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Closer Than Ever

Pandemic brings together three women artists working in various disciplines to exhibit their paintings and conceptual works under the collective Aadhya TEXT: TEAM ART SOUL LIFE

How else to describe the pandemic other than surreal? Seemingly overnight, the entire fabric of daily life was turned upside down. And yet—between trying to order groceries online and refreshing your favourite newspaper’s homepage—it became important that we kept ourselves optimistic, energized, and entertained (and, perhaps, a little distracted). So from restlessness to reflection, three artists – Hemavathy Guha, Shubika Lal, and Aradhna Tandon – working in various disciplines decided to cope with the pandemic through creative expression. It was Guha, a multidisciplinary artist, who took the initiative and got in touch with some more women artists who had similar thoughts and were willing to join the bandwagon. They realised that the need of the hour was to work and walk together and thus, ‘Aadhya’ was born which means ‘the beginning’, a collective of women artists with the primary aim to conduct exhibitions and other allied events.

They have all been working for more than 20-25 years independently, conducting and participating in exhibitions in India and abroad. In December 2022, they organised their first exhibition of paintings and conceptual works at the Lalit Kala Akademi galleries in New Delhi. Tandon, who has been working consistently for the past several decades, exhibited her oil and acrylic work painted in bright hues of yellow, blue and green. A joy to behold, the paintings showed the ‘woman’ in varied perspectives. In her own words, “Women and nature are probably nature’s most creative narrations available to understand God’s creation. Hence, it remains a great inspiration to me. My liking to draw visuals on canvas, emphasizes depictions about the mystery and ability of women and their nature,” she says, adding, “I love to paint everyday motifs like human figures, elements from nature and houses to depict love, tenderness, introspection and melancholy. As an artist, I enjoy depicting these subtle creative energies that demonstrate great strength, emotions and innocence on my canvas. My art represents the strength of women as the most authentic and prominent metaphor of nature. It makes me believe that the feminine energy is the essence of the universe.” Guha exhibited her textile-based paintings, which she was creating before the pandemic and some which were done recently in 2022. As was expected, the pandemic changed the medium and size of works of several artists as materials were not available and even so, the studio space was not accessible. This was the scenario which made Guha turn to making smaller-size works on paper. It seems to her that even the pandemic has not wizened up the people and countries, who even after an apocalyptic situation still indulge in war leading to death of people, and innumerable hardships.

In the past also, she had taken up the theme of war, peace, conflicts in many of her works including a performance piece titled ‘Pathway for peace’ during Kolkata International Performance Art Festival. Using the act of tearing signifying man-made geographical and natural boundaries, and stitching to signify the act of bringing the countries closer and bridging the gaps, enhanced by the verses taken from significant poems on the same theme like hers, her small circular paintings ‘Let’s Unite’ stood apart. She displayed a set of ten circular paintings titled ‘Zones of Conflict’. One also came across her huge paintings on canvas using buttons, needle and thread depicting nature, cosmos and the starry nights. These paintings were vivid, unusual in their structure and pattern and executed patiently. Lal is the senior-most in the collective by virtue of age and also by her significant contribution in the field of sculpture in the Indian contemporary art scene. She has participated in several exhibitions both in India and abroad, including the Triennale India and several of her works are in the collection of the National Gallery of Modern Art. She, too, was making largesized sculptures and casting them when the pandemic changed her manner of working totally. Rather than buying new materials, she ripped used clothes to reclaim thread and also cut circles from ropes. She used these materials to create thread sculptures which were all hand-stitched. About her creative process, she says that the whole act was a kind of meditation for her, while also being conscious of what she was trying to create. “The ‘eyes’ in my work depicts consciousness,” she informed. The thread work titled ‘Gateless Gate’ depicted the flow that one has to maintain in one’s own growth and not close the gate or the avenue. Her works also speak of memories associated with the objects we possess. The exhibition was a huge success with fellow artists, gallery owners and patrons paying a visit and admiring the creations.