“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”
Many a times this phrase helps one silence others and end all debate, often in petulant defence of one’s own appreciation of something that others have ridiculed. But dig deep and I feel it holds very true for those who are not ‘on the inside’ of the art world, and have an outsider’s opinion of say a painting, or a sculpture. The fact that the beholder, like me, is not privy to the history, the hype and the halo around the artist’s name, often brings to light a fresh and honest point of view, and an appreciation that is not studied, conditioned or even imposed…
All those who are wondering why I am jabbering on about art and the beholder, this train of thought started yesterday when I was having an intense conversation with an artist friend about…. not art, but food! For someone with a very earthy artistic sense, and a vision to use art to raise awareness about environmental issues, my friend Vik may sound like an art activist, but he really is more of a passionate foodie. So much so that he knows of these amazing hole-in-the-wall places that even I have never heard of! Hopefully that’s a situation that will get corrected by the end of this week! 😉
This conversation flowed from another evening of art and food with artist friend Ananya Banerjee. An experienced hand at successful food pop-ups, she had cooked up a storm last weekend. Set amongst her myriad beautiful paintings around her large living room, the multi-course traditional Bengali dinner of Raan Musallam, Prawn Malai Curry, Nolen Gur Flan and other dishes laid out on the dining table, waiting to be devoured, looked to us hungry ‘beholders’ as delicious pieces of art! 🙂
Quite a contrast to this dinner was yet another art-inspired evening I experienced a few weeks ago. It was the swish setting of Romano’s Lab at the J W Marriott in Sahar, the rich oak, dark leather and smooth gold interiors quietly gleaming in the soft light of the pendant chandelier. I swivelled into a chunky high chair at the bar and got ready to enjoy an evening of fascinating story-telling. Because, with Diageo Reserve Brand Ambassador Nick Ord, there is never a dull moment at the bar! And true to form, Nick did not disappoint at all. He kept our small group of whiskey aficionados engrossed in the interesting less-heard story behind Martini and Bianco Vermouth, a potboiler for another time. But despite Nick’s immense knowledge, and ability to stir up the perfect cocktail just for your mood, what impressed me more that evening (sorry Nick!) was the captivating stories behind the women subjects of some of the best known art pieces of the world, told with wit, emotion, and a little personal touch by a self-assured and immensely talented up-and-coming mixologist, Feruzan Bilimoria, the star bartender at Romano’s.
Sure it was by design that a talented lady with bright green hair should be doing a tribute, to women made famous in art, for the Marriott’s special celebration of International Women’s Day. But the taste of the pudding, as I always believe, is in the eating, or in this case, experiencing the whole drama, creation and presentation of the three art-inspired cocktails for the evening. The first was inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, with a hint of sweet honey and a faint bitterness that kind of summed up the story behind the enigmatic lady in the painting.
The next one, inspired by the stunning sculpture of Pieta by Michelangelo, was a Limoncello-based cocktail as a nod to the sculptor’s Italian roots, served with an intensely aromatic slice of dehydrated lemon.
The last one was inspired by the awe-inspiring painting of the mysterious baker woman in Raphael’s La Fornarina, presented with a small bunch of fresh thyme as a tribute to the myrtle bush in the background of the painting.
That evening made me realise that even if you are living under a rock, and know nothing about anything in art, you could still experience a little bit of the genius of the master artists, the aura around their masterpieces and the mystery around the much-talked-about women central to their works of art. What you need is a good storyteller, a representation of that art before you, and, as I truly believe, your keen eyes as the beholder!