by Alka Chadha Harpalani
In painting, whether the colour reflection is apparent or not, every hue must echo
neighbouring hues, so that homogeneity may be attained.”
- Walter J Philips
Art bridges the gap between the external world of things with the inner world of emotions. Somewhere there is a direct representation of reality as seen by all, with all the conventions and idealism. And at some point one realizes that with its ‘idealism of the soul’ art is more than life. Art provides us with interpretations and transformations of the physical reality, where there is an aesthetic arrest of sensations and even a blurring of vision through ambiguous forms, reflecting instinctual impressions.
All this was in view in “Hues”, a recent virtual exhibition comprising fifteen artists on the platform of Duende The Studio curated by the Founder of the studio Dr Neerja Chandna Peters. She says,
“Sensitivity is central to an artist’s personality; in any circumstance artists find themselves observing, feeling and reflecting deeply. It is their nature of delving deeply into things which leads to the birth of ideas and creativity. Be it natural disasters, pandemic or socio-political events, artists have a unique way to deal with situations and represent happenings in their own unique way. Their creative expression has the power to not only stir the minds of viewers but also to heal and soothe a society that is suffering. As fifteen artists come together from different parts of the country in these testing times, all united by the shared passion for art, the endeavor is to illuminate the grim circumstances with creative hues with hopes to inspire and deliver peace to all viewers. From a team that works together for the love of art, “Hues” is a group exhibition where each artist contributes personal narratives through a unique vocabulary in a variety of media and themes.”
Every day one artist was introduced in the exhibition. It so happened that my works (Alka Chadha Harpalani) were the first on the board. The works are like a pictorial diary, an amalgamation of images, textures and calligraphy that acts as a design in background. There is a sensitive orchestration of simple forms— reminiscences, nostalgia and misprints, a sensory excitement fit into a pattern with little mementos like birds, boats, and collage of travel clicks, letters and envelopes as precious keepsakes in different frames, which support in creating visual variety. Through multiple layers of digital effects I add more meaning to my observation by travelling from the conceptual path to the virtual. I have selectively picked elements from my mixed media paintings, drawings and installations and further reconnoitered in the digital space.
Alka Chadha Harpalani
A Naveen Kumar is another artist from Bangalore whose mixed media works are uniquely aesthetic compositions with subjects from day-to-day life. The creative process aesthetically interlaces itself with the creative imagination. The magic is not only visible in the title of the works but also in the artworks created by the blending of teakwood ink, water colour and screen printing. There is a flight into dreams, a paradise of forms floating around, play of clouds and display of postcards, lucid and satisfying.
A Naveen Kumar
For Bikash Chandra Senapati, an artist from Orrisa, Nature has always been his inspiration which he unceasingly explores and tries to find new meanings in it. He portrays the internal battles and experiences through the elements of nature in his drawings, taking visual clues from the ambiances observed. He uses lines and circles to depict “the abstract of our reality… realistic version of our mental process that we are all so accustomed to, but barely realize” through fractals and geometrical patterns. Intricate, tantalizing, and forceful, the lines and the textures intermingle together in the rendering of the most important parts of one’s existence – the chaos of imprints and instincts.
Bikash Chandra Senapati
Darshan Madhukar Mahajan’s art is like an autobiographical rendition with many layers of metaphors. His works are mainly centered on mythological narratives, which further turn out to be reinterpretations of the same in the contemporary setting. He depicts himself and his experiences with the “set iconographies imbibing power to self.” Some charms like the flying creatures and snakes keep are recurring motifs in his works, which support to take the narrations forward. The symbolism, mythical tales in miniature paintings, motifs from Indian art and metaphoric representation of the ideas or thought in mythologies and folk tales captivate him and which can be directly or indirectly seen in his art. Complexities of human behavior and social approach have been depicted through multiple eyes and faces, reflecting manifold character.
