I can connect to a canvas better than with humans. No, I am not joking. I usually don’t sit down to paint with a visualization of an image in my mind. In fact, I do it better with an empty mind. The truth is that the subject for my art comes from somewhere deep; deeper than the conscious mind which can only pick up sensory cues. The impact of an incident, a dream, a deja vu experience or the emotional drama that exists beneath my subconscious layers is what, most often, gets painted on my canvas. And those are the moments, I connect to my inner self – without the need for an effort, conversation or contemplation. I’ve seldom discussed about my works with others because I doubt if verbal conversations can justify the depth of the impact that stir my brush strokes. For once, I am attempting here to frame into words, those buried forces from within; the forces that carved the artist in me!
I’ve never been to a formal class of arts. Only paints and brushes have been my teachers all along. For the first time, the thought of doing an oil painting haunted me when I visited the Belur temple, near Bangalore, a few years ago. While I was taking a closer look at the sculptures that were standing tall on the pillars, I had a sudden jolt for I could perceive as though one of the sculptures spoke to me. I felt that particular sculpture cried out to me to help it get away from that place, as though it was confined within the temple for long; as though it wasn’t meant to be up there on the pillar anymore. It could be an hallucination or something eerie that my brain couldn’t catch then. Instinctively, I hurried, to be among the crowd of my friends and didn’t dare to look at another sculpture in that place again.
However, even long after I left the temple, the calling of the sculpture kept ringing in my head. I have never even stopped to check an oil painting in a museum before. But all of a sudden, I inquired about essential oil painting materials to a stationary shop owner. And did my first ever oil painting on an old piece of rugged canvas cloth. Yes, the one you see above; Sculpture at Belur Temple.
There is no obvious relation between this incident and oil painting. A strange incident made a strange impact in me, connecting me to an art form that I didn’t knew would become a close-to-heart leisure pursuit in the future. As I always argue, our logical minds aren’t equipped enough to understand what would impact the deeper layers of our beings and how!
Since then, I began to take oil painting seriously. But it took a few years to realize that most of my paintings were reflecting one common theme – Confinement! Though the incident at Belur temple faded away from my memory, the confined emotion of the sculpture I had hallucinated became apparent in my paintings.
The one below, Connection, was a depiction of a vivid dream I had had where, in a different time period, I was carried away on a horse by a loving prince. On reaching his court, he was sent to an important war and he never came back. I spent the rest of my life alone in a confined, gloomy chamber with a baby to be taken care of. On waking up, I knew it wasn’t the Nandhini of this lifetime though it was me! I was moved for the lady in the dream, that is for myself, which left a deep, sad impact on me.
This pattern in my paintings had continued, without my realization of it. Here are two more that mirrored the same theme: Puppets of the Past was impacted by the helplessness that many young professionals face in their work and married lives. An impact created when friends discuss how confined they feel within their office of not being able to fetch a sense of satisfaction in spite of earning a bagful, of how they feel confined within their relationships and are longing for freedom; of how they curse the alignment of their stars and their past karma!
Silence was again the confinement that a girl felt; this time, it was a real life experience. It was a time of life when marriage proposals were on the way. I had no clue of how to choose a groom on the basis of a profile from a matrimonial site. I wondered how arranged marriages were arranged. I simply couldn’t connect to anybody my mother spoke of with great awe. But the bottom line was I had to get married. Confining social norms!
A few more years and I didn’t realize when and how the confinement-possessed-spirit left me 😀 My paintings began to pick up more of my positive dreams and emotions. From confinement to freedom to joy, my canvasses followed closely the underlying goodness of life. Except for one public display of a landscape painting by Evam Theatre group, Chennai, I never intended to get this side of me to the commercial world. I am glad for the impact that the Belur sculpture had on me, for every second I spend with my paint brushes reminds me the fact of being alive, well next to writing!