Sunday, January 8, 2012

In quest of a colour

A painting by Paul Gauguin "When will you marry" from paintings done in Tahiti by the artist. I love the warmth of the orange and red.

Champaka flower (Michelia champaca).  Mixed media. Paper, wire and floral tape. Painted with acrylic colours. Namitha (January 2011)        

Champaka flower juxtaposed on a b/w family photo.

In my online group explorations on the Chakras, I try to relate what I learn to my life. Although it isn’t part of the assignment, I like to  do things with my hands and make something that signifies what I feel.  It’s both meditative and really enables me to feel much more deeply and focus on the learnings.

The second chakra’s colour strikes a chord with me above all else. I associate the colour orange-ochre  with spirituality above all else. It is the colour of idols of gods like Hanuman or Ganesha in temples especially in the north of India. Then I associate the colour with the earthy warmth felt in the Tahiti paintings of Gauguin, in particular the painting appearing first in this post. It's titled “When will you marry” and I have a tiny copy of this in my home - it appeared in a diary and I hoarded it for many years before decoupaging it onto a wooden chest in 2008.

For an image for this chakra, I tried to imagine what a Gauguin painting would signify to me as someone living here in India… and the hues translated in my mind into a flower. I thought of a flower which would signify tropical  earthiness,   and also reflect this colour palette, a distinct orange-ochre permeating the scene, and all the things that go with it in my mind. 

Only one flower emerged after some thought. It is so deeply connected with my home town Bangalore (there’s even a road named after this flower). This is the flower Champaka (Michelia champaca) – it is a offered as a flower in worship, worn in the hair by women sometimes either in S. India or Bengal. It is mentioned in ancient texts and also appears in sculptures adorning the hair of women. It has a perfume that grows on you – even one flower is enough to permeate the air with its scent. Interestingly, when I read up a little more about this flower, I learnt that it is used to create perfumes – it is one of the notes in the perfume “Sira des Indes” (Jean Patou) and Ormonde Jaynes “Champaca” which no doubt are sold by the milliliter for a lot of money. I found this absolutely riveting information – of the two sides of the coin or this colour  – spirituality and materialism – that is to me at least, the overpowering learning of this second chakra. 

I couldn’t readily obtain a flower here, so I made one out of paper.  

I studied pictures of the flower, and remembered having  held them, inhaled their fragrance. I know how the petals lay when you hold them so I worked towards that.  Based on this, I chose  drawing paper torn from my son’s old drawing book over anything more textured. I painted the exact shade I wanted of both ochre and green. Then cut out the shapes of the petals and a leaf.  It’s not exactly to scale, although I  am certain that full bloom could be as large as this (This paper flower is about 4-5 cm from base of flower to tip).

Champaka petals. An initial layer of burnt sienna painted over with yellow
I painted  over the petals and leaf again to cover any white. Then I  assembled the whole thing, using a bit of wire and floral tape.  Ages ago, I attended a small session held in a bookshop in Bangalore. A young girl taught us how to make flowers out of fabric. It was just something so random, and free for the visitors to the bookstore to top it all. In half an hour I learnt how to make flowers, and I can’t even recall the countless times I’ve used this technique for different kinds of flowers, and also taught it to others. It reminds me how important it is to teach something to someone without any monetary consideration, just for the sake of spreading some joy.

Anyway, I selected an old photograph of our family. It was the not the actual photograph I wanted, but since the other one was not available here in Delhi, I went with this one.

I juxtaposed the Champaka flower against the photograph. It's of the four of us taken ages ago of my parents and my younger sister and myself in front of my grandparents house in Bangalore. I like how beautiful and relaxed my parents look. My sister looks a lot like my son did at that age, and it's amazing how family resemblances carry on. As for me, there I am looking as serious and intense-eyed as ever. I like the effect it has of bright light permeating the picture from the right side.

It’s just very symbolic, as I believe the second chakra has influenced us as a family deeply – issues of kinship-friendships-judgement-trust-finance. Although hard lessons were learned through the vicissitudes of life, they are important lessons, and I move forward knowing this, and knowing too that there were some important beliefs and ethics we clung to, and if we had to do all over again, we’d probably not do much differently. It’s important to be clear about what you won’t do  …at times it’s much more important than knowing what you will do or can do.  

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