July 8, 2012 presented me with a stimulating morning; an opportunity to ponder on the feminine in art at the solo exhibition ” Rendezvous with the Feminine” at Orchid Art Gallery. It was a heady moment to share the dignitaries’ space with iconic litterateur and filmmaker- Gulzar.
To share my perceptions of the artist Wilson JP’s work gladdened me, because I could discharge a debt of gratitude of my own. I recall that having completed writing my novel “ Blossom Showers” my next concern was a book jacket that would complement my writing. Sometimes the best things happen unexpectedly. Strolling through Orchid Gallery one day, my gaze locked on to a canvas whose image illustrated what I had conveyed in the crucial words of the novel’s last few pages. I had never before met Wilson the painter, but in an inexplicable creative space, my thoughts and his images converged in unconscious synergy. .Wilson’s painting which I bought suited my vision for the cover when the book was in the publication process, fusing with my thought that an original art work would be unique. A book is a complete package- an author knows that even as the inner content must engage the eyeballs for a long time, the jacket has to grab a potential reader’s eyeballs in the first place. I’m glad to report a successful combination, because of the accompanying appreciation for the arresting cover. It was also an unexpected pleasure to gift a copy of my novel to Gulzar.
“ Rendezvous with the Feminine” is a great theme for an exhibition, because a woman has always been an inspiration in art. Though not a definitive list, I’m directed to which depictions of woman stand out for me. I think the Renaissance painters- Raphael, Titian, Botticelli gave us some exquisite madonnas and mythological figures, my own favourite being Sandro Botticelli’s “ The Birth of Venus”. The Spanish painter Goya left us with riveting images of the luscious Duchess of Alba. From the Impressionists, Degas’ paintings of ballet dancers enchant, Toulouse Lautrec brings alive the women of Moulin Rouge, Paris’ red light district; innocently voluptuous Tahitian females define the exotic canvases of Paul Gauguin. Beautiful women figure very prominently in the works of Raja Ravi Verma as the apsaras and devis of Indian mythology.
Wilson’s work is not on or about a particular woman- rather it is about the very concept of womanhood, the universal idea of the feminine. In doing so, his approach is undoubtedly bold given the usual constraints of a social milieu. He has often painted women in their suggested or bare essence, not with a view to titillate, but with a stated aim to uncover and access truths of a woman’s deepest inner self. His forms are very fluid and often gracefully blend into each other or their surroundings. His palette of colours includes both the vibrant and soothing for some notable effects. If something is too abstract it defies general understanding; if it is too realistic, it fails to stir the viewer’s imagination.Wilson’s paintings have achieved the balance where symbolism and reality can fruitfully meet.
To an extent, all of us possess a third eye- the capacity to see beyond the surface of things for deeper insights, but this is probably more active in creative people.Wilson’s third eye has undoubtedly been active to capture the many moods and circumstances of his subjects. He displays empathy in portraying the sufferings and sacrifices of marginalized women. He shows that for an economically deprived woman, a purchase from a roadside bangle seller is a moment of rare indulgence. “ Migration” poignantly depicts disrupted lives, with an underlying story perhaps of developmental projects or natural disasters, implying a woman’s burdens in such dislocations of keeping the fragile family together.
A painting that stood out for me was of women bathing in the river in the afternoon, which must illustrate a multiplicity of the painter’s ideas. We glimpse a lesser known but relevant feminine problem- of finding privacy for personal hygiene that one takes much for granted but is elusive to a great many. The depicted figures display unself-conscious feminine bonding. It ties in with an ecstatic interface with nature foregone and forgotten in urban living. The ripe portrayal of the feminine form highlights a nurturing essence- of the body being nature in miniature. The river is a sacred concept often visualized as a goddess in the Indian tradition, for sustaining agriculture and thereby human life. A woman and the river are mirrors for each other, because both embody the life giving spirit.
A woman’s biological role is a noble and unique thing; her body has been perfected by many million years in evolution to perpetuate the species. But in the last few years, women have expanded in persona beyond the biological for some meaningful explorations and discoveries. One would agree that women are strong, fascinating, versatile and powerful in their various ways. ( India’s various women leaders would be a prominent case in point). Alongside trials and sufferings are their general triumphs and successes. I would like creative works of various kinds, including my own to give due credit to the complexity of a woman and consider her multiple dimensions. Wilson’s brush has given expression to many of these aspects in the sizable collection he has put on display. I see him venturing even further on this vast theme for a truly varied composite.
A painting is an exclusive and often expensive object, because a buyer appropriates the artist’s vision for himself and his circle. When I put Wilson’s painting on my book jacket, I moved beyond such an exclusion zone to share that vision more generally, as synonymous with access to my book. There ought to be many who opt for an intimate relationship with Wilson’s vision by picking up and possessing his compelling paintings. William Pais, writer and dynamic art entrepreneur needs to be lauded for bridging the gap between gifted artists and art connoisseurs in Orchid Art Gallery’s initiatives. This impressive solo exhibition fuses a tantalizing theme with admirable aesthetics.