''PRATIBIMB'' Stories in PRINT by Women Artists

by Shantala Palat



Lado Sarai is a much beloved art district with niche galleries and artists. In the last few years, however, several galleries moved out and the art hub witnessed a lull. But, of late, things have been brightening up and Shaji Punchathu of Gallery 1000A recently opened the doors after almost a year since the pandemic gripped the city. A preview of the new show was held on 13 March 2021 and artists and art lovers thronged to the venue.



The latest exhibition, ''PRATIBIMB'' Stories in PRINT by Women Artists, consists of works by thirteen leading and established artists based in New Delhi. Curated by visual artist and educator Rajan Shripad Fulari, the show focusses on women printmakers and painters using printmaking as their medium. As Fulari says, “Not all of them are printmakers by profession but engage with printmaking in their own idiosyncratic ways, leaving creative imprints that evoke our emotions. The beauty of printmaking lies in the beguiling processes that allow several experimentations to take shape.” Indeed, as he points out, while the printmaking process can have its own limitations, yet one needs to work within those lines to discover new and exciting possibilities.


Laughter by Anupam Sud, Etching, 1995


Seasoned printmakers Anupam Sud and the late Anita Das Chakraborty reign supreme in their familiar worlds of etchings and linocuts respectively. If Anupam Sud treats the zinc plates as her storyboard for her intriguing drawing, Laughter, Chakraborty’s untitled black and white prints shows her love for high contrasts and strong line work akin to ink drawings. While Sud’s nuanced portrait is a study of grief and glimmers of hope and strength radiating within, Chakraborty’s young woman with her mischievous eyes and contagious grin beckons us to join her in her adventures. Fulari remembers Chakraborty fondly as a versatile and vivacious printmaker whose passion for relief prints was well known in the art world. Earlier in the year, the artist succumbed to cancer on 31st January.


Untitled by Anita Das Chakraborty, Linocut, 2006


Untitled by Anita Das Chakraborty, Linocut, 2007


Pushpa Rau’s works were rarely seen in the public domain and to commemorate her scholarship of work (she passed away in 2020), three of her lesser-known prints were pulled out from the curator’s personal collection for the show. She worked between 1990 to the 2000s at the Garhi studios. Initially, a painter and proficient in watercolours and oils, she gradually moved to etching. Seen together, the mountains evolve through different stages of life, as it were, from birth to being one with the cosmos or nature. Fittingly titled, Jolly, the woman is carefree and calmer as though she has embraced the inevitable and accepted her place in the larger scheme of life.


Jolly by Pushpa Rau, Etching, 2008


Twinlight by Pushpa Rau, Colour etching, 2008


Himalayas by Pushpa Rau, Etching, 1998


Seema Kohli effortlessly works in a variety of media – be it painting in oils and acrylics or ceramics, printmaking and installations. Her recurring motifs focus on the cosmic world of creation and the womb in particular. Often inundated with a repertoire of lines, patterns and colours, her prints come across as a pleasant surprise. The figures metaphorize into multiple stories – be it the fabric of the protagonist’s shirt transmuting to the backdrop for the forest while the central figure is in trance or the human figures fusing with the water droplets and returning to the skies. Transition is constant, fluid and smooth. It never ceases.


Memoirs by Seema Kohli, 10 inches x 20 inches, Zinc plate etching on Fabriano paper, 2018


Memoirs by Seema Kohli, 10 inches x 20 inches, Zinc plate etching on Fabriano paper, 2018


Bula Bhattacharya’s works can be approached in multiple ways and interpreted at different levels. Her recent March video interview with visual artist Soumen Bhowmick illustrates her practice where she works with red and white threads. In each panel, the hands appear to grasp and desperately latch onto something tangible, only to find their grip slipping away. The seemingly red blood gushes violently to the point it is washed away abruptly. A painful resolution occurs and the waves of tension subside.

Untitled by Bula Bhattacharya, Digital prints, 2016


Drawing from her personal experience of watching her father battle Alzheimer’s, Bula ventured into research and studies about memory and how it can rob people of their identity. For her, the threads held the key to the puzzle “Who am I?” and the idealized self aka concept of “ideality”. She continues to search for the questions that spur her art-making.


Kanchan Chander is as blithe as of yore when one chats with her. She looks at life through myriad lenses – be it as a painter, printmaker or as an installation artist. She is emphatic that she goes along with the flow and enjoys penning her thoughts and images on paper. Art, for her, can be compared with the nuances of cooking where the right spices and masalas are peppered in a harmonious way. In the ongoing exhibition, the architectural elements and symmetry assume prominence in her work. As one looks at the seemingly innocuous prints, aptly titled, Monument and Motif, the entrances serve as a path to the inner and sacred spaces of the womb and the symmetrical trees placed most strategically appear as fallopian tubes. They double up as bodyguards to protect the womb. Life is secure and harmonious – no gust of wind or foreign elements can disturb this world. Similarly, in Red Fort II, the womb is a seat of victory. It may have been embattled and shaken up but it perseveres with determination and gentle strength. Yakshi I exudes feminine power amidst all struggles that threaten to overwhelm it.


Yakshi I by Kanchan Chander, Etching and aquatint, 2008


Monument and Motif by Kanchan Chander, Etching and aquatint, 2009


Red Fort II by Kanchan Chander, Etching and aquatint, 2009


Durga Kainthola “recreates” her images by outsourcing historical images and documenting the process in an Andy Warhol fashion where she adds and embellishes them with her motifs and observations. While working on Documenting History, she was drawn to the Third Battle of Panipat (A.D. 1761) and its Maratha commander-in chief, Sadashivrao Bhau’s death. With the end of the Maratha reign, the British arrived as the new colonial rulers. History had changed forever. The idea of change was similarly seen in The Revolutionary where the young freedom fighter, Bhagat Singh’s death intensified the war against British imperialism. The idea of catalytic change often lies at the crux of Kainthola’s work. A similar rebellious streak of youth’s resistance against societal norms is seen through the humorously titled Jo Dikhta Hai Wo Bikta Hai.


