If in one frame, an exotic bird is seen soaring high against the winds, another one captures nature’s fragility, its rhythm, its devotion, its wild but delicate form, its transient temper, its colour and its mood.
Both the frames were part of a painting exhibition called ‘Saptarangi Vasundhara’, which was put up at the Odisha Modern Art Gallery here by Baroda-based self-taught artist Sumati Gangopadhyay. “These works strive to portray a rhythm in humans and nature,” says Sumati, showing around her works that were bold (in treatment), rich and perfectly blended acrylic and water colours.
“My paintings venture deep into the shrinking spaces around us despite us living in the ‘space’ age. One may call it a nostalgic journey into the past since most of the paintings are based on my childhood memories,” says Sumati. Also in the exhibition is a section dedicated to landscapes inspired from her travels. There are sceneries from Kabul, Mauritius, and several states within the country.
On show were 33 of her paintings in two sets. While water colours were done in paper, the brighter set of paintings in acrylic were created on acrylic base in reverse, so you have to look at the paintings from the flip side. The technique has been used in the famous Thanjore glass paintings for centuries.
The water colours carried landscapes in light colours. One of the eight works in this series was a beautiful piece ‘Hamida’. “Hamida was a beautiful Afghan woman whom I had met during my stay in Kabul in 2006,” she says. Along with the portrait of Hamida, the painting had a small colourful butterfly. “Like the free butterfly, she too sought freedom,” Sumati adds.
Characterised by a pastoral charm and brimming with earthy colours, the second series of her paintings were filled with sharp, angular strokes, which created eye-catching impressions. The moods and tonal values of her images also varied quite dramatically: being soft and serene in some, forcefully dynamic and energetic in others.
Her fondness for the natural landscape was evident. Undulating hills, flowing rivers, majestic trees, colourful meadows, deep woods, green pastures, dramatic skyscapes, whispering tracks, swaying branches, and sparkling foliage were all part of her cultured and cultivated visual vocabulary. Her inspired works were an uninhibited celebration of colours. While most of the figures were detailed using quick and neat lines, the colour was added just to represent the hues of nature - rocks, mountains, leaves and stones.
She created another series where she drew exotic birds in varied hues. “These birds were shown taking their journey from the darkness of ignorance towards light, signifying the soul’s journey towards salvation as embodied in the shloka from Upanishad ‘Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrityo r ma amrutam gamaya’, or in the Christian prayer ‘Lead kindly light amid the encircling gloom’,” Sumati says.
For her, paintings are not just pieces of art “but something that leaves you mesmerised so much that you want to keep it in your home. It is something that grows on you. It should be something that you would want to keep looking at over and over again,” explains the artist, who has had many solo shows in the country.
Celebrating the vibrancy of pure colours, she also dealt with environmental issues like ecological imbalance as seen in ‘Tsunami I and II’ and global warming is the subject of ‘The Red Earth I and II’. Other interesting pieces were ‘Dawn in the Mountains’, ‘How Green was My Valley’ and ‘River by the Night’.
“The exhibition was a representation of one moment in nature’s infinite diversity of expression. Trees, grasses and flowers depict a life form harmonising the three fundamentals -- land, water and sky,” says Sumati.
An artist of diverse talents, the spectrum of Sumati’s creative genius encompasses many hues and dimensions. Her background as an art critic and social worker are reflected in some of her paintings.
“My fascination with colours and nature started when I was a kid and has grown ever since,” says the artist, who feels her observation of the rich cultural diversity in the country has added to her creativity.
The ‘Saptarangi Vasundhara’ exhibition concluded on Monday.