Mumbai’s Jehangir Art Gallery hosts a new show ‘Bit by Bit’ featuring Hyderabad-based Avani Rao Gandra’s 29 abstract paintings, from April 25 to May 1.
The works offer a dimension of the natural world representing emotional resilience and the will to pick up threads amid the sadness of the pandemic years. Her expressions ponder on the little things we lost and gained in the unprecedented years. A mighty elephant swimming in water in the work ‘The Mighty Disperse’ or a tiger learning to protect and survive when caught in a fire in ‘Fire in The Forest’ metaphorically deal with our lives when COVID-19 threw us out of gear. “All of us were thrown into the water, we dispersed but learned to swim,” explains Avani. The tiger in this forest fire is a reminder of the hard times when people, especially ‘women, had to push themselves and show a lot of grit and courage like a fire ablaze’
During two years of the pandemic, Avani went through a whirlwind of emotions - from being confined to her home and studio and watching the physical and emotional toll on families to the impact of COVID-19 on biodiversity and Nature. The 52-year-old artist was also looking at life from a different perspective and initially created digital paintings in 2020 on different facets of COVID-19. “There was so much turmoil and a complete shift from regular life,” she recalls. The isolation and freedom over the next few months helped her respond to the situation.
how it started
The series began three years ago as a campaign on environmental consciousness. The focus on safeguarding the environment, especially among youngsters, inspired her to paint landscapes. The paintings already began got a new lease of life when animals, birds and plants got added to the landscape. The title ‘Bit by Bit’ was an organic and symbolic one that also depicted the side of the pandemic when landscapes opened up and people slowed down, began to appreciate Nature and sunsets and were spending more time with family. “Many people said COVID-19 has taught them many lessons. The slowdown helped us to become conscious of every bit and learned to value small things; We lost something bit by bit but we gained many things.”
Comprising 15 medium (3 x 4 feet) paintings, 10 small works ( 2 x 2 and 2 x21/2 feet) and four large (7.5 X 6 feet) formats with poetry, the 29 exhibits have been done over two years.
Avani‘s working style is unique in that she leaves her works open-ended; sometimes a canvas remains on her wall for three years and gets completed in two days. Currently, she has 15 big works in different stages at her studio in the back part of her house. “Unlike a figurative, I enjoy the freedom in abstract art; that allows me to apply my current state on even a half-done painting,” she points out.
Having exhibited her photographs earlier at Jehangir, Avani looks forward to interpretations of her works at the gallery. “The most beautiful part of exhibiting at Jehangir is the different perspectives. One gets to listen to the conversations of not just serious art lovers but even tourists, students, office goers and homemakers who give their own interpretations of the works.”
Avani also brings this show to the Iconart gallery in Hyderabad from May 15 to June 5., to mark its reopening since it closed during COVID-19 lockdowns.