Darshan Madhukar Mahajan
Leticia Alvares is a printmaker from Goa; for her, charcoal has been a primary choice of medium. Her work projects an inner chaos, through the forms, patterns and gestures which she embodies in her work to reach out, identify with the objects and directly engage with the emotions. They speak of multiple human relationships and an autobiographical and cultural reality. “My work examines the relationship between art, emotion and the aesthetic of the two. The coarse textures help me to bring out Kārunaya or the emotion of sorrow in my protagonist. As one cannot grasp the concept of hope without the concept of sorrow, I explore the lines, textures, forms and work with a muted palette of primarily black and white and the different shades of gray they produce to create humanistic narratives, of people and the spaces they inhabit.”
Parinda Parikh is an artist who practices in several ceramic processes, including her exceptional glaze process and tireless experimentations with approaches to shaping and firing. While the innovation and spontaneity are significant to her, she retains strong reverence for the technique and traditions of the country, which as she says are “the well-springs from which ideas flow.” One can see blues seeping in and dribbling through the golden remembrances and jagged structures from between the mountains.
In Pranjit Sarma’s digital graphics, there is a blend of smooth surfaces with textural explorations; the metamorphic illustrative surfaces signify the authentic joy and happiness of humankind. The ocean waves play a role of solidarity and ties one with the roots of different responsibilities in society. The atmosphere of the series generates a space of fantasy through which humankind could revive the origin of existence. The pictorial arrangements exemplify the importance of historic monuments and art inscriptions, which are the reflections of human revolution, diverse civilizations and socio-communal richness which lead to the indication of existence. Art and architecture are a noteworthy trail or a pathway to reach the base or roots of a community or dynasty and its heritage. Along with all this, the multiple geographical transformations offer a productive ground to generate myriad types of art as a sign of collective demands.
Preeti Singh’s intaglio and woodcut are inspired by the natural environment and her hometown memories of Himachal Pradesh: the awe-inspiring nature, be it the rocky landscape or the river between the mountains, the minimalism of life and the actuality that leaves an impression on the mind prevails everywhere in her artwork. “The Self does not fix to one particular form of space-time but like a paper plane, it feels the ultimate liberty and flows from abstract thoughts to reality, hence there are extended dimensions such as: Recollection in Vision, Memories Create Pictures, Habitat, Affection for Home, Childhood Dreams, Paper Planes, etc.” These abstract, logical metaphysical forms become matters of real substance and become art. She adopts numerous techniques such as etching, aquatint, dry point and woodcut, and sometimes even merges different techniques, such as firing of the work several times, incorporating glazes, glasses, and clay to push these processes in new directions and manipulate the technique for an apt expression, which sometimes becomes the basis of a mural.
Ravindra Roy is extremely inclined towards etching in printmaking, the never-ending possibilities of experimentation and its vast textural potential. His work is usually figurative and captures the expressions and emotions. He has used different colours on different parts of the same plate, whether it is in the print of a shattered woman or birds and gramophone reflecting a positive note of a musical morning.
Shiva Subrahmanya is a sculptor with expertise in spiral-based and stone-carved works, from small to monumental scale. The plain surfaces of the stone trigger his spirits and his mind starts carving a story of a new tapestry only to reveal more possibilities. His dexterity and creativity intrigues the onlooker. He finds the stone-carved works as timeless and spiritually uplifting. Curls and curves play a significant role in his sculptures, whether chiseled all over the sculpture or just emphasizing a particular area. Some spiral shapes characterizes life, while some nature and its various manifestations.
The paintings of Sukanta Das from Kolkata are predominantly figurative and mostly articulate the beautiful equation of human being with nature, their relationship and dependence on each other, in subtle hues and forms. Human bodies seem to be presented in dreamy moulds. The eternal feminine form is one of the most cherished and recurrent themes with a backdrop of nature, the supple exotic foliage and intricate ornamentations. The blissful co-existence accentuates the story of love in his paintings using mythological codes and their essence. His canvases fabricate a novel world of symbolic fantasy and reflect their inner soul and desire. The peace prevails on the faces; eyes delicately bent downwards, the adorned bodies and the negative area of the compositions blooming with lotus and birds creating a magical aura.
