A walk through the galleries of the National Gallery of Modern Art was an enriching experience

Have you ever stood transfixed in front of a painting, feeling as if it's speaking to you? A painting is not only a combination of colours but also a language that requires understanding. Last week, Assistant curator of National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) Tejasvi walked a group of art lovers and enthusiasts through NGMA's galleries, explaining in detail and clarity the language of visual art.

“The language of art can be divided into two broad categories: elements and principles. Line, colour, form\shape, texture and space falls under the category of elements. While balance, harmony, movement\rhythm, proportion, emphasis, gradiation and variety are the principles of art,” explained Tejasvi.

“Lines play an important role in paintings. Use of a lot of diagonal lines suggest tension, verticals show harmony and horizontals calm and serenity. Colours can be divided into categories too such as warm, cool, primary and secondary. Form or shape can either be two or three-dimensional. There are different kinds of textures and each of them give different illusions. Space refers to the size of the canvas. Some artists use big canvases but have a narrowed framework, whereas small canvases have larger perspectives. These elements unite to form an expression,” says Tejasvi.

About principles, Tejasvi says, “Symmetrical balance is achieved by dividing the work into two, while asymmetrical balance is done with the help of elements. Proportion and gradiation go hand in hand. Movement or rhythm is created in two ways, one is where movement is shown e.g., a horse galloping and the other is when the eye moves around the work of art. Variety is shown through colour and texture.”

After this brief introduction, each member of the group were handed chits in which were listed the elements and principles of art. The group was asked to individually choose paintings that caught their eye and talk about the elements and principles used by the artist for expression.

A painting of the Taj Mahal, drawn from a restricted area, by William Hodges (the first landscape artist of the East India Company) was impossible to miss for its magnificence. On a closer look, the Taj Mahal appears tilted.

This unique feature highlights the flow of the river Yamuna. Hodges also created gradiation through colour and space.

We were drawn to a display of a gramophone with a wooden tongue placed in the hollow of the horn. “This was created by Sudarshan Shetty to humanise the gramophone,” says Tejasvi. The creativity of the group members were revealed when Tejasvi asked them to weave a story around this image.

Arresting abstract paintings of a riot of colours and forms intrigued the group. Tejasvi explained that the abstract paintings can be interpreted in different ways.

Tejasvi offered some important tips to help a viewer engage with a work of art. “To appreciate and understand a painting, it's important that you do some background research on the artist.”

The art walk was both enjoyable and educative.

On August 21, from 10.30 a.m. to 11.15 a.m. NGMA will organise another art walk which will trace the Indian modern art form from the 1850s. Art walks like these will be held every Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 3.45 p.m. and Saturday from 10.30 a.m. to 11.15 a.m. From September onwards, NGMA will organise special gallery tours. Call: 080-22201027

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