Flowers Bloom, Flowers Wither Away, Flowers Bloom Again | Chameli Ramchandran

Flowers Bloom, Flowers Wither Away, Flowers Bloom Again | Chameli Ramchandran

Chameli Ramachandran’s immersive bond with nature urges her to paint flowers over and over again. Born in Santiniketan, West Bengal, Rabindranath Tagore’s university town, and spending her growing up years there, it is quite understandable how nature has been a source of inspiration as well as solace for her. In this latest series of flower studies, the blossoms are viewed as a metaphor for life and death. They arrive in a burst of beauty and fragrance and then wilt away within a short span. She dwells on this image while remembering a song by Rabindranath Tagore which says that in spite of sorrow, death, pangs of parting, there is also peace, joy and even eternity. For Chameli, the illness and untimely death of Anjum Singh was the cause of a deep sadness. And so, the fleeting life of a blossom surfaces in a number of her paintings.

For the first time perhaps, Chameli has painted orchids. When she painted these flowers, they had withered away and were falling off the spray. Chameli has captured the crepe paper-like translucence of the dried petals and the subtle mingling of their purple and brown hues. There is an exquisiteness about the fallen flowers and the way she has composed them on paper.
Chameli, usually, paints from life. But in the studies shown here, the memory of a sthalapadma (Hibiscus mutabilis) flower led her to experiment with form. The sthalapadmas on her terrace in Delhi were just about to bloom when the Ramachandrans left the city for a long sojourn to Mumbai towards the end of last year. There, the fullness of the heavy, multi-petalled flowers kept haunting her. There, she painted the curious flowers which change their colours from white to a deep rose-red in the course of a day. Chameli renders the complex form of the flower to a perfect, round mandala. She creates the luxuriant texture of the blossom with regular lines marked like a fine lapidarist’s work.

Chameli has painted several varieties of flowers shown here with her usual sensitivity and elegance. Besides the sthalapadmas and orchids, she has painted simul (silk cotton), various kinds of lilies, chrysanthemums, carnations and crotons. She has captured the intricate character of the blossoms with the lyrical movement of her brush, her luminous colours and her rhythmic compositions. Usually, Chameli builds up her glowing colours with layers of watercolour washesapplied with a loaded brush. But painting the calla lilies for this show she has used watercolour pencils, thus achieving a subtle difference in texture and chromatic quality.

In contrast to the delicate loveliness of the other flower studies, not to speak of the monochromatic crotons, there is a great deal of drama in her paintings of the flaming orange simul flowers. When Chameli returned from Mumbai, the park next door to her home was blazing with the silk cotton flowers. Chameli painted
them joyously, composing the stalks and blossoms with angles, curves and arcs, imbuing them with great elan.
Each of Chameli’s flower studies expresses an intimate language of emotion – meditative, ecstatic, melancholy. The life of a flower may be short but not its image painted by Chameli. It continues to resonate in one’s memory.

Text and photo: Vadehra Art Gallery. The exhibition is on view from January 8- Febuary 18, 2021

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