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Dancing lines

Calligraphy touches you because it is imperfect, unlike a computer image, says Antarjyoti

— Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

Antarjyoti: `Calligraphy comes with the energy and the sensitivity of the human hand.'

YOU CAN be forgiven for mistaking Antarjyoti for an Indian on seeing his mop of greying hair and his golden brown tan. Fourteen years of living at the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry has made this French calligraphist almost Indian, but for his very French accent.

Known for his works that depict poetry in calligraphy, the man is as colourful as his writing. Having started calligraphy only five years ago, he has earlier been everything — sales engineer, technician repairing computer power supplies, musician releasing a CD of French devotional music, mathematics teacher, French teacher, martial arts exponent and a librarian. "I started calligraphy when I wanted to make good covers for the books in the library. That's when the bug bit me," he laughs.

Gift of god

Antarjyoti considers calligraphy sacred. "Writing is considered a gift of God. Man first began to speak, then tried to express himself with signs, and then started doing cave paintings. That was beautiful, as man tried to express himself as clearly as possible. Beauty is the manifestation of the master. Beauty is sacred."

Antarjyoti's works encompass all generations of writing, from pre-Shakespearean writers to modern poetry, irrespective of the language. His works include simply legible writing to stuff that absolutely looks alien. Some of his works resemble the Japanese script, but closer examination will reveal a Sanskrit verse written in English!

"First, text was created to be legible. Now it has moved on to more graphic ways. It has crossed all boundaries to become a science. It speaks to you even if you don't understand it," he says.

He has particular disdain for computer-generated scripts, which he calls "too perfect". "You feel life by looking at calligraphy. For example if you type "You are my dreams" in a computer and then place it next to the same text in calligraphy, you see the difference. The problem is we are accustomed to computerised lettering. They are lifeless. That is why calligraphy is more precious now. It is imperfect so it will touch your heart. You will feel the human energy and sensitivity of the human hand."

But surely computers are slowly replacing hand drawn scripts, aren't they? "Not the case. Calligraphy is developing. Many people are appreciating it and enjoying it. Workshops abroad are huge," he argues.

"My work is very graphic. I use anything from classic pens to cardboard and tin foil. You can use absolutely anything, even the kalam (bamboo pen)," he adds.

Antarjyoti is quite an expert in weaving a subtle message in his writing. This he does by tinkering with the colours and letters and it is quite evident in many of his works. "You only see what you want to see. Using calligraphy I can weave a message into anything I write. For example, if I write `I love your pen, it is such a wonderful writing tool', I can subtly highlight `I love you' in that and you can give it to a girl. And innocently say I haven't written anything!" he laughs. "There is a lot of humour in calligraphy. Only your imagination is your limit. You can be classical and dignified or carefree."

Aurobindo's sayings have profoundly affected Antarjyoti and quite a number of pieces are dedicated to what Aurobindo himself wrote or said. "I find his sentences very beautiful. Like `The sunlit space where all is forever known'. It gives you an image of higher consciousness. In calligraphy you tend to write what you like," he says.

Antarjyoti's work with poetry is fascinating. "Poetry is a rhythmic arrangement of words. It is singing, speaking to the ears. In calligraphy, you make an arrangement of words, it is visual music. Calligraphy is not a pure vehicle of information. You see very strange things happening. Each person sees the poem differently, that's the beauty," he says. "It adds another dimension to the poem. Another sensory dimension."

Antarjyoti's works are being displayed at Alliance Francaise. The exhibition, organised by Printemps des Poetes, is on till March 11.

He will be conducting a calligraphy workshop on March 9, 10 and 11 between 6.30 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. For registration call 51231340/44/45 or email culture.afbangalore@afindia.org.

For more information on calligraphy email Antarjyoti on antarcali@yahoo.fr.

ANAND SANKAR

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