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Mumbai Shows The Way

Mumbai Gallery Weekend presented by leading contemporary galleries, is back to woo motivated collectors, curators, museum professionals and art enthusiasts
TEXT: TEAM ART SOUL LIFE

Mumbai Gallery Weekend (MGW) makes a triumphant return this year offering far more to the amateur aesthetes, who descend here for a dose of the best art they can find. Thanks to its cheery patronage of the fine arts, it began in 2012 as a collaborative initiative bythe city’s leading contemporary art galleries. The aim was to inject fresh energy into the art scene in Mumbai. The scope of MGW has evolved over time to include new galleries and cultural spaces. The endeavour, however, has remained the same – to bring together potential art collectors and enthusiasts in order to broaden the reach and relevance of contemporary art. Currently, in its tenth edition, the event—an annual fixture on the city’s cultural calendar—has witnessed several uncertainties during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year too, the art showcase was to take place in January, but due to the Omicron wave, it was shifted to February. But now 23 galleries —from both midtown and South Mumbai—have opened their doors to art enthusiasts with new exhibitions of contemporary art. The Directors / Curators of six museums in India also came together to discuss the future of their institutions. They talked about how a variety of public and private museums are strategizing in unprecedented times and with evolving audience expectations as part of art magazine Mumbai Gallery Weekend 2022.

To start, Kamalnayan Bajaj Art Gallery presented Ufuq, a special tribute exhibition to the late artist Zarina Hashmi curated by Dr Arshiya Lokhandwala. Ufuq or horizon in Urdu is a 2001 woodcut by the artist in which she views “the horizon as the ultimate goal of the travelling soul.” Being one of the first feminist artists from South Asia to work within a minimalist repertoire, Zarina’s vast body of work relates to the contested world order of borders, boundaries, and disputed territories in which her memories are represented as maps and constellations. Artists participating in the exhibition are Anita Dube, Ankush Safaya, Astha Butail, Hemali Bhuta, Mithu Sen, Parul Gupta, Shaurya Kumar, Shambhavi Singh, Shreyas Karle, and Waqas Khan. Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke presents “Where do we come from?”, Sosa Joseph’s third solo exhibition at the gallery — on view from January 13 to February 26, 2022 — in which she presents a body of 15 new oil on canvas paintings that were completed between 2019-21. Joseph was born and raised in a village in southern Kerala, in a house right by the river. “For us, it all began with the river. It flowed through us every day, every moment”, she says. “The present body of work is my visual exploration of this riverine world, where my memory begins. The river’s ecosystem inspired my imagination, intensified my experience of nature, informed my worldview, influenced my aesthetic, and even gave me my sense of colours and textures. I am deeply thankful. Apart from the geography, the motifs herein seem to recall people and events I knew of, and therefore seem narrative in some sense. However, portraiture or storytelling is not my motive here. It’s a remembrance of the riverine aesthetic that swathed and swamped my early existence. In that sense, these canvases are largely landscapes, thought of reminiscence.” Sosa says she was always interested in painting, not graphics, or sculpture. She prefers to paint than to comment. She explains that her imagery, which from the works in the studio includes, a Pieta like figure of a women holding the body of her dead son, a mad patriarch, a traffic accident, a poem by Bertolt Brecht about infanticide, and a rural scene with cricket and ducks, arises out of the colours and the forms of the paint, which she physically moulds on the canvas like clay, or Expressionist plasticine.

Coming to Sakshi Gallery, it’s showcasing ‘Con-contemporary,’ Jaipur-based Siddhartha Kararwal’s first solo show. The thought provoking, subversive yet surprisingly unexpected and witty works of Kararwal are a probe into the existential dualities of the current multiplex cultural fabric. They are explorations of time now, overflowing with whimsical and fantastical characters; they are a unique take on the underbelly of what is produced, consumed and trashed in today’s culture. Siddhartha deconstructs these layers, rips it apart then reconstructs works that plumbs the depths of our hyper consumer society.

Curated by Nancy Adajania, Art Musings presents ‘Savage Flowers’, a solo exhibition of Smriti Dixit. The exhibition presents Dixit’s sculptures at a point when the artist has come powerfully into her own. The exhibition features site-specific installations and sculptures, woven, variously, from plastic tags and strings of fabric: everyday materials found, made, recycled and upcycled. Dixit’s work points to the complicated slippage between the spiritual and the commercial, the organic and the industrial, the sustainable and the unsustainable. It gestures towards the struggle for survival in which the human and non-human species are engaged, on a fragile planet that they must share.

Marking the 10th death anniversary of artist Vijay Shinde, Tao Art Gallery mu is showcasing the late artist’s works. On view till March 15, 2022, the show explores Shinde’s expansive artistic trajectory. The works remind us of his words said in 1996: “Often an artist’s life is reflected through their work, the art becoming an almost memoir of paths explored, experiences had and emotions felt. Shinde’s art too is a living, dynamic and eternal embodiment of him, allowing the viewer a glimpse into the expansive internal world that once existed. His strong dialogue with spirituality and philosophy as a personal quest comes through and is relevant even today. Rather than an end goal, the creation of art was in itself a process of exploration and liberation for him: “l looks for no meaning in my paintings because my paintings depict all that my mind looks for, rendering me speechless.” Cymoza art gallery mumbai presents Ritesh Uttamchandani’s A Lease of Life, curated by Ranjit Hoskote, which is a series of photographs dedicated to the afterlives of political posters, the strange and unpredictable processes of recycling by which they are turned into awnings, backdrops to tea stalls, working surfaces in markets, and mats for pavement dwellers. These images capture the raw materiality of an economy premised on ingenious improvisations. They also convey a poignant allegorical charge. Sic transit gloria mundi, they remind us through their ironic portrayal of the Ozymandias syndrome. Alongside these images, A Lease of Life invites viewers to consider another axis of Uttamchandani’s work: a series of images from his book, The Red Cat and Other Stories. These images juxtapose the paradoxes of the megalopolis, which sustain his work: the found and the made; the posed and the spontaneous; suffering as variably experienced by the vulnerable and the voluntary. A Lease of Life bears witness to the plural practice of a contemporary photographer: as a photojournalist and an archivist of the elusive and fugitive moment; as a maker of images and a producer of books and zines; as a composer of brief, pithy texts that complement his photographs and books.

Mumbai-based Saju Kunhan’s practice lies at the clever intersection of medium, process and archive, creating visual articulations of the important question of who dictates historical narrative and the concurrent subtext of what is left behind along the path of history-making. For his second solo show at Tarq, titled Home Ground, he articulates his musings through a meticulous process of developing a personal visual archive, from which he cherry-picks to create his rendition of a historical document.