Documenting History by Durga Kainthola, Silk screen and block print on unprimed cotton fabric, 2018


Jo dikhta hai woh bikta hai by Durga Kainthola, Silk screen on paper, 2010


At first glance, Kavita Nayar’s etchings appear like formless ambiguous shapes – they could be mushroom clouds, trees or the side profile of a human face. On a closer look, numerous human embryos take form and flit within the compressed spaces while the yellow lines are the umbilical cords that bind these tiny beings. A sense of birth and rebirth reverberates throughout the muted colour palette of the prints. As Kavita mentions in her artist statement, “If painting is another way of keeping a diary, this diary is filled with waking moments when you are actually asleep in dreams. It’s about encountering yourself on canvas. Sometimes, it’s about being with yourself in the cocoon of familiarity.” Her work draws inspiration from her late daughter Sakshi as she reflects on Mother Nature and the inner truths about life and creation.


Seeds of Love by Kavita Nayar, Etching, 10 inches x 11 inches, 2018


Seeds of Love by Kavita Nayar, Etching, 10 inches x 11 inches, 2018


Mimi Radhakrishnan is no stranger to printmaking and had initially focussed on the medium while at Shantiniketan. She often draws from her life – be it her childhood or chapters from her world. On the other hand, her paintings glow with luminescence of the past. As a result, her drawings translate perfectly into her prints where it continues to have a painterly quality. The characters in her world have a wistful and longing air about them, as though they yearn for something or someone.


Fruit Woman by MImi Radhakrishnan, Etching, 2007

Girl standing with the dodo egg by MImi Radhakrishnan, Dry point, 2006

Migrant II by Mimi Radhakrishnan, Lithograph, 1995

(Image courtesy of Satya Sai Mothadaka)


Latika Katt is perhaps the only artist in the exhibition to showcase her lithographs (besides Mimi Radhakrishnan), a physically taxing process of printmaking where the work is done on a litho stone. Latika is also a sculptor and as curator Fulari mentions, her works, in relation to the artist’s words, are diametrically opposite to each other. For her, drawing is an emotive state where she can release her thoughts on paper. Interestingly, if one is to draw parallels between her sculpture titled Call of the Wind (which she made in her Lakeview studio in the US in 1991) and the lithographs, the sculptural form can be felt through the minimal and abstract soft lines created on the paper. It is as though they are silent vibrations in shifting sand.


Untitled by Latika Katt, Lithograph, 2001


Untitled by Latika Katt, Lithograph, 2001


Over the decades, Shobha Broota, Anjolie Ela Menon and Arpana Caur have created their personal vocabulary through their paintings – be it abstract or figurative. They are comfortable in their domains and, therefore, it piques one’s curiosity when the accomplished artists venture into printmaking and explore the possibilities that accompany it.


Deluge by Arpana Caur, Etching, 1995


Menon’s regular motifs, the crow and the draped woman, appear in bright, flat colours with receding perspectives. The play of spaces and colour break the sharp angularity of the shapes, allowing one to enjoy the boldness of the works. The strong colours further accentuate the melancholic absence of something or someone there in the room.


Untitled by Anjolie Ela Menon, Serigraph, 2021


Untitled by Anjolie Ela Menon, Serigraph, 2021


Meanwhile, if Broota imbues and infuses her oil canvasses with her soft illusions, she brings out the fine and delicate etched lines of the abstractions on a monochromatic background. The experience is that of musical notes reaching their zenith. Caur reigns supreme in her tonal studies where the etchings approximate her paintings. She continues to explore issues close to her heart— human existence and the circumstances surrounding it.


Untitled 28 by Shobha Broota, Etching, 2011


Untitled 30 by Shobha Broota, Etching, 2011


In a nutshell, the exhibition revolves around perseverance, courage, strength, the restlessness and vulnerabilities of womanhood, and how women’s lives are intertwined with the mysteries of creation and co-existence with Nature. To embrace one’s femininity is to celebrate the scars and the joys that accompany it. It is as it were “been turned, as by an unseen finger, and the page of womanhood was before her with all its charm and mystery, its pain and gladness.” (L.M. Montgomery 1909).



To view the show, the details are given below:

Venue: Gallery 1000A, F-210 D, Old M B Road, Lado Sarai, New Delhi, Delhi 110030

Timings: 11 am – 7 pm

Duration: 13 March – 25 April 2021


Acknowledgements

I am indebted to the visual artists Durga Kainthola, Kanchan Chander, Bula Bhattacharya and late Pushpak Rau’s son, Romesh Rau, for throwing light on their works. I am equally indebted to Soumen Bhowmick for his Art Keeper channel, especially the timely 2021 video interviews with Bula Bhattacharya and Kavita Nayar. Last and not the least, I'd like to thank Rajan Fulari who sportingly answered my queries which I daily bombarded him with!


References

  1. Soumen Bhowmick, ART Keeper (1015) BULA BHATTACHARYA | Journey into the Unknown - YouTube.

  2. Soumen Bhowmick, ART Keeper (1015) SUBLIME | Kavita Nayar | Artist - YouTube.

  3. L.M.Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea, 1909.


(All images of the artworks are courtesy of the curator Rajan S Fulari and the respective artists, unless mentioned otherwise.)


……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………


Shantala Palat is an artist, art educator and an ardent lover of folk and

tribal art.



155 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All