National Award winner and painter Jyotika Sehgal was inspired by the Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib (1797–1869) to present the lingual to visual translation process.
While writing and creating works in the translucent medium of Egg-Tempera from his Ghazals, she imagined him as herself, a painter, and saw herself coming closer to become a poet. Lecti Magazine interviewed this unique author-painter.
Why did you write this book?
The writing of this book was initiated to enquire whether a poetic lingual can have its visual correspondence.
What can the Ghazals of Mirza Ghalib give people today?
Urdu is a favourite language of poetry lovers in the Indian subcontinent. Poetic stances of Mirza Ghalib have always been for me a tremendous source of inspiration.
While painting, I would play his Ghazals very loudly and sing along, enjoying in depth his every word. His poetry is not just aesthetically worded and melodious; it is timeless and multi-layered in content.
He happens to simultaneously connect to the mundane thoughts as well as one’s spiritual state of mind.
What is Egg-Tempera and why did you choose it?
Egg-Tempera is a painting medium of traditional Western masters, e.g. Botticelli, and the medium of the Orthodox icons.
It is the forerunner of the oils. As I have been working in Egg-Tempera for more than 25 years, I strongly felt that my personal technique in this medium was most conducive to the cognitive process of the lingual to visual translation act.
It is a medium in which the painting grows from a very definite drawing. However, the painting starts to emerge after innumerable layers of very thin colour glazes.
How did you go through the process from text to picture?
I started with one Ghazal at a time, and began the next only when the previous one was complete. The first step for me, after the English transliteration from Urdu, was to do a lingual to lingual translation.
In this way I was making Ghalib’s poems as mine. I was not only interpreting Ghalib‘s words, but re-living them in the experiences of my own personal life.
Typical to the nature of my artistic pursuits so far, at the outset a natural choice for me was for autobiographical and figurative representations.
Jyotika Seghal’s book to reach you, I dream is for me a real discovery of otherness: a poetry different from all that I am used to read; a painting that I thought I knew, but that now is revealing itself to me in new ways, encouraging to look and to ask questions; a fascinating interaction between visual and lingual creativity – and an undreamt-of multi-layered person behind it all.
Dr. Brigitte Burmeister
What do you want to tell the readers with this book?
Everyone responds to a poetic text differently, and hence is expected to have multiple possibilities of interpretations. Visual translation requires a creation rather than discovery.
The visual renderings of the chosen Ghazals and the different approaches applied to them in their transferences should be viewed within the context of each single set of four renderings, treating them as only one among many possible choices available.
In my translation activity, mediating between the peripheries of two language-systems, the lingual and the visual, I witnessed a strong interdependence between the two.
On one hand, I often related to specific words in order to define the pictorial elements present in my composition. On the other, reciprocate words came to me while sketching and developing my visual renderings.
German translation / Übersetzung Tatjana Krzemien
Paintings by Jyotika Sehgal
loom-mool series, editors Johanna Domokos & Sabira Ståhlberg
Lecti Book Studio 2018