India's art scene is vibrant, experimental. Nepal's can be most kindly described as nascent. Is it possible that someone from the Indian milieu can find enough inspiration and artistic impetus to live and work here. Well, Prakaash Chandwadkar can. He has been living here for the last three years, creating and exhibiting his constantly-evolving art. His latest exhibition titled "From the Bodhi Tree" is on until 10 September at the Siddhartha Art Gallery, Baber Mahal.
"I don't like to stick with one thing, one idea," says Chandwadkar. And sure enough, the work on display here is markedly different from his abstract paintings that were part of the show at the Nepal Art Council earlier this year. This time, Chandwadkar's mixed-media paintings have a lot more identifiable images, the most prominent of which are pipal leaves, lokta pasted on canvas. But Chandwadkar has not really made a transition from formlessness to form-even the images he creates here are part of a larger design, a pattern that is essentially abstract.
If ubiquitous pipal leaf doesn't instantly put you in mind of the Buddha attaining enlightenment, the title, "From the Bodhi Tree," will do it. When asked about this Buddhist leitmotif, Chandwadkar says unpretentiously that he hasn't really gone deep into Buddhism, or the symbol. Which is fair enough, as here the representations are effective enough to stand on their own. The cool greens and blues delineate multiple planes on the canvas, drawing you in as if into a serene, expansive house with many rooms. Or the space of an imagined bodhi tree.
In this show, as in his others, Chandwadkar is not over-concerned with leitmotifs, but with painting at its purest-how colour is mixed and spread across a surface. And as it turns out, the gentles yet assertive sensuousness of his colours, the firmness with which they stand their ground, achieve an effect not too different from the serenity and clarity of meditation, the quest for nirvana under a bodhi tree. And that suffices.
In some of the paintings on show, alongside energetic brush strokes of vibrant red, yellow and orange, there is something like a window, through which there is a gentle reminder of mindfulness-a pipal leaf coolly reposing in space that seems unbounded. But Chandwadkar is not really too worried about whether viewers see it this way or not. Like Valery says of his poetry, Chandwadkar deliberately only creates half his paintings. Feel free to interpret the other half and draw it in your mind. Any way you like.