Tag Archives: The Classwork Series

The Classwork Series: Exhibition Description

The Classwork Series of artworks is a result of five years of extreme anxiousness and boredom concluding with the decision to change careers.

All works, except one, are made up of stuck on small pen drawings and subsequent painting with ink. The drawings, about five hundred in number originally,  were all made in classrooms while listening to lectures. The work is mostly of fine detail that is lost on electronic screens, and can be much better appreciated in person. The main drawing, in graphite pencil on canvas, was made continuously over a period of four years, bit by bit every evening.

The creation of these works was almost always accompanied with a sense of restlessness and confusion about the future- the desire to get out and start afresh but needing to stay on for a little more time.

The collection, except maybe the canvas,  of course betrays my manifesto and is not immediately more emotionally infectious than cerebral; but due to the long term nature of the work and considering the emotional state I was in, it would be a bigger betrayal if each work conveyed a singular feeling. Still, because of my recent coming to terms with myself, I’ve tried to give a general meaning to each work by accompanying it with explanatory text while realizing that the constituent drawings, if considered individually,  might convey even contradictory meanings.

The work may seem most affecting to college students and people thinking about change in hope of leading a freer and more meaningful life. These works are about the search for solitude and silence in a world of confusion- where the most common problem is that of chaos- of being unsure about what to do with our lives, fearful of wasting opportunities and afraid of not accomplishing anything.

The exhibition intends to ease people into identifying their problems and not losing hope in the face of adversity. Yes, the magnitude of the problem is enormous and the number of alternatives to choose from many, but even a little more clarity gained should be considered an achievement. As I myself have learnt, with much difficulty, that logic might not be able to solve everything, the audience should try to listen to their conscience and sit in silence and try to make an effort everyday.

The Classwork Series:
An Almanac of Understanding

I’ve decided to call this work in ink An Almanac of Understanding after Tolstoy’s under-appreciated ‘Calendar of Wisdom’.  Unlike other works in this series, there’s a lot of text accompanying the drawing. In fact, there are exactly fifty-two sentences, one for each week of the year, a figure that I, only by chance, stopped at.

Each sentence is a quotation either as actually written or only expressing a thought in my diary, in roughly chronological order. The authors include myself, Leo Tolstoy, Albert Einstein, John Wooden, John Baez, Mark Twain, Anthony French, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Leonardo Da Vinci.

On the left, I have portrayed the state of my mind, as it was during the last two years of college. The horse at the centre is a symbol of hope and the pillars on the sides represent philosophy, science, music and art. The surrounding snakes are meant to invoke a sense of confusion and helplessness. As we move right, the colour scheme changes to lighter tones, with the man on the left anticipating a brighter future.

Until we are sufficiently experienced, it makes good sense that to live a good life, we should live by the truth and look for guidance from those wise people who lived before us. The importance of the existence of a guiding light in our lives cannot be stressed enough.


Featured Image: An Almanac of Understanding (partial) by Arjun Jain

If you’d like to see the work in person, kindly check the upcoming page for a listing of future exhibitions. Shown above is only a fraction of the complete composition.

Also, If you’d like to buy them, prints are available here.

The Classwork Series:
When the Levee Breaks

This work, which I’ve decided to call When the Levee Breaks after the Led Zeppelin song is made entirely of ink with graphite only for the portrait on the left. The piece is a tribute to some of my favourite musicians of the 60s era. Appropriately, I have tried to give a rock poster kind of feeling to it, restricting myself to yellow, orange, white and black inks (except blue for the central picture on the right).

Besides being an artist, I play the guitar too, picking it up after a long break in the second year of college. I was introduced to a list of the greatest rock guitar solos by a friend, and was instantly hooked- I might have heard Stairway to Heaven a thousand times since then.

In the picture, I’ve shown a hard working man, yearning for meaning and having had enough from the world, imagining himself to be in a vast wheat field far away from the city and from any kind of distraction. The wheat field is a homage to Van Gogh who so perfectly captured the underlying religious temperament. The man looks up to the eternal philosopher, who like a beacon, floods the man’s imaginary world with understanding. In this journey across the wheat field, music is his trusted companion who provides hope when things don’t turn out as they should.


Featured Image: When the Levee Breaks (partial) by Arjun Jain

If you’d like to see the work in person, kindly check the upcoming page for a listing of future exhibitions. Shown above is only a fraction of the complete composition.

Also, If you’d like to buy them, prints are available here.

The Classwork Series:
Metamorphoses of Interpretations

This work, made in ink, watercolour and acrylic, is titled Metamorphoses of Interpretations. The piece shows three snakes, one lifelike, the other imaginary and the third skeletal, all crawling about in bluish sand.

I have tried to show how there are different ways of looking at anything and how these world-views can vary so much. Take an ordinary snake for example. The snake at the bottom is a ‘real’ snake, as it appears to the eye. The sand it is rolling in appears to be particulate and is composed of many different shades of blue. Although we can safely assume that this image is shared by all humans,  its impression on different sorts of people can be poles apart. To the ideal artist, living mostly in his own world of feelings and emotions, the snake might represent weirdness, terror, or eroticism. He has no use of the structural details of the snake- how it moves, how long it is, how it sees, are of relative unimportance to him. On the other hand an ideal scientist is more interested in the snake as a mechanical and chemical device- he is fascinated by its scales, its mating habits and its anatomy for example. These interpretations are not restricted to just the snake. The sand too transforms into waves of colour for the artist and a regular grid for the scientist.

