Brooding in serene silence like a Yogi, unruffled by the elemental fury and onslaughts of time, the banyan tree has fascinated storytellers, philosophers and spiritualists over the ages. The knotted roots cascading down from its expansive girth to embrace earth while branches reaching out to the skies in a cosmic balance has always been looked with a lot of reverance.
The enduring mystique and majesty of the tree has now inspired an Indian artist to rustle up a range of evocative paintings that resonate with a meditative, even magical, quality, underpinned by a fine aesthetic sensibility and life philosophy.
Indore-based artist Aparna Bidsaria’s paintings, showing the tree in its splendorous spectacle over seasons in different reflections of light, will be displayed at an exhibition, titled Time and Being, at the Shridharani Art Gallery, Triveni Kala Sangam, Delhi.
Curated by noted scholar and critic Uma Nair, the ten-day exhibition, beginning April 17, features a total of 30 paintings done in monochromes, colours and impressionist hues.
“The banyan (Bargad) tree has fascinated me since my childhood; that enduring fascination is now embedded in my artistic sensibility and craft,” says Aparna, who uses clay, charcoal, pastel, ink and acrylic as medium to capture the cool and quiet of the tree’s shadows as well as the intensity of sunrays filtering through its dense leaves.
“For me, the banyan is a symbolism of the dance of life and time. The tree spreads across eons of time and acres of space — personifying the majesty and power of Nature. Yet, there is gentleness in it. Its graceful sprawl invites you to swing on its roots, to rest in its shade and enjoy the cool breeze of its leaves,” observes the artist, who works from a studio in Indore.
The uniqueness of the exhibition lies in the fact that all the paintings on display are based on a single object (banyan), which the curator describes as “meditations on the banyan tree.”
“The tree has many more tales to tell us and through my colours I try to catch the magic that it has,” says Aparna, whose works have been exhibited at AIFACS, Delhi; India Art Festival, Mumbai; Bharat Bhavan, Bhopal; and Pritam Lal Dua Gallery, Indore. Her works adorn private collections of art connoisseurs in India and abroad.
Curator Uma Nair says it is rather unusual to find an artist who spends days and months just painting the banyan tree in different reflections of light.
“Aparna imbues the painting with an essential stillness, harmony and balance. It also brings back her early fascination for the Indian thought in which the banyan is considered both sacred and profane. From autumnal gold to ochre and amber, her use of warm, bright colours of orange and yellow stand out as a product of her earlier experimentation, marked by abstract expressionism and minimalism,” she notes.
In particular, the ivory and amber series is the most outstanding of these paintings. So is the series in “Contemplative Quietude.”
“The splendoured banyan is an exceptionally refined example of Aparna’s career, and a culmination of her artistic journey across styles, techniques and subjects,” points out Uma Nair. “It is also a metaphor for her feelings about being an artist, her aspirations for spiritual odysseys as well as her sense of isolation and solitude.”
The exhibition, which was first held at Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal in February, concludes in Delhi on April 26. It is slated for a Mumbai replication, with more additions, at the Jehangir Art Gallery, from 14 August.