Meenakshi and Jey began with a simple idea. How can we bring art and travel together? The founders of Artlogue talks to Narayana Menon K about their passion for the road and for art.
Taking the idea of “painting the town red” literally, they went ahead and painted the town, although in vibrant colours of their own. They go where the winds take them and live by the brush. ‘Travel together, explore, paint, repeat’ is their mantra. Wandertrails talks to Meenakshi and Jey of the Artlogue to talk about art and the beauty of journies.
1) Could you tell us when and what made you decide to go out, travel and explore the world together?
Meenakshi: It was some time in 2013 when we came up with the idea to couple our passions for travelling and painting together. It so happened that we were riding back home after dinner, it was raining and we were talking about our dreams and ambitions for life. My life’s dream was to paint and Jey’s was to travel.
Jey was thinking out loud when he said, ‘There are fellowships like Guggenheim which allow artists to live their dream and make artworks all their life, but there isn’t one which allows someone to travel the world.’ That’s when I thought, why can’t we do something where Jey can travel and I can paint.
That conversation didn’t end there, the week after we circled back again to the same idea. That’s when we decided to travel for our next holiday, somewhere where we knew someone who could offer us shelter and some food, and in return, we would offer to paint in their home. That way, we could save money on accommodation and food, and in return, we would make a painting where we involve the host family in the creative process, thus spreading and sharing art wherever we go.
2) Do you feel that travelling together has impacted your relationship and if so, how?
Meenakshi: Travelling is something which tests the limits of a relationship and it can make or break it. Where you are staying, how you are dealing with difficult situations, how you are dealing with strangers – everything has an effect on the relationship. In our case, while staying with families we were meeting for the first time, at times, it was really challenging to adjust and in those moments our relationship was genuinely tested. But, ever since our bond has only grown stronger between us.
3) Can you narrate a couple of memorable incidents that brought you closer as a couple during your travels?
Meenakshi: This happened a few years back, we had got in touch with a host family through one of our relatives. They seemed very welcoming of the idea, but once we got there we realised that the family had no interest in hosting us or in the art that we had to share.
We told them that we would like to paint something for them in the house. Instead, they suggested we head to a school they run nearby. After two days of insistent begging they took us there, the school was basically defunct with just a handful of children. But, we ended up painting a wall with the children there and returned home very late that night. Alas, the same night, I fell terribly ill and started vomiting. We tried reaching out to the family for help, only for our pleas to fall on deaf ears (they wouldn’t pick up their phone). Jey somehow managed to get into the kitchen and procure some sugar-salt water, which helped a bit.
And, the next morning even before we could tell them that I wasn’t feeling well, they literally threw us out on the streets. They had a wedding to attend, which meant that we had to leave. We didn’t utter a single word, packed our luggage and left. It was probably one of our worst experiences on the road. But, what it made us realise was that travel is not all that it’s made out to be, that it has its fair share of hardships.
The other one was in Kashmir while we were staying with a Muslim family. The kids wanted to paint a wall of the house, but the head of the family was adamant that he wanted the walls to remain white. I’m guessing he had his reasons, religious probably. It was a strange situation. We ended up painting t-shirts for the kids.
They were extremely happy that we respected their wishes and the kids were happy that they painted their own T-shirts with us. We are still in touch with the family.
4) What do you like about each other as a travel partner and what irritates you?
Meenakshi: I think Jey’s ability to talk about anything and talk to anyone with any profession is a great asset. He is a great listener which comes very handy during travels.
One thing which irritates me is Jey’s over-enthusiasm at times. If I want to paint one wall, he wants me to do three walls and he somehow makes me do all three. I get tired but feel happy later.
Jey: I think Meenakshi’s ability to adjust to adverse circumstances is phenomenal. She can eat anything, sleep on floors, work in any kitchen. She can adjust without making anyone else uncomfortable which is a really amazing quality.
Only thing I find irritating is even while I am driving a motorcycle, she tries to feed me and at times she sleeps while riding pillion which is dangerous.
5) Would you suggest couples to travel together and why?
Meenakshi: Nothing can teach you more about life than travelling together. Adaptability is key and it does push you to your limits. Unpredictability and travel somehow seem to be constant companions and incidents like an irritating co-passenger, a rough stay, delayed aeroplane, food faux-pas…anything can happen and how you react to that and not letting it rub off on your relationship is important.
6) Your best travel experience together thus far and why?
Meenakshi: During one of our first trips to Goa, one of the families that we had stayed with had shared a number with us, for the next time we visited the sunshine state. On our next trip to Goa, we called the number and the guy on the phone said, ‘Oh you are the guys who travel around India on a motorcycle! Look, I don’t want a painting or anything but please come for breakfast.’ We agreed to meet up and the next day we met them for breakfast. We ended up staying there for four days and now we are like family.
There are a lot of great experiences to be shared. The painting we did in Jaisalmer was a great experience as we painted with the whole village.