What's special about artist V. Solanki's works this time? They capture the rustic flavour of Gujarat in vivid colours

When veteran artist Vrindavan Solanki experiments with colour for the first time in his characteristically rustic works, you know it's going to be something special. In town for the inauguration of his solo exhibition ‘My People' at Prakrit Arts, the artist described these new works as part of his ongoing quest to capture the essence of ‘Indian-ness' on his canvas — through form, light and now colour.

“My heart said, why not experiment with colour?” says the Ahmedabad-based artist. “But I haven't moved away from the earth tones — yellow, orange, red, — because that's the flavour of my land and my people.”

Fine lines

As with his earlier works (whether ink on paper, black acrylic on canvas or sepia oils), Solanki invokes the place of his childhood, Girnar, Gujarat in these paintings through graceful depictions of its men and women, the flowing lines of their dupattas, ghagras and turbans. Incredibly fine lines and intricate texturing capture the beauty of the textiles and the fine embroidery. And every frame glows from within as he plays with light and shade, creating an effect that is as vibrant as it is peaceful.

“The light you see in my works speaks of different meanings — not just physical light, the sunlight in the forests of Girnar, but also of the inner light, of spiritual light,” says Solanki. “This, I believe, is also a part of ‘Indian-ness', as spoken of by the long tradition of sadhu-sants from my land.”

In the newer paintings, the glow of the warm reds and oranges and the rich greens complement this play with light to perfection, creating perhaps some of his most appealing works to date. Fittingly, all of these works depict moments of gentle intimacy between a man and a woman, so that the colours seem to represent the bloom of romance. All this emotion is conveyed, as always with this artist's work, not through the face (which is left blank) but through the subtle lines of the body.

“Human beings often don't show what they feel on their faces; my work doesn't need face detail because everything I wish to convey — surprise, love — comes through actions, body language,” he explains.

As an Indian artist who has exhibited internationally, Solanki says he's proud his work is today associated with a certain Indian aesthetic. But, he says, that isn't what drives him. “I paint because I love the subject, because I'm touched by what I see around me, whether it's Nature or people,” he says simply. “And a painter is all I've ever wanted to be, since the first day at school, when the teacher showed us a pot and asked us to write its first alphabet and I painted it instead!”

In fact, he adds, there's a whole series of works that has never been exhibited — street scenes of Ahmedabad, images of New York and Paris, where he lived. “The time has not yet come,” he says with a smile, “and not everything painted needs to be shared.”

The exhibition is on till January 12.