New Delhi, June 23 Word compositions by one of India's top poets, Dom Moraes, and lyrical lines by Jatin Das have come together to showcase "a summer in Sweden" at the embassy of Sweden in the capital.
Twenty three years ago, artist Jatin Das invited friend Dom Moraes, the poet and the writer from Goa, to accompany him to Sweden to "capture the flavour of a northern summer through the colours of a painter and the words of a poet".
It was a collaboration between a painter and poet, Das said.
"Dom and I went to Sweden. Dom knew everything about Sweden, I did not know anything about Sweden. He told me about Alfred Nobel, and about the dynamite and matchboxes," the artist said, recalling the trip which culminated two decades later into an exhibition and a book, "Jatin Das and Dom Moraes: The Summer in Sweden in 1988".
The exhibition hosting 70 pencil, ink and charcoal sketches by Das and handwritten poetry by Moraes, who died of cancer in 2004, opened at the Swedish embassy in the capital on Wednesday. The exhibition was inaugurated by Sweden's ambassador Lars Olaf Lindgren.
"Annika Svahnstrom, then the first secretary of Swedish embassy in the capital (in 1988), facilitated and promoted the idea to a Swedish Institute. We travelled by road, by train and by air to millions of places. We even rode a fantastic catamaran and I met innumerable artists, poets and writers. I sketched all of them. Dom wrote poems that were later published in his book, 'Serendip' in 1999 and I made 100 sketches," the artist recalled.
Das reminisced that "it was around this time of the year (in June) in 1988 that the two went to Sweden".
"Dom was often drunk and lazy. He loved to sit and preferred not to venture out. I was the opposite," he said.
The painter and the poet began their journey from the island of Gotland.
"There was a special invitation to the birthday party of Ingmar Bergman (the legendary movie-maker) at Faro. We were given a special permit to go. Dom refused to go, so I went alone. Later, I visited one of Bergman's assistants, who lived in a windmill. The place (where the windmill was located) was a little fisherman's hut with long grass. It was like a 17th century setting," the artist remembered.
Das and Moraes continued right up north till Lapland, where "the duo saw crafts by Lappish artists".
"I bought a hat which is still in my possession," Das said.
Faces come alive in Das' compositions, more than the landscapes. A sketch of Swedish artist Hallde Hallden in ink on paper captures the meditative profile of the bearded painter, who was known for his nature-scapes and semi-abstract drawings. A peace worker Kersten Blomberg, whom Das became rather fond of, inspired him for both art and poetry.
An ink sketch of the smiling peace worker is accompanied by a poem Das wrote as an ode to the lady, "the gates of the Baltic Sea open with your big eyes, smile..."
Line sketches of local pottery and traditional Swedish kitchenware by Das are complimented in verses of Moraes in a poetry series, "Barrows", which delves into the turbulent history of Viking land and the poet's personal angst.
"... The Danes did nothing for years/After 20, they came/ Bersekers with horned helmets, bellaxes, torches flaming/ The tower, stone, could'nt burn/But I could and I did...", the poet wrote in the first of his "Barrows" series.
Moraes may be missing, but Jatin Das, who will revisit Sweden next month for his solo show July 17, is trying to "locate all those the poet and the painter met in 1988" to relive the "summer of '88 in Sweden".
Das' solo exposition will be supported by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).