As described by Saju,”Through these works what I am trying to communicate are my concerns of history, migration, displacement, conquest and colonialism. Moreover, I am connecting my work to politics and power as well as environmental concerns. What I believe is that whatever happens today there must be a link connected to the past. So, my works are connecting the past and present through concept and methodology.” In this exhibition Saju continues to explore themes of migration and displacement through his method of image transfers on teak wood. Also featured in this exhibition for the first time, are the artist’s works on paper. This body of work investigates the more personal side of Saju’s practice, representing his ancestral home and the multiple migrations undertaken by his family. He first started experimenting with wood as a canvas. Kunhan says, “Wood is a medium I have long been associated with, since as far back as my college days when I worked as a house painter. Transferring ink from one surface to another is a meditative process for me.” Soon he became adept at transferring images from paper to wood, incorporating the imperfections caused by the knots in the wood into his vision. Kunhan creates large scale maps by stitching together hundreds of screenshots from Google Maps. Once the prints are ready, the artist might modify parts of it with paint or by burning or erasing certain sections, before transferring the ink from paper to wood. The multiple histories of each element in Kunhan’s art magazine mumbai finds expression on his canvas, whether it’s the archival images transferred from paper or the centuries-old teak wood panels onto which they are received. The artist is just as interested in what stays as he is in what—or who—gets left out at the end of the continuous process of displacement he practices as art. Akin to Saju, Chemould Prescott Road Desmond Lazaro’s artistic practice is the ground upon which the stories of his forefathers are embedded: identity, migration, map-—making, mythology, defining and redefining ‘home’, and the geographical journeys where his family’s histories are charted. He condenses the disciplines of sacred geometry, architecture, art, astrophysics and map-making into beautiful paintings!

As one investigates Lazaro’s artistic journey, much of it is through map-making – exploring both his personal mapping (which has been a complex one), but one that has also transcended into the journeys of explorer’s, star maps and the wider cosmos, he continually looks into how we reimagine the universe within our own microcosmic journey. Lazaro’s work reinvents miniature painting, the tradition he was trained in. His is a boundary pushing art that makes this traditional craft seem especially current. Born in Leeds in 1968, Lazaro came to India in 1990 to study at the art school of Baroda. There, he became obsessed with the miniature paintings of Rajasthan and went to train for twelve years in Jaipur under late master painter Bannu Ved Pal Sharma. Lazaro chose to adopt a craft that is alien to British art magazine Mumbai education and to deploy it to describe the world around him. He has since worked in the pichvai and miniature painting techniques, and also wrote (and published) doctoral thesis on the topic. His Cosmos series for the Mumbai Gallery Weekend at Chemould Prescott Road is an inquiry into the heavens and a return to such origins. By reconnecting with the alchemic roots of pigment preparation, Lazaro has a stubborn commitment to tradition: his paintings begin with the Earth herself. Project 88 Mumbai presented Tropisms, a solo exhibition of Mumbai-based artist Amitesh Shrivastava’s new body of work, composed largely during the recurring lockdowns marking an exciting departure from his previous oeuvre; with hypnotic colours and vibrant brushstrokes, Shrivastava now composes a pulsating world on the brink of catastrophe.

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Art Trends 2022

If you’re looking for some unique artwork, turn to the biggest trends of the new year. Read on to discover what the most popular artwork will be in 2022.
TEXT: TEAM ART SOUL LIFE

Art trends keep changing throughout the years, just as gastronomic tastes, interiors, and sartorial preferences change with time. Art constantly reinvents itself, and the quest for newness and uniqueness lies at the heart of artistic creativity. Unlike an art movement driven by ideals, trends in art tend to be more consumer-driven. There are always many kinds of art created in the world, and everyone has their own tastes and particular preferences when it comes to art. However, consumers, collectors, and curators often influence which styles of art will become popular trends.

Over the past decade millennials, seeking experiences over possessions, helped drive the trend for immersive experiential art. This trend fuelled the popularity of artists like Yayoi Kusama and Ai Wei Wei. After two years of global upheaval, 2022 will be an exciting year for the art world, sure to build on the trends of digitization we have seen over the past two years. The trends for crypto art will, no doubt, continue to shoot up in popularity. But, immersive in-person experiences and other art trends may fall by the wayside in the post-pandemic world.

The art world has already witnessed influential genres such as impressionism or pop art which have grown almost out of nowhere to become the dominant artistic style of a period. But it is always seen, a new trend emerges and contemporary artworks take their place. Some art trends, like classical architecture, can even be revived centuries later, as seen in the neoclassical period. It would not be pertinent to say art trends often follow, or in some cases, lead to political and social changes.

Herendra Swarup

The trend for virtual art has seen an exponential boost from the Covid-19 pandemic. Out of sheer necessity, virtual art events have adapted and become more sophisticated, allowing artists to reach global audiences even during a period where most people can no longer travel. As artist Herendra Swarup from Faridabad puts it, “Looking at the current situation arising due to Covid, the scope of online galleries is going to increase in time to come, since the public events are going to decrease. Footfall in the physical galleries is already on the decline. The art trend has a high inclination towards abstract art followed by contemporary art, modern art and sculptures.”

Museums, galleries, and art events such as Art Basel have turned to online platforms to create virtual artistic experiences. These art events are available digitally so that audiences can enjoy them anywhere in the world, all from the comfort of their homes.

According to a prominent artist, Praneet Kanchan from Noida, “Technology has made inroads into every aspect of our lives and artists and art have not been left untouched either. People have been using technology to get informed, entertained and inspired and in keeping with this trend art and art galleries have been moving online. This has resulted in art being consumed online and has provided another medium for artists to be discovered and sell their art. This trend has become stronger with Covid-led restrictions on human movement.”

Kanchan observes, “Another very strong trend that is just in its early stages is that of NFT for visual arts. Here technology is used to first establish tamper-proof ownership of an artist over his art piece and then using the reach of internet to provide a marketplace to sell the NFT. NFTs are being adopted by many artists and famous art galleries of the world.”

While many 2022 art trends focus on technology, there’s also a counter-trend for artworks focused on natural beauty. Nature has always been a popular theme in art as a form of escapism from the stress of fast-track urban life. Artists seek reconnection with the natural world and offer audiences some much-needed respite from the confines of their living rooms. Other artists embrace nature themes as their view or comment on the global climate change and represent the climate crisis through their art. Says senior artist Baban Mane from Mumbai, “From my point of view the art of 2022 is the landscape abstract in the brightest colours, the beauty and rhythm in these paintings can be a riot of colours. In the past two years during Covid pandemic many painters did a lot of detailed work from the studio. I think all the colour associations in 2022 can be in this bright colour because bright colours make all the people happy and excited.”

Even though the 2020 outbreak of the pandemic put a rude brake on art fairs all over the world, 2021 saw a gradual comeback of physical fairs, with fewer cancellations and extensive rethinking and planning of the event calendar. A majority of art fairs intend to go ahead this year as well, as the art world seems upbeat about the year unfolding. Says Ananda Das, “In fact, gallery apps will grow and exhibitions will be more immersive”. He goes on to add, “Urban art is inspired by lifestyle and architecture. In 2022, it remains all the more popular type of virtual art worldwide. The contemporary form of art, which is often associated with street art and graffiti art, attracts thousands of people with its bold themes, diversity of colours and profound meaning.”

