the roof. It is drawn as if like an attachment which transforms the walls into garments. Again the artist's eyes acknowledge only half what we see can realized by our mind when describing the building just in front of us. What sketches highlight what, that was something Van Gogh emphasized as the most important characteristic of a drawing. He considers drawing as a development of honesty of the hand. It can be chiffres even if not on paper than on sand like children do when making their first drawings on the surface of the earth. Here then the church building breathes altogether something of a difference to the secular world. The space the church takes up is set apart from the rest of the world.







House at the street corner depicts a specific location in Kastelli



The glance of an artist says a lot. He holds onto moments not like a camera would but by letting go the fleeting moment in order to follow this moment with lines drawn swiftly just prior to disappearing around the next corner. The lines become traceable evidences of what shall remain in memory. Loud and clear but also subtle and quiet. Like in love, these unforgetable things speak still many years later a loud and clear language as the depth of the emotions affects us more than what we can think ahead in time. We bump then into a simple smile. It touches. It breathes. It allows us to recall the colour of her eyes. A gesture or nod of her head makes us feel alive. It is like a door ajar to let air in and the visitor out. Then, the tree near the wall circumventing the plot of land around the house has its own story to tell. Serenity. Obviously over the years a sort of friendship developed between tree and the house behind the wall. At least the cats know how to climb the tree and jump from its branches onto the wall and then slip down quietly into the yard. This route is needed when the door is closed as now in the drawing. Then there is the entirety of an atmosphere in the drawing. It is like listening carefully down the street if there are not footsteps approaching. Another significant moment is entailed in the drawing. Although the artist stands at street level, his imaginary eye allows for some fleeting moments to be captured when the vision glides like the cats over the wall. By giving a full vision of what lies behind the walls, the artist underlines the secrecy of the hidden or what is not immediately visible to the eye. This is why rebounds of glances take on a maturity through such drawings as it allows a connection of the imagination with endless streams of thoughts about this house and who lives there.

Texts by Hatto Fischer

Athens 28.5.2006

^ Top

« Ästhetical convictions of artists | Literature »