Nalini Misra Tyabji: Balancing act

Artist Nalini Misra Tyabji draws from mythology and folklore

Published - November 28, 2019 04:59 pm IST

Labour of love: The artist with her paintings

Labour of love: The artist with her paintings

Illness of a family member can be a curse for many. But her father’s illness turned Nalini Misra Tyabji into an artist.

Recalling the trigger that gave her a new career when she was 63, she says, “In 2013, I started drawing as I would show it every day to my father Mahesh Chand Sharma, a retired IAS, who was then battling cancer. Slowly, the works increased and I could show them in exhibitions.”

Now, Nalini has blossomed into a figurative artist, who also has a fascination for abstract art. She recently exhibited her works at the India Habitat Centre.

Fortunately, she has a sense of design which she has been blessed with genetically. “My mother Biya was a great knitter and I turned out to be better at embroidery so I have taken the running stitch as a decorative element in my work. Just as a stitch joins pieces together my drawn stitches brings the whole design together.”

With 208 abstract and figurative work, she has demonstrated that the finesse of art and aesthetics lies in the fusion of forms, textures, practices and processes.

Basically, she wants to show how life, as depicted by the sky, animals, human beings, is inter-connected. The trees in black and white are inahibted with birds. “In ‘Kalpvriksha’, I have shown that trees play an important role in our lives. I am very close to nature,” says Mishra. In all this, the anchor is Krishna, who as the creator of the universe, strikes a balance between humans and non humans.

The seamless amalgamation of the sun, personified as an entity with eyes and nose and the moon can be seen in the work titled “Donyi Polo”, acrylic on canvas. “In Arunachal Pradesh, people celebrate Donyi Polo, an indigenous religion. It is a celebration of the sun and the moon,” explains Mishra

On the influences in her work, she says, it has an influence of the North East, even Tibet to a certain extent. She has made good use of her imagination and her study of various literatures. “There are a lot of regional influences in this painting. But I have tried to contemporarise it,” says the artist.

Nalini’s iconography is drawn from the world of mythology and folklore. There is fish symbolising Vishnu. She grew up reading Amar Chitra Katha. “My grandmother used to narrate mythical tales. Those stories are still embedded at the back of my mind and I have translated them in these works.”

While the Bhakti tradition is palpable in some of her work, the paintings also exude a modern take as she has experimented with features of humans. Like the slanting eyes and vibrant colours look straight out of a comic book with artistry, deft strokes and vivid colours dominating her work. “My art is whimsical. It veers towards the illustrative as opposed to the more painterly. It tells stories in a childlike, colourful way.” People say that it makes them happy & it makes them smile.

In “Krishna”, Shrinathji is shown garlanded, adorned with heavy jewellery and the blue colour of skin is striking It looks similar to Pichhwai art. “Yes, it is inspired from Rajasthani art as my paternal grandfather came from the Bharatpur-Alwar region,” admits Mishra. “Krishna, for me, is an idea of a composite whole from which everything emanates and into which everything dissolves. Krishna is blue as infinity and eternity. He is as dark as a black hole and is genderless. I am neither a rasika nor a political commentator,” she clarifies.

She makes it clear that no religious spin should he given to her work. “I am spiritual but am not religious. Krishna is dark, eternal, space. He is managing the entire brahmas (universe). We can give him any name.”

This was Nalini’s tenth show and eighth solo in mixed media, produced in twelve actual working months. .

So what next?

“I will soon start a colouring book for adults. Worldwide, it has been found that colouring is a therapy that calms down the mind,” says she.

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