Discovering an Old Indian City

by October 9, 2018 0 comments

Artist Vibha Arya Chaurasia explores the mystic and magnificent culture of Varanasi through a series of paintings.

Visualise a landscape of Varanasi, what do you see? The colour orange; the golden stairs near the Ganges ghats, boats in the eternal holy river, women sitting on their winding jharokas, men smoking pipes on the street side, old mendicants (Sadhus) telling their beads sitting under the giant Banyan trees with their long unkempt tresses, sacred fire flames and temples, idols of Gods and innumerous spiritual hymns and so on… The list might never fall short even after a thousand descriptions of mystical city.

“I have such fond memories of the city that even if I shut my eyes right now, I can visualise every bit of it,” says Vibha Arya Chaurasia who brings together an exhibition of her paintings on the holy Varanasi city.

Eclecticism is the virtue of artists who are not limited by staunch ideological dogmas. They can choose to look beyond their imagination and cull the visuals that they see around, above and below and infuse them into their creative works. Vibha likes realism in her paintings and is always on the lookout for something new in her art. She says, “An artist is always looking for new and unseen ideas to create his/her paintings. These ideas are not confined to one door, rather a number of doors.”

Maybe someone who hasn’t been around for long cannot be mentioned alongside the bigger artists, but Vibha believes that her passion of painting will ensure that this will happen soon. She says, “It is a never-ending process. An artist is always evolving. I am an amateur and currently new in this profession but I do not paint for a living. I just follow my passion. After painting, I feel that I have done something creative and constructive in my life. There are certain things that make you happy and contented in your life, for me it’s painting. Hence, I do not restrict myself but choose from the vast repertoire of images and visuals, landscapes and scenic beauty. They all inspire me.”

As her colourful canvases leads the viewers to the realm of thinking, her art oscillates between the ideal and the apparent, imparting the glimpse of both, sending the viewer to the realm of aesthetic appreciation.

In some of her paintings, Vibha takes the position of a detached and objective observer and an impartial chronicler of events.

While painting the picturesque ghats, she uses sanguine colours to explain the power and immensity of the sunrise and sunset without the use of any words. She makes sure to give her portraits an ethereal look as she paints the sadhus and their up-close frontal portrayal with their long ‘jataye’ or hair locks. The works admire an ideal human body positioned against the backdrop of a hazy night, expressing her desire for the ideal and her yearning to reach out to the soul mate and at the same time they typify the person of artist’s own gender in various locales involved in the acts of worship. However, women are not displayed as simple worshippers but pure subjects who are on their way to their soul’s fulfillment.

While it wasn’t particularly the artist’s fascination for the city, she says that she adores “the food and the vibe” of the place. However, “a bit more focus needs to be given to the cleanliness of its surroundings. It needs to be more organised. As far as its culture is concerned, it’s important to preserve it. It would be good for the future generations if they could also learn about the city’s spiritual beliefs and follow them as well. But to maintain that, they need to keep track of the cleanliness.” She adds, “People are always tempted to go to big cities to have a comfortable life. They do not want to go to small towns anymore. But such cities also need to be explored.”

Presented by Gallery Sree Arts and curated by Jitendra Padam Jain, the exhibition titled ‘Varanasi through my eyes,’ is artist Vibha’s depiction of the city. Whenever Vibha paints a scene in Banaras, she opts for a certain colour to dominate the pictorial format to let the mood of intensity be conveyed and established without any doubt. She explains that it wasn’t her fascination with the city which made her chose it to be her primary subject, but, “It was just accidental. My family’s roots lie in the city. I had also gone to Varanasi for a wedding of my relative. It was just then when it came to me that a portrayal of this city could also be done. I hadn’t specifically travelled to the place for my paintings. I just found it really beautiful. Following that, Padam sir told me to form a series on it as well. I never chose it per se.”

In the paintings, a viewer can witness the unending passion of the artist for Banaras which has attracted pilgrims, and seekers of salvation but has been captivating the imagination of creative people irrespective of their genre of discipline or creative pursuits. Vibha has looked at Banaras with  a kind of certainty and resolution. But she has not presented Banaras the way a shopper/consumer would. The dweller in the paintings in fact is an invisible pair of eyes that always stand outside the frame. She does not see the city from human eyes but lets them take the form of a godly eye, of Kashi Viswanatha, the manifestation of Lord Shiva in Banaras and becomes a detached witness and also rejoices in the sights and sounds created in order to worship the overlord of the city.

Call it Varanasi, Banaras or Kashi or by several other innumerous names, the city’s mystic charm and an enduring appeal would bring to you something what any other city in India wouldn’t.

(The show is on display till October 10 at Galerie Romain Rolland, Alliance Française.)

Writer: Chahak Mittal

Source: The Pioneer

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