Kavita Nayar creates a fine balance between contemplation and celebration in her upcoming exhibition of etchings that bear a painterly quality.

An exhibition of prints in the city feels like a whiff of fresh air for there aren’t too many taking place these days. A little resurgence has been noticed in the medium, but it is still quite far from becoming a regular occurrence. And that’s how exhibitions like Kavita Nayar’s “Seeds — Etchings and Zinc Plates” slated to begin at Art Heritage on March 18 — attracts attention. The fact that a senior artist like Kavita is having her show after a long gap of eight years would make it compelling for all those who follow the artist.

“From 2006 to 2008, I was just doing painting. I lost my daughter as a result of which I started doing her portraits for a long time. I always had a spiritual bent of mind. I was reading Osho at a very young age and from there I reached the work of Krishnamurti (J. Krishnamurti) and later it was Kafka and other writers writing about existential issues. In the last few years it has become all the more intense and now I am reading about Buddhism,” says Kavita, who had her last show in 2006, again of prints, at Shridharani Gallery.

Her influences and experiences come through in Kavita’s etchings in which she ruminates over life through the visual vocabulary of flowers and foetuses. It is interesting to note that flowers, which never figured on her works earlier, form an integral component of her expression in the years following her daughter’s demise. “I took solace in nature. I was drawn to it automatically. I saw my daughter everywhere, in flowers, leaves, petals and trees,” explains Kavita. But nowhere can the viewer find the artist mourning. In her etchings, to which the artist so skilfully renders a painterly feel, she evokes joy and celebration of finding her child. The colour palette of ochres, yellows and turquoise blues ably supports her expression — that of a fine balance between celebration and contemplation.

Armed with graduate and masters degrees in printmaking from Santiniketan and painting from College of Art, Delhi, Kavita prefers to be called an artist and not just a printmaker even though in the art world, she is viewed essentially as a printmaker. “I have always done printmaking along with painting and though I teach, conduct workshops in printmaking, I am an artist first and then come these distinctions of printmaker, sculptor, painter, etc.,” feels Kavita, who is a member of Multiple Encounters, a printmakers’ group formed to push the medium.

Kavita, who will be showcasing her zinc plates along with her 40 works, says that prints were always given step-sisterly treatment because they take the word ‘print’ all too literally. “They don’t realise that to prepare one print, one takes one-and-a-half month’s time. They don’t realise the difference between an original print and an offset print, the emergence of which caused maximum damage to the genre of prints. What artists like us create are original prints which are different from each other because as artists, even we don’t like to repeat our creations. The collectors don’t want to buy prints because prints don’t command a high price, but people like us still do it for the love of the medium,” says Kavita who sells a lot of her prints abroad. In fact, the show will travel to The Frank Museum at the Otterbein University in Ohio in the U.S., where guests like Salman Rushdie are expected.

Creating an etching

First a zinc plate, which is a metal plate, is covered in acid-resistant wax material.

The lines are scribbled with a needle resulting in the exposure of the metal plate. According to the artist, scribbling a line on a blank surface like this is the most challenging step.

The plate is dipped into acid after which the layer is removed.

The printing ink is then taken dabbed onto the surface. It allows the ink to reach the exposed areas.

The plate is put in the printing press with a damp sheet of paper on it.

The paper comes out of the rolling press bearing the impression.

(The exhibition “Seeds – Etchings and Zinc Plates” will be on at Art Heritage from March 18 to 21)