As the art world experiments with new mediums, we cannot but think of neon lights. When you think of neon, you probably think of the Vegas strip or Times Square in New York, not your drawing room or the bedroom. However, artists like Glenn Ligon, Tracey Emin and Jung Lee have been driving a trend for bright neon artworks for the past few years. Now the trend is moving from the gallery to the wall of our homes, as neon artworks pick up in popularity and become a mainstream trend. Agrees artist Vivek Singh from Delhi, “The Art world has taken leaps and bounds from simple paintings on canvas of landscape scenery and portraits to abstracts, 3D painting on canvas, graffiti done on walls depicting and displaying subtle messages on certain topics. The images are created in bright vibrant neon colours, and with the pandemic not showing signs of going away… exhibitions have gone online. LED light shows combined with audio beaming artworks on canvases like walls of buildings, windows of sky scrapers like that of Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the currently concluded beating of the retreat where in the evening one thousand drones used to depict an image in the sky, and images beamed in to the defence Headquarters and Govt Ministerial buildings of North and South Block in New Delhi on Jan 29, 2022.

Art is not just restricted to paints. Artists are using recycled plastic, cloth and other waste material including electronic components to make portraits and landscapes. It is dedicated to the tireless and passionate work of artists. These are the new trends of 2022 and are fast evolving. “These new forms of painting using varied scraps of material when put together looks like a painting but on closer look the story of how the images come together on canvas is completely different,” adds abstractionist Vivek.

But one thing that needs to be kept in mind is art trends will always come and go, but serious art collectors will keep a watch on trends within popular or cutting-edge artworks. One must accept that art is highly subjective, and many people collect art for sheer joy, not because it is trendy or lucrative investment.

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The Monochrome Effect

Somanth Bothe says the quiet rustic beauty of the Paithan countryside, the quintessential sights and daily goings-on of villages and settlements along the Godavari river are intrinsic to his awe-inspiring art
Text: Team Art Soul Life

Born in Paithan in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, Somnath Bothe says creating art was part of his being and came as natural to him as breathing. “Art was a way of engaging with the world around me. For me, art is a way of living and attempting to make sense of the chaotic events in my life. It is my favourite way to communicate,” he says. Throughout his life, Bothe says he’s had a pencil or brush in his hand. “I don’t think I’ve ever thought of doing anything else. During my high school, I even took up a part-time job of painting signboards, banners etc. All I can say is painting is something I’ve been doing all my life – since I was about 5 or 6,” he says, adding, “When I draw or paint, I’m deeply concentrating. It’s a kind of flow-state or mental focus that I find super exciting and exhilarating. I haven’t found anything else like it.” Bothe says being an Indian and that too from a family that believes in God, he was always surrounded by pictures and idols of gods and goddesses. “I used to draw at least one picture of God every day. Sometimes I used to draw it on paper, sometimes on the wall. And then I started drawing it on the big walls of a temple in our town,” he says. However, coming from a humble background, finances was always a big issue to pursue his dream. “It was overwhelming for me to live in the city, so for survival, I took up a part-time job of an artist in a local advertising agency. But I never wavered from my goal which was learning art skills. So in that busy schedule, I used to take time off for going out and doing portraits, sketches, landscapes and all other things,” he informs.

Bothe started his art journey with landscapes and portraits. But as his entire childhood was spent in the village, he always had a very close relationship with rural life. “As a child, most of my toys were earthen objects and this connection with the earth was to be a continuous source of inspiration for me,” he says. “Further, education and living in the city created new sensitivities and understandings. The blend of these different environments and cultures indirectly flowed into my work.” He says the college library opened the doors for him to the vast world of art through books and paintings. “I came across a book about the famous landscape painter J.M.W. Turner. His work touched a chord in me. His palette, subject matter and spontaneous style inspired me,” he informs. “My soul yearned to follow in his footsteps and develop my own style.” The play of light and shade in nature had always appealed to him, he says, and he felt that painting was nothing but trying to capture nature’s melodies in colours, light and shadows. “I consider myself to be a ‘realist’ but I do not try to imitate or copy nature. I paint objects as patches of colour, but the forms are abstract. To me, this abstraction is creativity. Nature provides me with inspiration to express my inner vision, which I feel is art. The artist in me derives immense satisfaction when I paint this way,” he reasons.

Bothe, who has mainly worked with acrylic, says it allows him to add layers and textures to his artwork, enhancing glossiness and giving it depth. “I use charcoal also, which is an excellent medium, but it could be challenging. Charcoal can be used to style drawings, or with a more detailed technique suited to naturalistic art. In my paintings, charcoal stands on its own as a genre of art and acrylic paints are often seen in a supporting role to establish an impact,” he informs. Talking of his penchant for iconic locations in India, especially Banaras Ghats as his subject matter, Hore says it could be because of Paithan where he spent his childhood. “My art is influenced and inspired by its culture. The quiet rustic beauty of the countryside, the quintessential sights and daily goings-on of villages and settlements along the Godavari River and local trees, flowers and birds are intrinsic to my art,” he says. Bothe says the same is true for the sacred city of Banaras and its atmospheric Ghats. “The mystical beauty of the holy Ganga and the throng of humanity on its banks come alive in my works. The multitude of bathers and pilgrims, the boatmen, the colourful sadhus, children and the rituals and pageantry all come to life in my paintings,” he explains.    

Bothe says he has always tried to showcase Banaras, one of the most visited holy places on earth as diligently as possible. “You could say I have captured the beauty of the city with a microscopic eye, bringing for viewers the gentle waters of the Ganga, the boat rides, the morning worships at sunrise, the evening aartis, the high banks of the ancient ghats, the array of shrines, the myriad temple spires, the palaces at water’s edge, the ashrams, the pavilions and the palm and cane parasols,” he says. Looking at his Banaras paintings, you are driven through the enigmatic voyage of peacefulness and spirituality. The chanting of mantras, the fragrance of incense, the smoke of lamps, the devotional hymns – all slowly come to you. An atmospheric aura is formulated that fills the air with devotion. “By offering this mystifying experience, I proficiently transcend the beholder from this world to the divine world,” he says. “With brush and paint, I build an imaginative alley for the viewer to allow him to walk inside the frame. The appealing picturesque beauty, the grandiosity and the vastness produced, takes him on a sublime journey.” So the viewer no longer remains just the spectator, instead he becomes the member of the picture. “He is automatically absorbed and thus instinctively becomes part of the entire painted scenario. This is how I successfully create an intricate connection between the watcher and the work of art,” Bothe explains. 

Another of his favourite subjects is rain. “Monsoons always bring a smile on everyone’s face in our country. There is inspiration in every bit of the first shower. Nature’s muse is a call to the creative – the poet with his words, the painter with his canvas and the musician with his notes,” he says. Bothe says since he’s a farmer’s son, monsoon has a close connection with him. “I believe that monsoon is the best season as we can’t think of our lives without water. During the monsoon, I feel happy. When I feel happy, all I want to do is paint. Somewhere that also automatically reflects in my work and it ensures a blend of imagination and creativity in my works.” Currently, he’s working on a Banaras Sadhu series. “When I was in Banaras for a study on Banaras Ghats and the history behind them, I saw all sorts of sadhus on the ghats and the surrounding areas. Colourful attire, different lifestyle and uniqueness of each sadhu inspired me to continue my Banaras Ghat series to Banaras Sadhu paintings,” he explains. To Bothe, sadhus seem exceptional than common men due to their long meditation and sadhanas, which creates a halo effect. “Keeping in mind the aura of these sadhus, I have started creating my own textural quality in vibrant colours as a new creation,” he says. “In my earlier Banaras Ghat series, a ghat was the heart of the painting, while the sadhus were diffused. Now I have started exploring sadhus with their colourful lifestyle in abstraction forms, different textural quality, vibrant colours and a foggy effect on the beard.”

