19 Jan 2024

(Un)Contained a solo exhibition of paintings by Smita Verma

Curatorial Note

‘(Un)Contained’ is an extension of artist Smita Verma’s previous body of work, a nostalgic memoir of her childhood and home in Rajasthan, viewed through a lens of longing and wistfulness. The built environment and the sky, symbolic of hope and infinite possibilities amidst the urban landscape, continues to form the core of her visual schema. Smita navigates the numerous characteristics, complexities and dichotomies of a city as an organic, living entity that expands its physical boundaries over time, and is perceived as a land of dreams and opportunities. Despite being mired in conflicts and anxieties, the city appears as a mirage, a utopian dream, for many.

Painting by Smita Verma, Art Scene India
Long Haul by Smita Verma

Smita attempts to reconcile memories of her childhood with the currency of her life in Bangalore, situating it against a city, with a rapidly evolving landscape. She finds solace in watching the infinite stretch of the sky, an expanse of azure blue shared with loved ones back in Rajasthan, her childhood home - a connect that keeps her centred. Thus, the sky in its varying colours, from a pale cerulean on a clear summer day, a fiery crimson and a golden hue with the setting sun, to an inky black bathed in moonshine, forms the backdrop for each of her work.
The meticulously arranged buildings on her canvas belie the chaos that typifies urban planning and life. The comingling of varied styles of painting on a single surface creates a distinct visual vocabulary, a fusion of tradition with contemporaneity. Having learnt Kangra painting from a noted traditional artist, Smita incorporates elements from miniature style of painting in the detailing of the foliage, the clouds, the skyline, and in the blocks of buildings. She also opts for a two-dimensional perspective, at times, which references Indian miniature painting style. In most of the paintings, naturalistic rendering is interspersed with miniature elements and motifs to represent the inherent complexities and the dichotomy of a city’s charm and appeal.

Painting by Smita Verma, Art Scene India
Panorama by Smita Verma

The sharply delineated buildings, stylised at times, but disrupting the horizon in a marked manner, intensify the contrast between the blended hues of the sky and the foliage, acting as a metaphor for the conflicts, challenges and the joy and fulfilment contained within the confines of a city. Several such paradoxes are amplified in the juxtaposition of pictorial elements. Glittering windows in the tall skyscrapers, vestiges of floral blooms and trees around the concrete structures, and the sky in its glorious splendour, recreate an illusion of calm and bliss.

The absence of human figures alludes to the sense of isolation that pervades despite the bustling nature of the city. The silence and stillness is palpable, a moment in time as if suspended unnaturally between the past and future. Winding roads, flyovers, playgrounds and fields, and walkways are lined with foliage and an abundance of concrete structures. Relics of histories appear in the form of old buildings and monuments that are resplendent yet dilapidated; fallen flowers cover a derelict car as an ode to the numerous blossoms that once lined Bangalore roads, lush green foliage adorn the top of the buildings offers a satirical view of the concrete jungle that has now replaced the natural cover. Notions of conflict between man and nature, and the irony of progress amidst ecological deterioration through urban landscapes present the decay in its sartorial beauty.

Nalini S Malaviya

(Un)Contained is on view at Lalit Kala Akademi, gallery no. 3, New Delhi, till 23rd Jan, 2024

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful write up