Anuradha Saluja unmasks what lies behind the face

On a slosh-ridden rainy afternoon with Delhi roads traffic choked, viewing art ina quiet art gallery can be healing in its own way. Tucked away in a silent lane in the Siri Fort Institutional Area, the Arpana Caur Art Gallery was home to “Naqaab”, an exhibition of paintings and prints by Anuradha Saluja last week.

Each of the art works displayed on the walls seemed to explore what lies behind the ‘naqaab’ or the veil that each of us wear all the time, letting our guard down only before a select few to whom we permit a look behind and beyond it. Mostly portraits, the works used a range of media — pencil, charcoal, poster colours or dry pastel on white paper, white glass pencil on black paper and acrylic, pastel and oils on canvas.

“What attracted me to do portraits were eyes,” said Anuradha and one could see that having translated into the portraits exhibited, the eyes being the most striking element in almost all of them. “I feel that the eyes talk and are sometimes the only window into what lies behind the veil. In women who wear a burkha, their eyes are all you can see of their faces and their emotions lie within them. When the veil is removed, the lines on their faces tell you what they have experienced in life,” she added. In the backdrop, the white pencil portrait on black depicting a grinning, wrinkled and wisened old man reflected this idea in fascinating detail.

Her “showstopper” as she herself termed it, however, was a pencil sketch on paper — a portrait of a lady without a face. With an intricate pattern filling up the surface where one expects to see the eyes, nose and mouth, Anuradha felt that the air of mystery around this ‘naqaab’ and the curiosity it aroused to know what story lies behind it, is what inspired the title of the exhibition itself.