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Stirred Not Shaken

Harshita Nandwani says the lockdown proved to be the best period to create as the pandemic slowed down the world and gave us the opportunity to observe.
Text: Team Art Soul Life

We all know that building a sustainable career in the creative field is not easy. But here is Mumbaikar Harshita Nandwani, who embraced the freedom of being self-taught and did incredible things with her artistic career. She is among those untrained artmakers who’ve succeeded in making their mark with little or no art school guidance. Nandwani, who feels art cannot be taught, is an MBA and working with Credit Suisse when she decided to put it all behind to take up the paintbrush full time. “One can learn skills and techniques, but art comes from your own experience…the way one looks at things and perceives life. Art is you, and no one can express yourself better than you,” she gets candid. Nandwani says nothing was part of the plan. “Being born in a middle-class family, I always wanted to make my parents proud, just like every other child,” she says. “After completing my graduation in Surat, I moved to Mumbai to pursue higher studies. I reached a level where I was doing great working with an MNC with one of the best work cultures. In my perfect world, however, I still craved for something.” She secretly envied people with passion in their lives as “those are the ones who are headstrong and not affected by external events as they have their own world,” she says. “In December 2016, my friend gave me a box of colours and canvas on my birthday. Since then, my urge to create never stopped.” She quit her cushy job as she wasn’t able to tilt the balance. “I found painting as an outlet to my artistic expression. Art is a way of life now. I never intend to become an artist, but I guess life made me one,” she says. “While growing up, art was never considered as a career option back then (or even now), so I never had a thought about it.” But did it ever occurs to her as to how she was going to survive as an artist? “My initial struggle years in Mumbai made me confident that I’ll be able to survive even without a job,” she says. “I could have followed my passion along with my job, but I would not have done justice to art.” Nandwani says there was a fear indeed, but she had few savings and strong support from her family, especially her brother. “And your expenses are directly proportional to your income, so when your income goes down, expenses are reduced automatically,” she explains. After quitting her job, she moved to Surat to stay with her family. “From the very first day, there was an in-built pressure to do big via my art. To quit after achieving everything and start again from the scratch was a risky decision. No matter, it was my own decision, but I wanted to prove myself that it was the right one,” she says. Of course, there were other major hurdles to tackle: self-doubt (lot of it), logistic issues, no sales, learning new techniques, building a brand, trust issues, creating a network, etc. So what did she do? “Art cannot be created in pressure. One has to free oneself from fears,” she says. “To overcome these hindrances, I decided to undertake the Chadar trek, a frozen river trek in Ladakh. My 10 days at the trek freed me from my fear.” Nandwani faced death, extreme climate, pain, and basic necessities which we take for granted. “I could never have valued what I had, if I had not gone on the trek. The only thing important there was to breathe. I was grateful for my life after coming back from there. Mountains gave me courage and freedom during that visit,” she says. The artist, who has a lot of takers of her art abroad, says she’s never had any shows outside the country. “People in this generation have an advantage to show their work with just one click. World today is very much connected, thanks to the digital world.” she says. “I’m grateful that I’m able to connect with people across the world via my art. The only problem with the digital world is “trust” and to build trust, takes time which cannot be quantified.”

Talking about the various mediums she’s worked with, Nandwani says she uses a combination of oil/acrylic and sometimes ink. “More than the medium, I have experimented with the tools. I use anything or everything around me to create the desired texture,” she says. “Sometimes I use my fingers, palm) etc., for painting when I have very strong emotions and I don’t want even the tools to come in between me and the canvas. Also, I have experimented with the size of the paintings. I create large size paintings of about 5-6 ft when I want to create a space to enter rather than the painting.” And why only abstracts? “There are few things in life which you don’t know you know. It’s inbuilt in you. When I started my venture, I didn’t even know the term abstract in art,” she informs. “I started with landscapes and moved to abstracts even without knowing it. Art is an expression of myriad emotions; art connects with the soul and I reflected it on canvas.” Currently, she’s working on a series called “Emotional Flow” focusing not on any particular emotion, but on the change of emotion. “As we get into a sad state from the happy one, I’m trying to reflect that change in this series,” she informs. Nandwani says for her as an artist, the lockdown was the best period to create. “The pandemic slowed down the world and gave us the opportunity to observe,” she says. “We don’t see things clearly when everything around us is moving fast, just like photographs get blurred when the subject is in motion. I feel I created few of the best artworks during this lockdown.” Also, she had a collaboration with a startup called Gyftbook, based in Singapore, where her artworks will be put for auction in the coming months. She says being a full-time artist, the boundaries have broadened. “From office walls to infinity, I don’t have any place or time constraints,” she says. “I listen to myself. I have more experiences as I’m able to see the world closely and not by sitting in a room.” Though there is no fixed salary or routine, that’s the trade-off. “I’m happy that I took that decision to quit my job as I’m creating every day and creation is like power. No one can take that away from you. And you get better, with every work. Art is something that makes me happy,” she adds.

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Listen to the canvas

For Rahul Inamdar, art is a calling but he says the survival of an artist is about how well one is able to stay away from the market noise
TEXT: TEAM ART SOUL LIFE

