Battling rain-induced inertia to see luminescent art

I am sure I must have been a peacock or a Malhar raga in some previous birth, for this weather is my absolute favourite. The green of the tree tops juxtaposed against the glistening skies laden with droplets of resurgence make my heart soar and like the earth bursting forth, my creative levels too touch an all-time high in this weather.

I love painting in the rains — even though it takes much longer for the paint to dry in this weather, I love the fact that I can actually do water colours in this weather, perhaps the only time in the year that it is possible to do that in Delhi!
I love the rain, I love the Indian classical ragas and raginis of the rain, I love the viraha music, I love the kajris and the jhoolas, I love the rain festivals like Teej and Rakhi, I love the rain foods like ghevars and pakoras and the andarse ki goli, and I love the fact that I am fortunate that I have the option of not having to battle the traffic jams as I stay close to my chosen area of work. As one my uncles used to say, if I come, it is an appointment and if I don’t show up, it is a disappointment. And if it rains, I always exercise the option of not keeping an appointment, as I am very greedy about wanting to see the rain from my window! But when I choose the option of actually stepping out to see an art show, it should surely be worth it. A lot of shows that one goes to see are often more of the same thing. Few artists are making the effort to break out of their self-created moulds and daring to recreate out of their own tried and tested shackles.
I wonder what impels them into wanting to do the same thing over and over again. Is it age? Is it the fright of trying anything new? It is plain inertia of not wanting to get out of comfort zones? Is it wanting to stick to a similar style for experimenting would mean upsetting the apple cart of buyers who are used to seeing a similar style? Or do they try to reach higher levels of perfection in doing the same thing? It actually could be all of the above, but I for one, find it difficult to understand how can one’s growth not show? If change and growth are permanently impermanent then how can artists go on doing the same thing ad nauseum? Especially since they are harbingers of change.
However, if the present market trend of buying works only for aesthetic reasons rather than purely investment is true, then it is also true that as far as artists are concerned, it is the perfect time to create works that explore one’s creative energies. In such a scenario, if the artists actually take advantage of this situation, they will not only be able to come up with works that are not just part of the art rat race, but fresh imagery that I think is part of every artist’s mindscape yet remains suppressed for many reasons.
These thoughts reverberating in my head, I battled my own inertia of the rains and I am so glad I did. For what I saw was so delicately beautiful and aesthetic and after a long time came like a gust of the rain: Art Spice’s latest show of 40 works of Hemant Rao. And it truly rained art!
The imagery is replete with forms from nature that get transposed in shadows and lights. The works are very detailed and refined using dry pastels. The technique employed renders the works luminescent and the show is perfectly suited for the very sophisticated Zen-like gallery. Critic Prayag Shukla recounts that it is Rao’s rural upbringing that allowed him a peek into nature’s unfolding and that forms the core of the artist’s imagery. It is how he has used them that it is extremely urbane and highly refined.
Hemant has been working in Bharat Bhawan, Bhopal and has not remained untouched by the high degree of perfection in abstract work that emerges from there. I have been a trustee of the Bharat Bhawan and I have seen the wonderful artists that have emanated from there like Shridhar Iyer, Akhilesh, Manish Pushkale, Siraj Saxena, among a host of others. The doyen of abstract art in India, J. Swaminathan’s legacy is alive and well it seems, for it was he who as its former director instilled a perspective that continues to this day. It is indeed saying much for there are few people and institutions whose legacy survives them.

Dr Alka Raghuvanshi is an art writer, curator and artist and can be contacted on alkaraghuvanshi@yahoo.com

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