Fine Lines

British artist Nicola Durvasula’s long association with India reflects in the subjects and style of her art.

Written by Sankhayan Ghosh | Published: October 24, 2012 12:45:55 am

British artist Nicola Durvasula’s long association with India reflects in the subjects and style of her art.

The immediate impression that Nicola Durvasula’s art creates is that of a remarkably clutter free and minimal visual environment,where subjects are drawn with sharp precision. It’s almost reminiscent of line drawings in the back pages of school notebooks,only with artistic professionalism. Some of the pages are an old,worn-out yellow because these,as Durvasula says,were torn out of her mother’s book many years ago.

A British artist by origin,Durvasula has had a long association with India,ever since her marriage to her Hyderabad-based husband. A mini retrospective of her work,especially those that stem from her time in and around India,titled “I Am Here”,is currently on view at Galerie Mirchandani and Steinruecke,Colaba.

Among the works on display are drawings with incense sticks as subjects. In one work,titled Colliding Waves,an incense stick is fixed to the centre of a mosquito coil. The seemingly mundane subjects manage to hold the viewers’ attention through the deep,rich colours of the drawings and the artist’s deft use of lines. “The precision of the lines and the deep layers of colours produce a meditative effect,” says Durvasula.

Her artistic spirit,she says,reflects her “questioning of life”. It is difficult to spot this overarching theme in all her work,so the 52-year-old artist explains with the help of a stone-pebble installation. A constellation of pebbles of various shapes and sizes that she collected over a number of years — each one has been painted over to resemble a face,a ball and various other objects. “They are readymade sculptures to me. I have just juxtaposed them in the way I saw them and brought in slight distortion through mild paintbrush and chiseling,” she says.

Ubiquitous Indian objects such as the mosquito coil and the incense stick are abundant in her work and her human subjects also bear a typically Indian anatomy. “The Indian anatomy,especially that of the ancient sculptures,excites me much more than the Western style,” says Durvasula who,after her wedding,taught at the University of Art in Hyderabad the mid ’90s. Reflecting her time spent in the city,a small screen in the exhibition plays a six-second video on loop. A scene from a Telugu film of the early 2000s,it shows Durvasula in a scene with the Telugu superstar Nagarjuna,where the latter appears as himself.

Another striking feature of the exhibition is a large wall drawing on one of the walls of the gallery. In it is a group of faces from the Indian art circle,all of who Durvasula has been associated with over the years. From gallery director Mirchandani and painter Anju Dodiya to the gallery’s female helping hand,it shows side profiles,divided into two groups,looking at each other. “I was inspired by another drawing,where the side profiles of the characters look towards each other; what struck me is the way it breaks the hierarchy,” she explains.

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