The Muse’s Metamorphosis
Insignificant as they seem, but their quiet strength has never been dismissed by artist and observer Kavita Issar Batra. Her eyes have attuned themselves to see beyond the obscurity of discarded flowers, leaves, seedpods, twigs, and pieces of bark, that have separated from their source, now lying lifeless as if they await their slow disintegration. For Batra, in them, lies great audacity, as they don’t revel in self-pity but prepare themselves to integrate back into the earth from which they were born.
It was this conversation that Singapore-based, Indo-British artist Batra took forward through her recently culminated first solo show in India called ‘No Number, No Name’, at Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre in Delhi.
The exhibition may be over but the introspection continues. Through her paintings, photographs, video and installations, Batra seems to have expressed a latent angst brewing inside her for a long time. She had decided to submit a significant portion of the proceeds collected from the show to Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group, but even after doing so, peace evades her.
Fundamentally, it seems, her art emerges from perturbation for the ecosystem that she supports. “Organic and urban detritus have taught me about texture, shape, colour, value, tone, composition, botany, philosophy and rhythm to life. It has become an alphabet to my thoughts and emotions as well as inspiration for my paintings,” she says, adding, “I document the ‘moment’ our paths intersect photographing with my iPhone camera to be able to respond spontaneously. Sharing these through Instagram and Facebook is about building community. Most images are taken ‘as found’; some a montage of the detritus that I might pick up.”
These are then placed on painting and photographed. Batra says that she never photoshops anything. Whether it was her Lotus-based works, or the series titled ‘Where have all the flowers gone’, what strikes you is the rawness of implementation. Her love for nature explodes through her small and large canvases and are also reminiscent of her childhood spent breathing and living the freshness that the hillsides of Nainital, Uttarakhand, had to offer.
Then, time ‘jolted her to the urban disarray common to metro cities such as Delhi, and she began to feel torn by the purity she was used to and the lack of it that she now had to get used to. However, it was not long before this largely self-taught artist moved for work to the UK. Twenty years later she moved to Singapore, where she spent another nine years. But everywhere she went, she remained curious about the natural, organic materials that ‘litter’ streets and pavements.
“They lurk in the shadows quietly accepting all that comes their way—being trampled on or driven over, subject to the vagaries of the weather which all determine their fate. For us humans too, from the time we exit our mother’s womb, the only certainty is that we will die. Again, none of us knows how long what we call ‘life’ will last. We too are changing from infants to children to adulthood and then old age,” she says.
It disturbs Batra that society is unable to accept imperfections. Flawlessness—that we all aspire towards—itself is an obscure concept that thrives on unrealistic notions of beauty. It’s nature that stands as an apostle of acceptance. Thus, through her show, Batra has a given chance to what’s popularly considered nugatory and utterly inconsequential, a chance to find the uniqueness of purpose.