Sounds of the outside world trickle inside Baaraan Ijlal’s sun-filled home studio in New Delhi, where she reads, writes and paints. “An artist, a listener, a witness and an archivist,” Ijlal works around the erasures that are “very real for women”, and to which she responds in not only her paintings but also in her notebooks full of sketches and verses and audio archives that tell the stories of unheard and marginalised people. She asks herself: “Can I see more if I listen to places more carefully? Can I break free from my language and really listen to what a place is saying, listen to all the sounds that escape my ear.”
In the studio, she is surrounded by large-scale paintings of buildings from old Bhopal, dilapidated in the aftermath of the Union Carbide gas leak and decaying colonial buildings from Kolkata and Mumbai. As she adds figures to these structures, mark by mark, she questions the fragility of cities and the “violence inherent in [their] plan”, while couplets in Urdu by poets deeply influential to the artist like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Rajinder Manchanda Bani, Mir Taqi Mir and Ijlal Majeed ground the paintings.
In this BMW Artist film, we follow Baaraan Ijlal as she walks around the city— listening to the sounds that “record everything all at once” and inspire the stories she paints on canvas.
Baaraan Ijlal currently lives and works in New Delhi. Her project Hostile Witness, started in 2014 is an ongoing project exploring the theme of silenced narratives. She is represented by Shrine Empire Gallery and has shown at India Art Fair in previous editions.