Child Speak/Woman Song

Vasundhara Tewari Broota at Shridharani Gallery ♦

barootaMuch like her paintings, the title of Vasundhara Tewari Broota’s current show at Triveni suggests more than it says outright. However, as is evidenced from the catalogue essay by Gayatri Sinha, Broota has a lot to say – this time about childhood, and the woman as a mother and an artist. While her work still carries a lot of intellectual weight, these paintings are a little more relaxed than her previous work – allowing her painterly abilities to shine through with more spontaneity.

The oil and acrylic on canvas paintings in this show appear simpler, bolder and more organised than some of Broota’s earlier work; yet, under blocks of bright colour lurk multiple tones and hues. The surfaces of her paintings are reticulated to lend the paintings a plastic texture and a feeling of depth despite their smoothness; in Rope Song, the blue background surges with aquatic intensity.

Abstract backgrounds merge and overwhelm narrative figures. The paintings make use of symbols in an iconic fashion – almost like a child’s first alphabet book. Letters and numbers suggest the imposition of meanings upon the female figures. With numbers appearing in blocks over a dreamlike landscape, Structure and Play suggests the potential years of life proceeding from childhood. A progression of female nudes in A Journey in Time recalls the tension of the identities of mother and child, with the linking metaphor of crescent and full moons.

Broota’s paintings range from being carefully chaotic (Running) to having a vibrant equilibrium (Shining Through). Her paintings invite analysis while coquettishly escaping from it. Perhaps Broota’s relationship to her paintings is best seen in the self-reflexive diptych Flight in Turbulence. In the right-hand panel, the gun-sight mirrors the viewer’s eye, trained on the centre of the canvas. One bird from the abstracted flock is in high naturalistic detail – it just slips out of the central range. It’s a reminder that whatever you look at becomes frozen with meaning, while what you ignores flies off into the background. Broota lets her subjects flirt with such tension in “Child Speak/Woman Song”, creating works with a complex life of their own.

Originally published in Time Out Delhi, 2008.