by Alka Chadha Harpalani
“We know only what we do, what we make, what we construct; and all that we make, and all that we construct are realities. I call them images, not in Plato’s sense, namely that they are only reflections of reality. But I hold that these images are reality itself and there is no reality beyond this reality except when we have created new realities.” – Naum Gabo
Artists and the art community have been hit gravely during the pandemic. The art fraternity has been distressed not only with the news of the loss of many legendary artists, but also by the prevailing gloomy scenario of the rescheduling, delays and cancellation of art exhibitions and the temporary closures of art galleries, the regular ‘get-togethers’ and ‘discussions’. To spread a ray of positivity, the idea of ‘Live talks’ and ‘Vichar charcha’ with artists in different fields of art on the platform of Kalatamak Safarnama was conceptualized by Gurdip Dhiman – a visual photographer from Chandigarh, along with his team Pawan Kumar, Charanjit Jaito, Ritu Singh, Anil Sindhu, Sanjeev Kumar and Neeraj Singh Pangtey. It was on this very platform that I got a chance to be the Moderator to learn about the journey of art of recognized but unassuming artist, Kavita Nayar.
Gratification of senses, spur of imagination, mindfulness in a world full of reverie and musings is what makes Kavita a sensitive artist. Over four decades of reconnoitering myriad approaches and exploring varied materials, she has carved for herself a distinctive individual identity by going beyond reality to give birth to innovative ideas of the process of contemplation and self-discovery. Her perceptions and conceptions are usually derived from life’s experiences, in the form of creative fantasies like ‘Sea Bed’, ‘Aquatic Energy’, ‘Through the Windows’, ‘Fury & Pathos’, ‘Manuscripts’ and ‘Blooms of Love’. Abstract projections, dramatic gestures, shifts of focus, irregular and merging contours, accidental discoveries – all reflect the raw intensity of a creative mind. The artist has realized, lived and articulated her ecstatic feelings in more than one way, in myriad mediums like zinc, canvas, glass, ceramics, mixed media, serigraphy, lithography. One can see a sculptural inclination in her assemblages created out of zinc plates of her prints, where she cuts out all the unwanted areas to blend fluidity with the formal, solidity of form. Her mind continuously tracks the hundreds of cut forms lying in front of her and chalks out their aesthetic placements. Some images are inevitably ambiguous but definitely not meaningless. All her works make a statement – a personal communiqué, a dialogue in which each contributes a part of the complete experience.
Blooms of Love 1
Blooms of Love 6
Fury and Pathos
She has been able to both lose herself as well as find herself in her art. With a vision to bring printmaking to the forefront, Kavita has been an active member of the of ‘Indian PrintMakers' Guild’, which now is continuing as 'Multiple Encounters', with which Kavita is actively involved as its Secretary; earlier she served as Vice President from 1990 to 2000, She has curated many national and international printmaking exhibitions showcasing the prints of Indian and American artists under this banner.
Her spiritual inclination helped Kavita to bear the pain of losing her 23-year-old daughter Sakshi in 2008. She contemplates her loss – as if it were some kind of premonition of Sakshi’s going away – when she looks back on Woven Dreams, a series which emerged after her daughter’s sudden demise. Enhanced with Sakshi’s image, the series is exquisitely amalgamated with woven textures collaged at different places with real bandage, finding a new dimension to fluid form. Sakshi has been surfacing in many of her other series as well. ‘Aquatic Energy’ started with the serene water of Mauritius but took shape with the destruction of Tsunami – in that as well as in ‘Whirlpool’ one can see her daughter’s reflections.
Tsunami, Serigraphy, 43" x 61"
Processes of disintegration have their own aesthetic fascination which combined with compelling connotations evoke a whole new world of sensations. Subjective attitudes are an important part of the sense of life. In the ‘Seeds’ collection Kavita sees Sakshi’s face in the flowers around her.
“A seed is buried in a womb and nourished by the mother; I often think the process of creating each one of my works has been like giving birth. The umbilical cord is the bond between foetus and the womb that forms the link in the embryonic chain of birth and rebirth . . . I look at the work in front of me with a realization that I am a part of this marvelous chain and think in surprise ‘that is me but not me’ ”.
She nurtures the idea in the layers of her thoughts and emotions, just like a seed. The imprints and impressions of Sakshi’s portrait, which started with a simple sketch while Sakshi was asleep, are noticeably evident in many of her works since 2006. ‘Seeds of Love’ shows the symbolic representation of motherhood in the form of a tree, which nurtures, enfolds its baby/seed, hugs and protects her. “I become a part of nature, throbbing with life. Giving a new life but never owning it. The new one is made of me. It is me, yet not mine. At least not mine alone.” The first image she imagined of Sakshi was in the dahlia flower, which later became the logo of Kala Sakshi. For Kavita, one series always leads to a new one, without any conscious realization or effort; yet every work unfolds a story behind it. She later created the series ‘Sublime’ using serigraphy and collage.
In My Womb, Multiple variation print, 22" x 30", 2011
A Mother's Ode to Her Daughter 1
Born Again and Again, Zinc plates on acrylic sheet, 36" x 36"
One who has observed her works can easily notice the encompassed effects, elements and styles – as seen from her portfolio of the Covid series. This melancholy gets diluted as she captures the quintessence of flowers in ‘Bloom of Love’ created during the second lockdown. Her artist’s book, Mother’s Ode to a Daughter, imprints one etching on each page with a quote on the other, “I don’t want anyone to pluck my lotuses, I’m painting them all in my canvases.” It’s her unique way to express her love and remembrance: “She might be gone, I miss her, yet I’m creating her and giving birth to her every day through my art.” Sakshi’s early departure was the origin of ‘Kala Sakshi Memorial Trust’ founded by Kavita in 2009 by Kavita and her husband Pawan Nayar to take forward Sakshi’s passion for art and support worthy candidates in the field of art.
All of Kavita’s series of works relate so closely to her life that they appear autobiographical –
sometimes direct and sometimes symbolic, enriched with conscious and subconscious transformation. In her search within and beyond, Kavita says “I often think the process of creating each one of my works has been like giving birth. An idea begins with just an impression and I nurture it in the layers of my thoughts and emotions and finally it emerges into form and color as a visible format or visual language.”
Some more works by Kavita Nayar
Her artworks with freely transcending forms speak for themselves, interweaving the meanings lying within them. One sees a reflection of impermanence – the spiritual character of life. For the observer, the variety in optical shifts of imaginative realms based on intuitive decision making leads to inner coherence and perpetual delight.
Kavita’s works can be seen on her website http://www.kavitanayar.com
(All images are courtesy of Alka Chadha Harpalani and the artist, Kavita Nayar.)
Dr Alka Chadha Harpalani is an artist, researcher, writer, poet, and has worked as a professor. She is involved in an e-learning project by MHRD (Ministry of Human Resource and Development) by Dayalbagh University, Agra. Editor of the journal Artistic Narration (Anubooks) for over 10 years and recepient of many prestigious awards and honours, she has held and participated in many all India and International exhibitions, and published research papers and articles in renowned art journals, newspapers and magazines.