So many of us dream of having a six-figure salary. Lots of money is #goals, right? But what happens when you get there, and it’s still not enough? That’s exactly what happened to Rahul Inamdar, who quit his plum corporate career to follow his passion for art. “After my Engineering and MBA, I worked in the area of branding and innovation quite successfully. The corporate life is driven by the outcome, the brief, the timeline filled with actions. Most of it is outside in, a response to a stimulus and never in the moment. As my dissonance grew, so did my search for what truly mattered to me. Painting fit right in,” says the Mumbaikar. He took another three years to call it quits – “I had an EMI to clear,” he clarifies, adding, “But on the side, I invested in a studio. Space and time did wonders. Art grew deeper my mind got clearer. I realised that for me, it was the closest to a calling. So when I quit, I sure had butterflies, but I had no doubt that I was doing the right thing.” Did it ever occur to him as to how he was going to survive as an artist? “One aspect of survival is money. I started out with a decision that I won’t make art to sell,” he says. “So depending upon the sales was out of question. My wife has been supportive and she runs the house. The fact that I had limited needs, helped me stay afloat.” But survival as an artist has another meaning, he says, a far more important one. “Art is a calling, a process of moving from outside to deep inside. But as we begin linking it to the market, the ability to hear this sound of art goes down. Hence the survival of an artist, in that sense, is about how well one is able to stay away from the market noise,” says Inamdar. Through his savings and projects, he has been able to pursue his work without compromise. “In fact, in the year 2014, I didn’t produce a single work. The entire year was spent in reflecting on the work, colours, light, physics of the medium, what is subtlety, intensity, how does one achieve it,” he reveals. “I have been fortunate enough to afford to not show my work for a long period of time. In my aloneness and silence, I have learnt to listen to my inner voice better.” Inamdar says he has had no mentors in art and never felt the need. “There have been nourishing inspirations that taught me to look at things, aspects through their work, their interviews and thoughts,” he says. “Monet’s Waterlilies, Rothko’s Chapel Murals, Kumar Gandharva’s Sudh Naa Rahi, Yo Yo Ma’s Bach Cello Suites, Louis Kahn’s IIM buildings Auguste Rodin’s works, Dagar’s Todi on RudraVeena, Nasreen Mohamedi’s lines, Zen koans and haikus are my gurus, my sanctuaries. Works that embody simplicity, oneness, timelessness that I resonate with, that inspire me to move from ‘form’ to the essence.” Did it occur to him that he could be an artist instead of studying for a business degree? Did he wonder what an art degree could have done to him? “I was a good student from a middle-class family. The safety and security of a job was my goal. I was more interested in studies than art then,” he says.: Never thought about taking it up as a profession then.” Inamdar gives the example of Tadao Ando, and how an architect that the world speaks about is self-taught. “The formal education system can be quite limiting. Designed to introduce one to a range of options, the techniques and forms, it could trap the learner in the teacher’s dogmas and beliefs – making the shift from ‘form’ to ‘essence’ extremely difficult,” he says. “Once one has learnt how to learn then the world is a school. One is not limited by a discipline. Art could be learnt from looking at arts as well as science, philosophy, music, astronomy, architecture, design, culinary arts, theatre, politics, sociology, agriculture. I feel, being able to practice art after experiencing a diverse life makes a difference to my work.” Inamdar says he began working with oils on canvas. “Initially it was impasto – and over time I moved to very thin wash-like layers. As one understands why one paints, the medium moves. The canvas changed from coarse cotton to fine linen. The tension, the surface quality, the physics is different, so are the results,” he says. “I like to work large scale – on oils as well as murals on walls, with enamel paints.” Couple of years back, to break the automaticity of the hand, he began working on paper and inks, in smaller sizes. “As the size changes, the length of stroke as well as the detail in the work changes. As the medium changes, drying time changes and so it demands the tools to change. The tools, the medium, the surface are a part of the work and a part of an artist’s being. I like to work with them rather than against them,” he clarifies. Inamdar says between two works there is a lot of time spent on seeing the work, becoming aware of it and absorbing it. “Time is spent on being alone and waiting for the new work. There comes a time when one feels ready to begin the work. There is no line drawn or shape formed. The work I do is not through composition – a certain process towards an outcome. The idea is to be in tune with the canvas and to allow the work to happen. It’s important to listen to the canvas and the colours. As there is no form being designed / created / realised, the work in that sense is in the moment, in the state of flow,” he philosophises. “Works typically don’t have names. There is nothing the works are referring to or trying to trigger. They don’t need the support of words. One could call them abstracts but to me, it’s just an unfortunate bucketing tag. I find my kind of freedom in works that don’t explain or say, but puristically focus on the feel. A feeling that the viewer may not even be able to relate to.” he adds. Disconnected from the expectation of outcome or what people say about it, Inamdar says he has never been disappointed or faced any hurdle over the last 14 years of his practice – it’s only been full of learning and understanding the space. “The objective of my art journey is to make art that could move me and I have time till the end of life to reach there,” he says. “The ability, the technique and the responsibility for the art and its evolution for the same resides within me.” Currently working ‘verso’ – on a new direction of works made on the reverse, the uncoated side of the canvas – he says there is a very different interaction between the pigments, the oils and the surface and he’s enjoying seeing it happen. “I want to create art that moves me, that makes me respond to it subconsciously, like some pieces of music, space, fragrances do. I am not constrained by the medium or method or a need to make a statement. I want the work to go subtler and subtler and reduced in the means – till I reach the essence of my art and my being,” he says.

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The Art of Satire

Avijit Mukherjee says the presence of surrealistic paradoxes  and humour are vital elements in his works and decoding these are a source of pleasure for his audiences
TEXT: TEAM ART SOUL LIFE

Traditionally, we have this idea that art is supposed to be a serious matter. At the opposite humorous art would be on the lowest ladder of our mental scale. However, artworks that make us smile or laugh seem to be invading galleries and art fairs: quips, tricks played to the spectator, pile-ups of incongruous objects and so on. Is this phenomenon the reason for the lack of understanding between contemporary art and its audience today? “The presence of surrealistic paradoxes and humour are vital elements in my works and decoding these are, I feel, a source of pleasure for my audiences,” says Kolkata-based Avijit Mukherjee. Creating a surreal combination of the animal and human forms, he uses his unique works of art to comment on the human condition. Mukherjee is equally skillful with his inky creations as well as the contextual meanings they convey. “On a technical level, my paintings are painstakingly and meticulously rendered and are about the interplay of forms, colours, textures, patterns and delicate detailing. To as great an extent as possible, I try to move beyond binary choices in my process of art making,” he adds. As a self-taught artist, who has been painting, sculpting and photographing for over 25 years, his works are personal stories and imageries. Mukherjee, whose forefathers took refuge in India from Bangladesh during 1947, presents human emotions through creating different layers on the figures. So much so that he would go to the extent of unveiling the organs under the skin to represent emotions. Vibrant colours are used on his acrylic canvases. In case of other mediums Mukherjee uses light colours. In the texture and imagery concept of Mukherjee’s canvas, desire comes through poetic messages– tranquil sublimity of human imagination, passion, nostalgic journey from past to present in its sphere of human imagination, love and childhood dreams. But his treatment is interesting in the sense that the fantasy created on the canvases has got the power to diffuse imagination in a materialistic world. “In my works, I take a satirical look at life and people around me, which has shadows of humour on contemporary life,” he says. Mukherjee, who couldn’t afford art college because they were a poor family, says his grandfather was a good artist and that may be the was very young, the onus fell upon his mother to raise her children, which to her credit she did, rising above all the setbacks. “I’m a commerce graduate. I took up a job and kept practising art with the help of a friend who was an art college student. It was very tough, but I still tried to make good art,” says Mukherjee, who is inspired by Vincent van Gogh, Picasso, Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo and Indian masters like Bhupen Khakhar, Krishan Khanna, Ganesh Pyne, Bikas Bhattacherjee and one Bangladeshi artist Zainul Abedin. Talking about the various mediums he has worked with, Mukherjee says he started with watercolours and loved applying gouache on his works. “I got into printmaking and soon started woodcut, cyanotype, gum bichromate and made a printmaking studio at my house,” he informs. When he turned to woodcut-printing as an exercise in new media, he was fascinated by its versatility but unprepared for its intensity. “I got help from a Boroda artist in woodcut and later from an artist from Kolkata.” Mukherjee says he tries to situate his work along a complex axis of modernity and tradition, drawing inspiration from a wide range of sources. “Traditional as well as contemporary forms and content are to be found side-by-side in my paintings. The visual insights I hope to offer my audience are at both micro and macro levels,” he says. Delightfully engaging with pop-art meeting surrealism in highly detailed works, his latest series created in lockdown time narrate a story within a story – fine pen lines sketch out reason art is in his blood. Having lost his father when he the details with watercolour to fill up and narrate a second story. It has simple motifs around which the artist knits a complex narrative, leaving ample space for the viewer’s imagination. “As the Corona pandemic continues to rage and forces us to come to terms with unprecedented physical and social contact, I turn to my art to remind me, perhaps even assure me, of interconnectedness in all its forms. The terrible human tragedy of this has also brought other factors into consciousness the clash of cultures; strength and willpower; victory and defeat,” he says. “These works give voice to my emotional and critical responses to all that I see around me. At a time of severely limited contact, they make me feel as though I remain part of an interconnected world of thoughts, images and ideas.” Mukherjee says various issues such as climate change, healthcare, industry, agriculture, migrant labour and the interactions between these factors are articulated in his works. “If nothing else, this period allows any creative individual the choice to remodel societal structures and relationships and also look at addressing the great challenges which lie in our future,” he adds.