Suresh Kempegowda is an artist from Mysore whose works are a depiction of a mix of civil turmoil and an inner battle, to some extent of apparent outward personality with the true hidden reality of humans. He tries to capture the superficiality of life where the monstrous face lies behind the beautiful and civilized one. As the mirror reflects our images, so does one’s ‘soul mirror’ reflects one’s true colours of mind. It is inevitable in the situations because humans are in the clutches of circumstances. He depict the awkward grossness of civil turmoil anywhere in the universe, both on the battlefield and within oneself, with fluidity of brush strokes, blurring of margins and agitating patterns of movement and continuity.
Dr Neerja Chandna Peters, a physician turned artist, searches for spiritual longings through abstract geometry. Her works are an ode to spiritual heritage where art was considered a means of connecting with the Divine, to drive out the separateness of identity from the Source. In today’s materialistic world, her art is a meditative zone— to dissolve completely in the sensation of tranquility, to self-gather, centre oneself, discipline and move inwards towards the inner light, a mystical love for the Source. Her imaginative realms follow the concept of the Bhagvad Gita – of introspection, contemplation, and meditation with the sign of the Divine inherent in all art forms, an attainment of Ananda or pure bliss.
The Brihad Upanishad mentions the phase of meditation in which such forms make their appearance, “saffron hues raiment, red-coloured beetle, flame of fire, the lotus flower, and sudden flashes of lightning . . .” “The colours of this series signify this stage. The deviating lines give a picture of the upliftment of capacities of being to find a natural entry into subtler planes of existence before being completely absorbed into a state of loss of separateness from the Universe or Absolute.”
Dr Neerja Chandna Peters
Tamali Das dwells imaginatively in the countryside environment in which she grew up, with fond memories of autumn when lakes and ponds were overflowing with blooming lotuses and water lilies, which she and her friends collected for worship and playing around. She often fantasizes countless lotuses blooming all over her, recollecting the splendid enthralled spirits and memories. In her painting she has tried to arrest her adolescent reminiscences with lotuses. There is a representation of Radhika, the goddess of love in a romantic frame of mind. She is like any woman who went through love, estrangement, parting with her lover; the joy of meeting and the sorrow of a long wait.
TN Jalihal thrives on drawing as the major component enriched by subtle colours. One can see distorted and elongated human figures and animals, twists, turns, bends which sometimes merge into the boundaries of the definitions and lose their identity. There is usage of solid delineations to accentuate the differentiation of the space and figures within the composition. Subtle lines also inhibit the space and stand interconnected with the subtle brush strokes and marks, which basically make the platform for the figures to perform erotic acts. He explores the concept of eroticism through the self, the instinctive drives which permit to discover his own body and intellectual self, through various superficial fantasies driven by sexual energy. He has tried to capture the boldness of the folk art genre with kinky fantasies like intercourse with animals and objects. These anthromorphic images, picked up from Gond art, denote the erotic gestures and flex its body to explore its own possibilities. “These observed fantasies are not exactly same as what I have witnessed but the anticipation of the idea by itself adds to my work. The presence of the figures and animals are juxtaposed in such a way that each of them stand independent yet occupying the cohesive space.” The interrelationship between animal instincts and human behaviour adds an essentiality to his works.
The visual dialogue among the fifteen artists has been overall a stimulating and satisfying experience with innovative variations and simple, direct and complex expressions. Every work has a statement to make, leaving it to viewers to perceive, identify with and mould their experience in their own way.
‘Hues’ was honoured to receive and appreciates the valuable feedback on the exhibition from the distinguished Guests of Honour: Prof. Sanjay Gupta, Vice Chancellor of the World University of Design, Sonipat, Haryana; Shaji Mathew, Film Maker and Founder, NIV Art Centre; and Lubna Sen, Founder and CEO, Art Route, Gurgaon. The exhibition can be seen on the page of ‘Duende The Studio’ on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Neerjapeters/
(All images are courtesy of Alka Chadha Harpalani, Dr Neerja Chandna Peters and the respective artists.)
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.