Mother-daughter duo Mini and Mandira Naidoo represent two very contrasting mediums.

It's a study of contrasts on the walls of the India International Centre Annexe gallery. One on side are charcoal portraits, mostly of children caught in different moods between laughter and thoughtfulness. On another is darker collage art, playing around calligraphy in some works, and exploring adult sensuality in the rest. Bangalore-based mother-daughter duo Mini and Mandira Naidoo are showcasing their works in an exhibition, ‘Adbhut', in Delhi for the first time.

Exploring innocence

Mini's collection ‘Masoom', as the nomenclature suggests, explores innocence in its purest form – children's faces. Little boys sharing laughter, siblings wrapped in one shawl (the elder one smiling confidently, the younger betraying a hint of nervousness over the invisible person standing in front), a child looking into the eyes of an aged grandparent, foreheads together, meeting the senior's smile with a shy stare… From the folds of the garments, to the glint of a nose ring, or the sparkle in the subject's eyes, it is the detailing that attracts.

Doesn't Mini feel a constriction due to the use of charcoal, specially when her area of interest happens to be portraiture? Charcoal art, generally, hovers between sketches and abstractness.

“I don't feel restricted by a medium. I like a painting to dictate to me. I don't want to say ‘I'll do only this subject' or ‘I'll use only this medium'. I want to keep experimenting and growing,” says the self-taught artist.

“While the trend is towards abstract now, I enjoy realism,” she says.

Mini's previous collections have explored themes from Indian classical performing arts (‘Tandava Tantra'), national personalities (‘Anmol Ratna'), meditation (‘Tapasya) and musicians (‘Swar Sadhna').

“I want to portray street vendors, wildlife… I'm keen to do something on the big cats. Then there are places I've lived in, like Assam, Kerala and the Nilgiris particularly,” she says on future subjects in art.

Mandira, meanwhile, is most well-known for using X-ray film in her collages, combining it with glossy magazine paper. “I was looking for a black background as I didn't have black chart paper. And I loved it – the way X-ray film comes with its own shading and the entire eeriness of it,” recalls Mandira.

Her collection ‘Kama Peacock', on display at the gallery, moves around the proud male and his acceptance of his sensuousness, and also around Hindi calligraphy, with the collages forming the words and sometimes even the illustrations to go with them, as in ‘Ek' and ‘Doodh'.

The use of the X-ray film itself is clever and fresh, sometimes as a passive or catalytic background, sometimes on the main subject – in the male anatomy in the work ‘Kama peacock', the Shiv ling in ‘Parvati', as the grey-black background in the miniatures.

“In the beginning I used the X-ray film mainly as a background. Over the years I've started using it as a foreground,” says Mandira.

“I'm glad to have a reach with a new generation. My works belong to modern homes. You can't have my works beside a Tanjore painting,” she smiles.

‘Adbhut' is on display at the IIC Annexe gallery till March 23.