Artist-author-illustrator Ludmilla Chakrabarty finds a balance between classical Russian art and Indian influences

Ludmilla Chakrabarty laughs when she recalls how an Indian art critic, to whom she first showed her paintings, said, “Oh! Your paintings are so Russian!” and soon back in Russia someone remarked, “Your paintings are so much influenced by India.”

“Let people decide what my paintings look like. Everyone sees a painting according to his ability to see it,” she says.

Ludmilla, born Ludmilla Zaslazkaya, has been in Delhi for 12 years now. It was marriage to an Indian doctor that brought this teacher of English at the University of Yver in Russia here. Though Ludmilla had her first art exhibition before she came to India — in 1997 — it was after coming to India that she started taking art “much more seriously”. “I had a job in Russia. In India I had all the time, to the extent that now it has become a profession from a hobby,” says Ludmilla.

The painter-writer-illustrator recently had an exhibition of her art works at the India Habitat Centre. Besides, she has illustrated the book “On the Tip of a Pen”, apart from writing and illustrating “The Winged Tree and Other Fairy Tales”.

Coming to illustrating books, Ludmilla says, “I honestly don't remember how it happened.” It started with exhibitions, big and small. But then, “exhibitions don't happen every day”. Then, a friend suggested she do a book cover for a children's book.

India, she believes, has been a big influence. “I remember telling someone earlier, ‘My first love is classical Russian art.' But I also know that I wouldn't have become the artist that I am if it wasn't for India,” she acknowledges. “One might have heard of a lot of things before coming here, but only when you come here and see it, and not through the eyes of a tourist, do you feel the effect,” Ludmilla adds.

Influences, she says, can be found in things big (like architecture) and small (souvenirs and artefacts). “The amount of artefacts is endless!” she gushes. She is particularly taken in by tribal art, warli paintings, animal paintings of Rajasthan and Madhubani. “They are very different and yet very similar in the sense that they are all very primitive in their own, good way. This is something that grown-up artists need to study… It is very nourishing to an artist's mind.”

Despite the Indian influence, there is an aspect that she has retained from her days in Russia — the colour palette, which primarily comprises red, blue and yellow. “When I came here I continued in the same style. I realised that this colour combination is very appealing to the Indian eye,” she says. The habitual palette, in a way, gave her “confidence” in an unfamiliar artistic environment.

Otherwise, besides a missing Russian winter, life is, more or less, the same.

One can see an exhibition of Ludmilla Chakrabarty's works, titled ‘Days of Russia', currently on display at Great India Place in Noida.