Conversations on Canvas
Tue Dec 11 2012 In artist Neeta Mohindra’s works, where stage and canvas are an intrinsic part of the creative connect, Mohindra finds expression through theatre and painting. At a recent exhibition titled “Prithmanian”, Mohindra brought the untold stories of important women in Sikh history alive on canvas, with a minimalistic touch — one that brought Mohindra’s performance and visual talent to the fore. While researching on the subject that dealt with women in the life of the Sikh gurus, Mohindra could not find any authentic images of these unsung heroes. It’s then that she decided to use theatre to create these images. “Natyashastra considers art an amalgamation of theatre, dance, music, and painting. There is no compartmentalisation. I am both an actor and a painter. There are no contradictions or debates in my mind regarding that. And I enjoy using new mediums, technology and inputs to express myself,’’ she says.
With calligraphy as conversation, poetry in footnotes and captions and a costume drama for artwork in the making, in the evolving world of art, artists are increasingly using poetry, sacred texts, theatrical elements and writings to create different strokes.
In Mohindra’s case, the theatre actor, director and painter studied the character of each woman by using her imagination, literature, and technology and enacted the role on stage to create an authentic image. She roped in a designer to make costumes for each character and to be painted according to the period, apart from getting a photo shoot done to create the present series. “It had to be authentic for the viewer, so I used a few graphic techniques and text to talk about these women,’’ says Mohindra, who adds that for her, communication is the key. A little later, for her show “Centrestage”, she painted the characters she had enacted on stage and a detailed brochure apprised the audience about the roles and how paintings were an extension of the acts. At present, Mohindra is working on a series of paintings on Punjabi and Kashmiri Sufi women, and is looking forward to perform their lives on stage as part of her quest. “I have found my language and need to keep exploring new vocabularies,’’ reflects Mohindra.
Combining calligraphy, painting, Gurbani verses and text, Kamaljeet Kaur hopes to keep a tradition alive. “Sadaf”, an exhibition of Kaur’s paintings and artefacts highlighted Gurbani and calligraphy in Punjabi fonts which, she says, have an amazing artistic appeal. “Not many are using calligraphy in Punjabi, and through art, I hope to spread the message of peace and happiness,’’ says Kaur, whose works include abstract paintings in varied fonts and texts from Hindu mythology including the Gayatri Mantra and Om.
A collection of lamps, ceramics and silk stoles with calligraphy on them is also a part of Kaur’s collection. According to Kaur, the verses she calligraphs are answers to many of our questions. “The art of calligraphy becomes a conversation with the self and the art of painting a form of meditation, with the words and strokes flowing effortlessly,” shares Kaur.
Combining techniques, influences and art forms, artists are striving to talk to their audience on a one-to-one basis, using varied techniques and sensibilities, as we see in more and more art showcases. For instance, Sanjay Kumbkarni’s series of photographs of people on the street titled Streetside Brew has poetry accompanying each work, helping the viewer connect closely. The photographer has walked an extra mile to tell the story of each picture, his own emotion, and used poetry and philosophy to talk to his audience. The frames and words take to the streets of Varanasi, Kolkata, Delhi, banks of the Ganga, villages in Himachal and on the elaborate plaque, Kumbkarni shares his observations, experiences, and many stories of people. “How I feel about a moment, person, picture and the perspective it gives me, takes my work to another level. These are thoughts I share with people, something for them to take back home,’’ he says, pointing towards a picture of a woman standing in the doorway with a kettle in her hand. The woman is in Chithul village in Sangla Valley and is waiting for her husband to finish reading the scriptures. It’s a ritual that has remained unchanged for 65 years, as has the tea recipe.