A sufficiently engrossed person might not be able to look at a thing any other way than he is trained to and cannot really comprehend the importance of other features he might be overlooking. A question arises: what should we take to be real? In the midst of the stream of life, this question is hardly worth thinking about. Ordinary people look at a snake whatever way suits their immediate purpose. Going beyond serpents, how can one decide what interpretation one should use, given a subject one is not versed well in? How can we really build into ourselves this realization that there can be multiple meanings of a thing and train ourselves to look at it correctly according to the context?  Also, do there exist universal interpretations of things? Superficial appearance is certainly not the answer, as shown by both Kafka’s Metamorphosis and recent advances in artificial intelligence.


Featured Image: Metamorphoses of Interpretations (partial) by Arjun Jain

If you’d like to see the work in person, kindly check the upcoming page for a listing of future exhibitions. Shown above is only a fraction of the complete composition.

Also, If you’d like to buy them, prints are available here.

The Classwork Series:
Flight by Nightfall

I have titled this work in ink, acrylic, and watercolour,  Flight by Nightfall. The picture shows a solitary bird gazing at the moon, in a land that is arid and where the trees have lost their leaves. It is night time, and no sounds are to be heard.

Barrens may appear to have no utility, with the occasional lifeless tree, but they are excellent settings for the rare creatures that can’t compete in nutrient-rich environments. Very often, we are overwhelmed by social interaction and the excess of stimuli. Nights provide a welcome break. In college, I would often study late at night, when everyone was asleep and the noise was considerably lower. These moments were precious- with the lack of distraction and no need to put up a false self, the work that I could do was much better, both in quality and quantity. I utilised these opportunities to gain a clearer perspective on where I was going in life.

Birds have been a favourite subject of mine since many years. They arouse  such strong feelings of freedom which become even more intense when you’re alone. While studying late at night, I would often go out into the balcony to inhale the calm and majestic presence of night and for that brief moment, would feel as free as a bird. I would remember Da Vinci : “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”


Featured Image: Flight by Nightfall (partial) by Arjun Jain

If you’d like to see the work in person, kindly check the upcoming page for a listing of future exhibitions. Shown above is only a fraction of the complete composition.

Also, If you’d like to buy them, prints are available here.

The Classwork Series:
The (In)Significance of History

This composition in ink and watercolour is called The (In)Significance of History. There are two distinct parts of the work- the central images in pen, and the rest.

The latter mostly comprises of images of sculptures and designs which caught my eye over the course of three visits to the National Museum and some other places in New Delhi. The paintings, clockwise from the top, are of a panel depicting scenes from the life of Buddha, an apsara gazing at herself in a mirror, some musicians, the goddess Vrishanana Yogini , the nine planets according to ancient Hindu astrology ( From left to right: the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, the ascending lunar node and the descending lunar node), four other goddesses, Lord Mahavira at Ahinsa Sthal, Tara (A Buddhist Goddess), and Saraswati. The outer border is an imitation of a bright floral motif painted on a manuscript.

I’ve visited many museums many times, but only recently discovered the effect such encounters can have when a person’s sensations have been heightened by engaging in art making. Familiar sights begin to have lasting impressions. Seeing the wide variety of ancient sculptures and paintings reminded me of how much I still have to learn. The variation and complexity in beliefs is overwhelming; it sometimes seems that these bygone cultures might have something to teach us but at other times, it feels as if they were obviously more delusional than us. There are images of orgies and stoic resignation side by side. There are so many facets to our nature and it is difficult to reconcile these without inventing an artificial union. I feel like a young boy surrounded by gigantic teachers all wanting to impart their hard earned knowledge to me, and I trying to understand who I should follow and what I should do.


Featured Image: The (In)Significance of History (partial) by Arjun Jain

If you’d like to see the work in person, kindly check the upcoming page for a listing of future exhibitions. Shown above is only a rearranged fraction of the complete composition.

Also, If you’d like to buy them, prints are available here.

The Classwork Series:
Water, Water Everywhere, nor any Drop to Drink

This piece, made using coloured inks, is titled Water, Water Everywhere, nor any Drop to Drink  after the famous lines by S. T. Coleridge. The central figure consists of small pen drawings made at different times over a period of five years, while the background and borders, incorporating elements of Art Nouveau,  were made only recently. In spite of the implied meaning,  I experienced much pleasure in working through the delicate details.

What I’ve tried to portray here is the feeling of instability and having too much on one’s plate. We may feel astonished and maddeningly joyous at all the beautiful intricacies of the world but at the same time dizzy with the variety of choices and ever present distractions- almost as if we were suffocating.

Some time before this work, I’d been reading Wittgenstein’s remarks on art and was struggling with its consequences. His main idea deals with the interpretation of things and how confusion may arise when an interpretation is made to correspond with an incompatible application. It seems to me, that to lead a good life, we must, first of all, strive to clean ourselves up, in the sense of identifying our confusions and realigning our views with what they are beneficial for. It is certainly as confusing to look at art with a scientific eye as it is to study science with an artistic eye.


Featured Image: Water, Water Everywhere, nor any Drop to Drink (partial) by Arjun Jain

If you’d like to see the work in person, kindly check the upcoming page for a listing of future exhibitions. Shown above is only a fraction of the complete composition.

Also, If you’d like to buy them, prints are available here.