The lotus is a recurring symbol in Japanese artist Yuriko Lochan’s works. It is the metaphor through which she tries to unlock the human mind and depict the realities of life.
Choosing from a palette of pink, red, green, blue, fuschia and black, the landscapist draws a different lotus, lending each flower, a unique contour, background and temperament.
“In the Japanese context, the lotus stands for different stages of life. I have always been fascinated with the flower’s nature as something that draws its beauty from the grossness of the mud and yet stands tall, oozing divinity. The human soul is just like that—uncontaminated with worldly affairs,” says the 53-year-old.
Paintings from her Hasu, Divination, Hana: The Lotus, and Fluid series were on display last week at an exhibition in Chennai. Currently, Lochan is working on her Revelation series. She also has on her list of interests the Bhagavad Gita, on which she hopes to work on in the future.
“Nothing has catalysed my evolution as an artist more than my exposure to Indian culture. And as a person who seeks the truth in everything that life offers, it [India] is a place gives an artist a clear perspective,” she says.
Born in Osaka, Japan, Lochan is married to artist and director of the National Gallery of Modern Art, Rajeev Lochan, and has been living in India for more than two-and-a-half decades.
One of the most intriguing creations at her recent exhibition was the triad in the Divination series (I, II and III). Against tones of grey with yellow leaves signifying death are painted pale white lotuses—a bud, a disintegrating flower and a bare pod sans petals—standing for the three stages of the human life.
An allusion to the passing over of the human soul is evident in the piece titled ‘Transcendence’ (Divination series) where the flower is mellow, open and illuminated against a background of coils.
“You will find a lot of coils and crescents in my works on the lotus. They stand for the fluidity of energy in physical space,” says Lochan.
The mood undergoes a change in a string of paintings in Fluid series that has the lotuses painted in vivid shades against light backgrounds and vice-versa.
“Each series reflects the stages of personal observation in life. The Divination series is a meditation on the human anticipation of destiny while the Fluid series is a mirror to the fluctuating mind as well as aspects of life that are in constant change. Hana—the flower reflects the innocent soul as a blossoming flower,” Lochan explains.
But do the moods overlap? “When I paint, I don’t plan, but allow it to be spontaneous. It is either the theme or the painting that comes first and things eventually fall into place.” Her body of work contains paintings on nature, mythology and female sexuality. Lochan says she started working more on symbols from nature such as the lotus and banana leaves after shifting base to India.
“These elements of nature share the fundamental truth of life. Like the lotus helps me understand the nature of the Atman and the Brahman, my works on the banana leaf spring from my personal longing to assimilate with Indian culture as an alien,” she says.