“The buildings I saw everyday in Kolkata led to the formation of an abstract language. The spaces of the city made their way into my art and my writing. I became obsessed with architectural details, particularly window grilles. In the past year, I’ve amassed well over 1,000 photographs of them which I use as visual notes,” Geoff Tibbs told TOI.
A graduate in fine arts from the University of Oxford in 2010, Tibbs did his MA in global media from the School of Oriental and African Studies in 2012 and began editing Different Skies, an online publication for experimental prose and creative non-fiction. Drawn to magic from an early age, Tibbs was a practicing magician and member of The Magic Circle.
But it wasn’t writing or magic that brought him to Kolkata. He was here visiting a family from his mother’s side after a decade-long hiatus. “I’d been here briefly 10 years ago. My main memory from then was visiting the Birla Planetarium and St Paul’s Cathedral,” he recounted.
Before his arrival, Tibbs had no clear idea of what he would do or how long he would stay. But once here, he was so captivated by the city’s diverse yet unique architecture that he knew he had to stay on. The houses with their unique, cosmopolitan mix of influences fascinated him and details from the facades of buildings began to fill his paintings and even entered his writings.
The city also changed his view towards Art Deco. “I think there’s a specific interpretation of Art Deco in Kolkata. Even in old areas it’s become part of the spatial and decorative vocabulary of the neighbourhood.”
Calcutta Architectural Legacies, a movement to conserve Kolkata’s neighbourhood that has been taking shape this past year, also drew his attention. “I like CAL’s idea about infusing Kolkata’s old architecture with new life,” Tibbs said.