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Re-imagining the past

Bakula Nayak transforms forgotten remnants of past into art and gives them a new life in her exhibition ‘Intimate Strangers’

Bakula Nayak describes herself as a raconteur. Old bills, journals, an old alarm clock, a half-filled bottle of ink with torn label, she collects it all and breathes new life into them. These vintage objects are on display at her exhibition at India International Centre.


Titled ‘Intimate Strangers’, the exhibition features paper sculptures, vintage photographs and letters along with her paintings on the vintage papers. Dating back to the early 1900s to 1960s, the papers and objects used in the exhibition are collected from all over the world, including Delhi.

“I feel I am the keeper of these treasures” says Nayak. The forgotten objects call out to her to reimagine the lives of the people who once owned them. She feels an overwhelming sense of responsibility towards these discarded items and sniffs out the beauty in them.

Nayak has been collecting vintage papers since her school days. She illustrates and paints on the vintage papers to give them a life outside the cupboards they were stored in. “Aged gorgeously, they form the perfect canvas to interpret the reality of my world, an unfinished inventory of my day dreaming, my love for all things vintage and reflect my insane desire for romance, aesthetics, poetics and seduction in everything,” she says.

Each painting offers a glimpse into their lives and let us imagine their past. They allow the viewers to live in the romance of their past as she takes them along to unravel the life of strangers intimately. All the paintings are in pen-and-ink and watercolour.

Her works introduces the viewers to different characters. One of them is Mary who kept a meticulously detailed gardening journal which made Nayak wonder if she was a garden ‘scientist’. Another one which she considers as most interesting is the diligently maintained records of house tax papers from 1947.

These papers of Ahmed Husain, a resident of Jama Masjid area, were found tattered but neatly pinned and preserved. This made her think about the importance of home in life and she created a series of four paintings based on this. “I have been a wanderer with not much sense of home since my parents passed away early.”

Nayak further explains that Indian papers are hard to find. “We are either hoarders or throwers.”
Exhibiting her work for the first time, it rebuilds fragments of lives once lived and lost. The exhibition is on display till August 28.