Indian architect Bijoy Jain at Fondation Cartier and on film

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Kalyani Abstract water drawing with bamboo bench, Studio Mumbai

I have to admit I had never hear of Indian architect Bijoy Jahin, b. 1965 in Mumbai, who studied at Washington University in Saint Louis and practiced in L.A. between 1989 and 1995 at Richard Meier‘s model workshop, making models for the Getty Museum. He returned to India in 1995 after a stint in London and created Studio Mumbai, a space for research, where ideas are explored through the production of scale models, objects and drawings. In an inspired film ” The Sense of Tuning” produced by Bekâ & Lemoine, he declares that intuition is his sixth sense. Fondation Cartier has an exhibition on him “Breath of an Architect” until 21 April with concerts of Indian music in their Soirée Nomade.

Jain transporting a spear on a bull drawn carriage through the streets of Mumbai, in the film by Bekâ & Lemoine

I recommend that you watch the fascinating film shot by Bekâ & Lemoine last October in Mumbai, before seeing the show at Fondation Cartier. You can download it with the code below. There, from 7 am to 7 pm and under 42 ° temperature, the architect explained his art. He starts the day with a yoga session and breakfast, and takes his guests to visit his huge studio, in the East of Mumbai. The trip on a carriage drawn by two bulls is a masterpiece in itself.

A bamboo lacquered little sofa designed by Studio Mumbai

A true hive of activity, it is animated by dozens of skilled craftsmen who weave, cut, paint furniture and wall decors with stone, earth, wood, water, bamboo, silk and lacquer. Everything is shaped by hand and with no electricity as the architect mentions at the beginning of the movie. It is above all a sensory experience in resonance with the material. We see two men unrolling a silk thread for minutes, or covering raw stone cut by a stone carver who recently died at 88, (he had been working since the age of 14) with white clay. The granite comes from Kanjivara, the bamboo from the Dang Forest, the silk threads from Malda, in Bengal.

A finely silk woven bench from Studio Mumbai. The bamboo comes from the Dang forest in Maharashtra

Bijoy Jain refused to have the film shown at the Cartier foundation  because he wanted to keep complete silence in the show. It’s a pity. I would have loved to see on a late screen. Instead I downloaded it at home. And one is invited to sit on the furniture and reflect over the works. There are no cartels either, which often makes it difficult to understand the materials of the work or their name. The visit is like a slow meditation which reflects his thinking : “Silence has a sound, it may be quiet but we do hear it within ourselves; that is the sound of our breathing. It is synchronous in all of us. Silence, time and space are eternal, as are water, air and light, our elemental constructs. This abundance of sensory phenomena, dreams, memory, imagination, emotions, intuition, stem from this pool of experiences embedded in the corners of our eyes, in the soles of our feet, in the lobes of our ear, in the timbre of our voices, in the whisper of our breath and in the palm of our hand.”

Inside Jain’s house in Mumbai, photo from the film by Bekâ & Lemoine

Everything in this show is crafted by hand and the ephemeral structures present an intimate world and transport us to far away countries at the same time. Inspired by Japan and other oriental countries, Jain accepted to share the space downstairs with a Turkish-Danish ceramist, Alev Ebüzziya Siesbye, 85,  who lives in Paris and Hu Liu, a Chinese painter, who creates graphite monochrome black drawings. Called dark and mysterious, “Xuan” in Chinese, they encourage carefree wandering.

Chinese painter Hu Liu and Turkish Danish ceramist Alev Ebüzziya Siesbye exhibit together downstairs

Do not expect to find architecture in this exhibition, it is more an environment of peace and silence that you will encounter with tiny models of houses and various sculptures, but I felt wonderfully calm when leaving it. The visitors are all absorbed by the beauty of the pieces and once again do watch the movie first, you will understand the artist’s philosophy better.

Link to photograph for the film

And if you are curious of other architects, do not hesitate to watch one of the many Bekâ & Lemoine films such as their famous Rem Koolhaas  “Houselife” or Norman Foster’s “Barbicania” and Auguste Perret’s “25 bis”. You can buy the whole collection or each film individually. They are all full of humor and inventivity. A great present for future architects….

Exhibition at Fondation Cartier until April 21.

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