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The Art of Simple

Colour and form are the essential content of Gayatri Gamuz’s work and through stillness, she understands oneness, the ultimate reality which manifests itself in all things, and inside this process she paints

For Gayatri Gamuz, being nothing is everything. Her art is the reflection of the simplicity that rests in everything – of the heart inside, of the intangible. “The viewer sees the painting and relates with the inner world inside the emptiness of the mind,” explains the artist, who was born in Spain, but has lived in South India for most of her adult life. She says the significant aspect of her work is the work in itself. Gamuz says through stillness, she understands oneness, and inside this process she paints. “The ancient traditions constantly refer to this oneness, the ultimate, indivisible reality which manifests itself in all things,” she says. Colour and form are the essential content of her work and her inspiration stays in between the east and the west, between the oriental abstraction inspired by the Zen calligraphy and the contemporary western abstraction. “Silence and stillness are not a conceptual knowledge, but our essential nature, the nature of the “I am” that is deeper than name and form,” she says.

Living at a farm in Thiruvannamalai with her Malayali husband and two sons, Gamuz says the change has definitely affected her work style. “Certainly, life close to nature brings the individual to experience life in a broader sense. As we live close to animals, insects, plants and trees, our mind moves naturally from the anthropocentric, neurotic mind to a deeper connectedness with all,” she reasons. “As nature around us unfolds to reveal its complexity, we realise every day that we inhabit a densely connected ecological universe where nothing is isolated, where there is no separation, where nothing is accidental. My work is founded primarily inside this understanding.” She says for many years her art was very intimately connected with contemporary realism. She believed that realistic expression was the only way she could relate with the world of art. “I was not only painting figurative, but also attending figurative residencies, workshops and exhibitions, buying books, researching documentation on figurative artists,” she reveals. “I was convinced that all the poetic, transcendent expressions of the soul could be fully contained inside the figurative form. Then a few years back, as I was turning 50, in the high revolutionary turmoil of my enlightening, marvellous menopause, I went through a period when I could not work, weeks and months passed and I could not paint.” Gamuz says she felt an urgent need of emptiness and silence. “It came as a call to move somewhere else, to understand myself and my work from another space, from the space where words were not needed, nor characters, genders, animals, things, objects,” she says, adding, “I felt as if I needed to get liberated from some conditioning. I needed to flow without language, to get in the infinite space of colour beyond the boundaries of concepts. The studio became a space of reflection. Then came the answer… the answer was change, move somewhere else, keep everything aside and start again, from the beginning, from this silence,from this nothingness. I made my first abstract painting and since then the silence remains.”

There’s an obvious serenity, but an underlying discontent too that surfaces at closer perusal of her works. What does that denote? “It denotes that serenity is part of a totality where everything exists. Serenity cannot exist in isolation; the non-serenity is also there. All is part of the same universe,” she explains. Talking of the colour pink, which is a continuous leitmotif in her works, she says pink denotes, more than any other colour, the emotion of love and affection; it is the colour of purity and innocence. “If pink had a smell, it will have a soft fragrance, if it had a taste, it will be sweet, if it has to come near you, it will not touch but caress you,” she says. In April, when the pandemic news was alerting the world, Gamuz felt an emotional shock and could Pink the Love” happened, as to say that the essence of the human being is marvellous, that beyond everything the love always remains.” not paint for weeks. “The situation was overwhelming; there was such an uncertainty and profound dismay. Then the shock started to evolve, transform and shift from a passive dejection to an active mood and I realised that I needed to respond to this human crisis with my most dear language,” she informs. “So, I started a pink statement of love and trust and in a few months, a small collection of paintings called “The Pink the Love” happened, as to say that the essence of the human being is marvellous, that beyond everything the love always remains.”

Ask Gamuz about her earliest memories of art and she says Spain is a country with a big tradition of artists, especially oil painters. “In every small town and remote village, you will find professional artists who exhibit locally as well as people who simply paint as a hobby,” she informs. “My father was a bank manager and back then in Spain, bankers were targeted as possible art buyers, so he was often invited to exhibitions. As a result, over the years, the walls in my family house filled up with all kinds of artwork from local artists.” Gamuz remembers how exciting it was to reorganise artwork to make room for a new painting her father would bring home, or rearranging the whole collection whenever the family changed houses (which was frequently as her father’s job required changing locations). “This close relationship and engagement with paintings from a very young age definitely influenced my attraction to art,” she says. As for deciding to become an artist, she recalls how she was a tireless, creative child. “I was always

doing something with my hands. I made many dresses for my dolls, sculpted figurines with clay, which I cooked in my mother’s oven. To her disgust, it really was quite messy. And I learned and loved to crochet with my grandmother,” she says. “I was very fond of colour and had a strong attraction to all art forms. I observed and related with the world from an artistic angle. I was a dreamer. I recall when the circus came to my town, my strong urge was to join them, to travel, to see the world, to be free. I told my parents and of course they were unhappy.” As a teenager, she thought life was meaningful only if she was involved in changing the world into a better place. So, she decided to study social work and continued to make sculptures in her shared student apartment and often went to the theatre and exhibitions in Alicante, where she was attending university. “In the third year of my studies, I went to see a contemporary play in the city. The venue was in the open air, next to an old castle on a small hill. While seeing the performance, with the immense black sky on us and the orange illuminated stage, I experienced a deep revelation and suddenly at that moment struck me the thought to start a new path, to move from being a passive spectator to an active creator. Soon after that, much to the surprise of all my friends and family I left social work and began to study art,” she recalls.

Talking about the various mediums, Gamuz says she works with oil on canvas as well as a wide variety of mediums on paper like pencil, colour pencil, ink and watercolour. “Each medium has its own intrinsic quality and character,” she says. “The oil paint is solidity and power, a very present material. It demands a solid execution; you cannot paint with oils if you don’t feel a hundred percent full power. But you could do

a small drawing even if you are not feeling well.” She says the viewer needs to see the oil painting with the same strength; the canvas is like a big object on the way which cannot be ignored. “It is a very solid medium, and that is one reason why it is so fascinating for me to express immateriality and transcendence in a big oil painting. The watercolour is the other side of the oil painting. It relates with the fluidity of water; it is like a river flowing. Watercolour contains naturally all the necessary qualities for transcendental expression, to express lightness, emptiness, and the space beyond the material,” she explains. Gamuz says size also determines the character of a work. “Hold a small watercolour in your hands, look at it for a few seconds and you feel as if you are breathing the painting, as if the painting enters inside you. With a big oil, it’s the other way… you stand in front of the painting and look at it for a few seconds and it feels as if the painting takes you in, embraces you, swallows you.” Gamuz says she needs the gentleness, lightness and softness of the watercolour and also the unique strength and power of the oil. “I love the small paper and the big canvas, the puddle after the rain and the big ocean, the pebble on the path and the big mountain on the horizon,” she adds.

