Creating a lyrical synergy between music and art, Delhi-based classical singer and visual artist Radhika Surana is presenting a solo show of charcoal drawings and pencil sketches, titled Search for Rhythm, at the Delhi’s Triveni Gallery. The innate simplicity and flowing singular lines embodied in these artworks, executed in delicate tones of black and white, depict far more purity and power than elaborate tonal colorations.
She says “As a practicing artist who is also a Hindustani classical vocalist, the idea of rhythm helps me draw parallels between these two forms of art. The flow of the line on a sheet of white paper resembles the flow of notes in music. The use of texture and tonality in drawing is similar to the modulation of the voice when singing notes in music.When a line escapes my fingers, I experience the highs and lows of notes through the modulation of the lines in my drawings. The blank paper stares at me and the lines move and dance in a rhythm of their own. Whenever I sit to draw, it is like I am drawing for the first time and I feel the excitement of discovering this rhythm all over again.”
Surana recalls being interested in art as a child which prompted her to take up fine arts in both school and college. “When I was just six, a pencil was kept on my table. I felt a deep desire to draw instead of completing my homework. Art classes were a big part of my childhood and I always looked forward them.”
She graduated with a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from Rajasthan University, when she also worked as an apprentice for Dwarka Prasad Sharma, a prominent artist of Jaipur. “Training under him in the guru shishya parampara was a very enriching experience. And I was able to strengthen by grasp on the use of color, form, and composition. I also attended summer courses on water colours and portraiture at Cannadore College Canada, also worked for a week with a Canadian artist Charlie Rapsky in Sudbury, Canada.”
Music, too, was inculcated in her right from childhood. Growing up in a “Mathur” household where the daughter of the house had to be trained in Hindustani classical music, Surana completed Bachelors (Vishaarad) in Hindustani classical vocal music from Bhaatkhande Sangeet Vidyalaya, Lucknow and a Masters degree (Alankar) in Hindustani classical music from Brihad Gujarat Sangeet Samiti, Ahmedabad.
“My journey in both the art forms has continued since. I have trained under several music gurus, have had a whole lot of performances at small gatherings and baithaks. Continuance exposure over a long span of time has meant that art has become a part of my everyday life. It is my way of making sense of the world. I would be lost without them.”
Her themes for paintings have mostly centred around nature (solo show in Jaipur, 1997), divine deities (solo show in Gurgaon on Lord Krishna) and music (Raagmaala series, Delhi, 2012) among others. “The deeper I am going into music and painting, the more I want to simplify my work. The rhythm that I feel in music, I am now attempting to translate it into my art through the use of line. Sketching is like riyaaz for me. It is challenging to display within one swift movement of the line the intensity and the feel of the subject. Many a times the drawing fails, it does not have the feel and the rhythm that I am seeking. So, it is a constant process of trying and failing and trying again.”
The show includes six imperial size charcoal drawings of lotuses and around ten clusters of three to four sketches each. Since the work is based on rhythm, the charcoal sketches have been titled on the basic concepts of rhythm in Hindustani classical music, for instance there is Sam – the beginning of the rhythmic cycle, Laya’—the rhythm, Avartan—the cycle of 16 beats, Matra— the beat; Khaali—muted beat; Bol—the words of the rhythm among others. The lotuses depicted in these works are inspired by Surana’s visit to Thailand. “I first saw them dancing in a swampy pond, in Krabi, Thailand. Just seeing them in gay abandon and the hidden rhythm in the leaves and the buds had me itching to sketch them. Later the thought of exaggerating their rhythm and lining them with my music made it more fun.”
The show is on view at Delhi’s Triveni Gallery till 14 May.