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Subtle images

Mumbai-based artist Papri Bose Mehta's works are on display at Apparao Galleries till April 15. A review.

``I have been painting since I was two''

``How much can you paint what you see''

``I have felt it important to dig''

``Dig a hole, sink deeper pushing the boundaries of the unconscious.''

— Papri Bose

THE EXHIBITION of Papri Bose Mehta, a Mumbai-based artist is on show at Apparao Galleries till April 15. Papri's works are meditative, serene and tranquil, inflecting her lived experiences to arrive at this stage in her artistic journey. The iconography of her art is replete with mystical symbols and metaphors, scripting it fundamentally as her language.

Papri has been painting from an impressionable age of two and held her first solo exhibition at the age of 18. She began her artistic forays as a perceptual painter indulging in the sensuousness of the world around her, transcribing in paint the everyday objects and life. Lacking a professional degree in painting but equipped with a commercial art degree from a prestigious institution in Bombay, she went to Vienna to unlearn the pedantry imparted to her. This, Papri explains, was "to get out of the strait-jacket and to feel absolutely free". It was her experiences as a student of painting in Vienna that she nurtured the freedom of her creative instincts aided in the process by her professor whose pedagogy she felt was different and levitating. This set her on the path to artistic and inventive formulations where her approach to painting metamorphosed enabling a direct engagement with the canvas that was extempore so to speak.

Papri's modus operandi in the series of works exhibited is minimal. She has no premeditated concepts and she confronts the canvas directly to articulate her ideas without preliminary studies of sketches or drawings. This method and approach requires absolute confidence on the part of the artist and as she explains "in the beginning as I confront the canvas, it is chaotic", but slowly the forms emerge gaining in consistency and she reaches a silent zone after which it is a dialogue between her and the canvas till the whole composition is finished.

She is aided further in this process by the use of acrylic paints that facilitate easy manipulation and precipitation of ideas, though her canvases are not unwieldy and of moderate size. Adding another dimension to her works is a subtle play of textures that she creates with palette knife to enhance the delicate tension between the decorative and the representational.

Papri's philosophy effectively carries forth her imagery with resonant power and eloquence. The aesthetics of her creations subsume the process/growth/evolution of an individual's journey that she projects as transparent figures collapsed in the icon of the Buddha. The artist herself is baffled at the imagery and variety of forms that take shape on the canvas for consciously she neither meditates upon them nor intellectually rationalises to bring them forth.

Comments Papri, "I am taken by surprise by the contents, colours and forms. The symbols emerge to inform and transform one in the process.'' In other words, her subconscious is the dominant marker that spews forth primordial imagery in forms like snake, sperms, trident, flowers, etc. that Jung, the 20th Century psychologist, categorised as collective unconscious. Says Papri, "The imagery does not stem from outward stimulus; neither does it make social comments. They are necessity driven and never engineered.''

In addition to this she plays wittily with pictograms and numbers that she has personally evolved to be almost her signature buttressing the illusive and intriguing aspects of her works. To portray an inward journey of an individual, which in this instance becomes her own iconography, Papri has successfully mediated with the technique to essentially realise this. The colours are spiritual and soothing; solemn and sombre with an ascetic affinity in the successful deployment of oranges and its related tones. She juxtaposes these with either a sunflower yellow or deploys a sea blue as a dominant tone evident in "Space/Bowl". This particular work is intriguing when one questions how does one define the bowl in the painting, "is it bowl in space or space in bowl"? And craftily deploying three golden oranges at the corner of the painting, Papri takes the weight of the green bowl to fix it within the contemplative space. This perceptual management is the salient feature of her oeuvre. Her imagery has a surrealistic feel and understandably so because it is an inner lived reality.

Papri clarifies the concepts and expressions of her creations when she states, "The main concerns of my works are to understand oneself and the world, to uncover hidden agendas, to discover the blueprint that lies within, waiting to manifest, unravel, reveal."

ASHRAFI S. BHAGAT

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