By calling her recent solo show at the Academy of Fine Arts SigNature, artist Rumki Mahapatra declared her creative quest quite clearly. No longer does she wish to explore, as she did in an earlier phase, the rather fraught agenda of depicting women characters from Tagore. In fact, this time round she dispensed with the human presence to celebrate Nature in its many, fluid, elusive moods.
In doing this, she subscribed to a hallowed tradition of romanticism in literature and art. If the transition to industrialization sharpened the romantic imagination and the conflict between man and Nature, the environmental degradation brought about by the reckless urbanization of the present times lends it a new urgency, an ethical dimension.
Mahapatra’s scenes were unpretentious paeans to Nature with which artists can hardly go wrong. Their pristine state seemed generally to preclude any kind of human intervention. In other words, it seemed that the artist did not paint en plein air depicting what the eye saw but probably wanted to create an ideal out of her reflections. An ideal that remains inviolably Edenic with rich, even improbable colours. A therapeutic antidote to those reluctant urban dwellers who feel that they’ve long been in city pent, especially in this most magical of seasons when autumn is in the air to promise that winter — the winter of the tropics — can’t be far behind.
The artist is quite adept with an impressionistic brush, varying the way the acrylic was applied. In one canvas, for example, the seasonal kash flowers were a fetching array of elongated white blobs of paint against a dense curtain of vertical strokes in different colours. Usually, however, the focus was on trees. Trees with slender, bent and gnarled trunks and tense branches that exploded into sprays, curlicues and smudges of paint; flaming trees lining a country path that curved away into the distance as in Lingering Hues; or blossoming ones standing in a sun-singed grass fringe as in Mid Day Warmth; or conferring in close, beckoning clusters as in Leafy Brown or Blazing Woods. However, her attempt at rather greetings-card flower studies lacked the fluent energy of, say, Paradise or the suggestive compression in Slumbery Trance.
But two canvases could well indicate a new direction for her: Reflection, for its misted, diaphanous blues and purples that seduced the viewer with the hint of furtive depths; and Boundless Blue, her most mature work. With ragged, agitated, horizontal strokes in blues and whites, this seascape tentatively explored the language of abstraction.
The exhibition was organized in aid of Touch World, which cares for the families of those in correctional homes in West Bengal.