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Beyond The Lines

Mahima Bhayana says as an artist she sees and thinks in lines and imagines herself as an urban born artist seeking to apply a new practice according to a unique perspective which is her own
TEXT: TEAM ART SOUL LIFE

Delhi-based artist Mahima Bhayana is rather vocal about patriarchy being deeply entrenched in our society and a major obstruction in her expression and experience. “I don’t think we have overcome patriarchy. We acknowledge it more,” she says. “It’s an attitude, which we face every day in society and I overcome it by confronting or manipulating it through art and solidarity.”

Bhayana says her art is an array of promiscuous questions on how she experiences her intimate truth

within and without. “Through my eyes, my mind, my ears and my heart I zoom in and I zoom out. A ripple

effect of patriarchy has been a major obstruction in my expression and experience,” she says. “Painting,

art and solidarity is my compass to navigate my way out. My approach being of intersection-ally looking,

questioning, comprehending and feeling at my life and the world around me, through a new lens of feminism.” The series titled “Conversations with Alexa” is an act of provocative response to isolation (circumstance) in 2020. “I am trying to question the contradictory nature of politics of identity and social reality for women in private, public and virtual spaces through actions of my body on a surface, in the presence of my ally Alexa. The conversations have a varied flavour about them, they are chaotic, dramatical, comical, sexual, thrilling, emotional, fictitious and confrontational,” she adds.

Bhayana says she developed an interest in art by being alone. Painting for her is an intercourse where her ideas fertilise. “As an artist, I see and think in lines. To me a line depicts emotions and has a lineage and history. I often question myself why I am so infatuated by the lines in forms and texts,” she says. Talking of miniatures, Bhayana says being a National Fellow, she spent four years in Jaipur extensively training, researching and educating in techniques of this ancient art form at a karkhana, amongst a group of miniature artists, who also happened to be her teachers. Bhayana says she had made up her mind in 2015 that she would like to create a community where miniature painting is discussed and becomes more accessible to people, especially in terms of education and revival. Through Reimagining Miniatures, Bhayana along with Devki Modi Jain aims to create a community and space for discussions around traditional and contemporary miniature practices. “Through this initiative, we are hoping to create a virtual global community of miniature artists to reimagine, connect, share, research, contextualize, question and showcase ideas and art based on miniature painting. We are very interested in understanding the gaps that are present between Indian miniature painting and modern and contemporary art from India,” she explains. Bhayana explains that miniature painting involves stillness of posture and disciplined breath control requiring utmost patience and attention to every mark. “My wasli works are a representation of this physical behaviour of the technique. However, my canvas works are a hyper movement of my body,” she informs. “The spontaneous behavioural approach through movement of body and breath towards a large surface is a child-like freedom to stillness, discipline and tradition. I view this contrast of the imagery and process of creating the works as a performative act of painting. It allows me to zoom in and zoom out of the techniques as my interaction with them progresses. I like to see this conflict as a duality that coexists in me, my approach, my beliefs, my emotions, my technique and the world.” Ask her why she paints what she paints and how she describes her art, Bhayana replies, “Painting for me is an intercourse where my ideas fertilise.

As an artist I see and think in lines. To me a line depicts emotions and it has a lineage and history.” She often questions herself why she’s so infatuated by the lines in forms and texts. How and why does she look at a line as her conceptual practice? How will she see it differently? Is she a miniaturist? But she doesn’t identify as a traditional artist! However, she’s extremely inspired by tradition. “As I exist now, I imagine an urban born artist in me seeking to apply a new practice according to a unique perspective which is my own,” she says. Bhayana says time inspires her as it’s constantly moving. “With time, evolution happens. For me that’s inspiring,” she philosophises. Bhayana likes to prepare a few natural colours in her studio from stones (kharia), Wasli and some she buys from outside. Additionally, she works on canvas and also sees her body as a medium. Bhayana, has exhibited in various museums and galleries nationally and internationally, including The National Gallery of Modern Art, India Lalit Kala Akademi, Jehangir Art Gallery Mumbai, India, Traverse Art Gallery, London, A Bus Art Museum exhibition in Los Angeles, and Ajuntamento de’Alella, Spain. Her works are in the collections of Lalit Kala Art Akademy, New Delhi, The National Gallery of Modern Art and Dhoomimal Gallery, New Delhi. She is collaborating on an initiative called the Reimagining Miniatures, that looks at both traditional and contemporary practices of miniature artists of South East Asia.

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Return of the Classic

A painter, illustrator and animator, who has worked and travelled across Europe, US and Israel to study and collaborate on various projects, Hemali Vadalia wants to apply her classical realism knowledge to Indian aesthetic and create personal works

There has been a quiet return to an older way of painting. To standards from the past. To a time when drawing mattered. When shock value wasn’t so highly regarded. A time when art and craftsmanship were one and the same. A multi-disciplinary artist currently living in New York, Mumbai-born Hemali Vadalia is one such realist painter whose work explores the ideas of freedom, self-image, and belonging in the everyday lives of people. Her medium of choice is primarily oil on linen and she has worked and travelled across Europe, US and Israel, to study and collaborate on various projects, pursuing her passion for art. A skilled animator (both Claymation and stop-motion), illustrator, and sculptor; she’s also created stunning works of sand art, paper art, and clay art.

Her claim to art fame, however, has to be being part of Loving Vincent—the first painted feature film—that delves into the life of Vincent van Gogh, which was nominated for Oscars in 2018. Working as a part of the team of artists, who spent hour after hour, day after day, sitting and painting, was Vadalia who spent seven months, between May and November 2016, at the studio in Poland, where she painted a total of 358 frames for seven of the film’s scenes. This involved painting approximately four frames a day, each of which would take her two to three hours. But it was long before she actually put brush to canvas in the studio in Gdansk, Poland, that she first heard of the film and wanted to be a part of it. “After I saw the trailer in 2012, I wrote to the director, asking if they needed artists to work on the film, but I never heard back.” It was only in 2016, after the engineer-turned-animator had already spent time studying at the Angel Academy of Art and the Russian Academy of Art in Florence, plus a semester at the Grand Central Atelier in New York, did she revisit the possibility of working on the movie. She applied again, went to Gdansk for a rigorous three-day test on painting and animation, followed by a training programme, after which she began working on the film. But though working on the film and painting all day long, every day, was an intense, time-consuming, and often exhausting process, it was something that all the artists involved in the project enjoyed immensely. “It was a one-of-a-kind experience, and it was nice to ‘live’ this process. And making a painting move is just another experience,” Vadalia remarks. When they saw the rough cut of the film with the scenes, they had painted in it, it was overwhelming. “It was emotional for everyone,” Vadalia smiles. Ask her about her creative background and how did she get here, she says, “I have always loved to make things. However, growing up in a well-educated traditional Indian family, I never thought I would take art up professionally. I studied Computer Engineering from Mumbai University and while working as a software programmer, I used to make caricatures for my friends and family. At some point I realised that I would be much happier if I spent more time making art. I completed my Masters in Animation and Film design at IDC, IIT Bombay, which was my introduction to the creative field.”

Vedalia, who studied classic realist art at Grand Central Atelier, New York, says she has always liked working with tangible mediums. “While working on my two short films, I did a lot of paper craft and clay art to create characters and visuals for the films. This gave me a good start when I began freelancing. People admired handmade work and commissioned me for the illustration and animations for projects ranging from brand campaigns, game designs, children’s books, magazines,” she informs. Vedalia says she was always interested in visual art but it took her some time to get to it. “When I attended one art exhibition back in 2009 on life events of Gautama Buddha, the works were so soulful, I felt I wanted to be skilled enough to be able to create something so moving, so beautiful,” she says, adding, “Later I decided to study Animation and Film Design, where we were introduced to the art of visual storytelling. We studied the works of contemporary artists as well as classics. I began working with different mediums to create images to tell my stories well. I learned about artists whose work and life inspired me, I found out their inspirations and what influenced their work. I was introduced to the works of old masters then.” She says she has learnt to accept the uncertainty that comes with shifting careers. “One needs to be okay with not having a clear vision when taking the first step. If you are sincere and have patience, the vision will evolve over time. There is joy in the pursuit of anything. The initial transitional excitement, hardships and arriving brings a sense of wonder to life. It is a journey. Sometimes I need to slow down a bit in the process,” she avers. “Also, I know that becoming too comfortable wouldn’t help me grow. I keep discovering other masters’ works, which inspire me to become a better artist. After working on many paper craft and clay art projects, I feel very comfortable and confident when I have to illustrate or animate in these mediums,” she adds. With such a diverse portfolio now, are there certain influences, or goals that bridge these projects together? “Observe, study, and practice. This goes for everything, whether it is a drawing, painting or making illustration in paper craft or clay art or animation,” she says. “It always helps to learn from nature and apply the knowledge in the work. I have been curious to try different mediums to convey messages in a way that is meaningful and fun to look at. Sometimes I make art to remember a special visit somewhere or the travel itself. When I look at it, it reminds me of the people I met and that life is good.” Talking of her artistic mission, Vedalia says she wants to paint large figurative works in landscapes. “There is still a lot I need to study in terms of storytelling, composition, and achieving technical skills. I think it takes patience and time. Currently, my intention is to apply my classical art knowledge to Indian aesthetic and create personal works,” she says. Vedalia says she enjoys working with people from big production houses to collaborating with other artists and individuals on a personal level. Besides working on Loving Vincent, her plasticine artworks were selected for an international art show ‘Plasticine Art’ at Old Jaffa Museum in Tel Aviv, Israel in April 2017. “It gave me a reason to travel there, opening up more artistic collaborations and developing bonds with the Israeli artists and musicians I met,” she informs. Ask her about her biggest creative influences and she says the influences have changed over time; however, she has always been inspired by a strong sense of craftsmanship and involvement towards the work. “I am really inspired and influenced by the works of Ilya Repin, Serov, Ivan Kramskoi, Sorolla, Andrew Wyeth, Sargent, Walter Langley, Camille Claudel, Rodin, Jules Bastien Lepage, Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret, and Gustav Klimt. I love animation shorts also; in a short time, they sometimes give a very strong message. Animations by Caroline Leaf and Lotte Reiniger are delightful,” she says

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In praise of trees

For Hyderabad-based artist Bhaskara Rao Botcha, trees are culturally significant emblems, deeply embedded in Indian mythological narratives as well as occupying sacred roles TEXT: TEAM ART SOUL LIFE

The tree is perhaps one of the most powerful symbols possible, evoking meaning and emotion in cultures across the world. From the symbolism of the olive branch to that of the mighty oak, from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden to one’s own family tree, it is hard to deny the influence of the arboreal. It is unsurprising, then, that so many artists have made use of trees in their work. Whether as a focus of the piece in their own right, as part of a wider landscape or even as a complement to portraiture, trees are rooted firmly in artistic history. For those without an artistic bent, the tree might seem to be an overly simple subject. However, to the artistic eye, they offer a fascinating, lively and challenging subject. “The tree form has become the core element of my works,” says Hyderabad-based artist Bhaskara Rao Botcha, whose connection and fondness for trees goes back to his childhood days spent in Salur, a small town in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh. “My father is a farmer and he has a farm of cashews and mangoes in my village. He once took me to plant a small mango tree when I was in Class 4. I started going to the fields to watch the plant grow and this is how I developed the love for nature,” he says. Botcha, who’s inspired by English landscape painter John Constable and Dutch master Vincent van Gogh, Kalal Laxma Goud and G. Ravinder Reddy, his teacher M. Venkat Rao and professor V. Ramesh, says his earlier series assimilated widespread, vast landscapes with land, water bodies and skies. He experimented with figurative art, streetstyle art and then landscapes but gradually and eventually, the tree form has become the core element of his works. He says his trees are culturally significant emblems, deeply embedded in Indian mythological narratives as well as occupying sacred roles. Further, they assume important roles within the physical landscape, not only yielding fruits but providing shade, as well as covering and protecting the earth’s surface. “On a broader scale, my work reflects an innate bond between trees and people of our country in the form of worship and as an emblem of auspiciousness.,” he says. Rendering trees in myriad mediums, he keeps returning each time with a new vision. He notes, “In black and white, sombre grays or bright primary coolers, the tree stands out resplendently, a sentinel to remind me of the havoc… to cause on the sacred face of the earth in our pursuit of selfish interests.”Talking about the spiritual link between him and his subject, Botcha says according to Indian mythology, trees or vrikshas were the offspring of Anala, who was married to the great sage Kashyapa. “They have a great significant role in our cultural landscape for they not only yield fruits but provide shade as well and cover and protect the earth’s surface and have come to assume over the years even a sacred role,” he informs. “My leitmotif has remained constant as part of my oeuvre over the years in my career as a painter. At a cursory glance at my body of work, though it may appear that seems to be involved and articulating my ideas through my vision of a landscape, it is primarily the image of the tree which stands out.” Botha, who started drawing when he was 10 years old, however, says, “Trees are not valued for their being by humans nowadays. Tree has always bestowed us with fruits, oxygen, shelter, medicines and tools. They contribute in many ways to the environment by improving climate and air quality, preserving life-saving water, improving soil fertility level, and reinforcing wildlife, to name a few. We need to learn and understand the great value of trees in our life and need to plant more trees to make our earth a better place to live.” He says he always portrays his tree to make people feel happy. “Observing is a gift and observing nature is an example of a beautiful soul,” he says, adding, “Look at the tree, its branches and leaves. Every leaf tells a secret. It’s no less than poetry It looks simply but it requires precision and patience to paint the silent poetry and beautiful eyes to see nature in a different perception. With strong roots and colorful leaves, the tree of life gives us an example of enchanting nature.” Currently, Botcha is working for his upcoming show at Art Revolution Taipei, in Taiwan, in May, and a major show later in Paris.