The Alliance Francaise’s art gallery is splashed with sights, sounds and colours of Benares. Delhi-based artist Shikha Agnihotri pays tribute to the ‘soul city’ with 20 acrylic images in her debut exhibition ‘Shikha’s Art Strokess’ at the gallery. “I have been to Hyderabad before during my visit to Kuntala,” she recalls. One of her buyers invited her to see a renovated Radha Krishna temple which had her paintings.
The show has a balance of abstract and semi-abstract works and depicts the celebration, joy and faith that is Benares. It has been four years that she has been working and creating new artworks on Benares. It is a delight to watch layers of red yellow and orange transform into a vibrant imagery bringing in new dimensions. She has even blended Buddha and Krishna in the works. It is a busy canvas depicting the cityscape of Benares; Buddha with his eyes closed is surrounded by temples, houses, ganga ghat and a boat. For her, it is a royal Benares. “Buddha is a thought and even during chaos one can meditate. If it is a positive atmosphere, one can experience deep silence,” she says. The Joy of Benares captures the innate joy of people walking with a hopeful and positive feeling. Dream Home is a metaphor for happy feeling and joyful living and how nothing matters when you feel happy from within. In Happiness, we witness a burst of red hue against black canvas. One of the highlights of is the bright colour palette used by the artist. “I like to keep my canvas colourful; Paintings exude positive vibes and I don’t like dull and gloomy colours. Sometimes unintentionally also, I end up picking bright colours,” she smiles.
To her, the city’s people are its pillars carrying forward the legacy of faith. She is inspired by them and also the objects that she sees around her. Hailing from Kanpur, Shikha has a Ph.D in painting and drawing from the Kanpur University. It was her poet father, who supported her interest in arts. “At a time when parents wanted their children to study only medicine or engineering, my father encouraged me to pursue arts. My father was hopeful that I could do wonders in art. He believed even If I didn’t make a career as an artist I could become an art teacher.” A doctorate in arts is a boon and has nurtured her skill. “With education, there is advantage from the beginning. With teachers guiding you and a syllabus to follow, the art journey is balanced. While art is an inborn talent, one also becomes adept at using new techniques and mediums. Education helps a lot in making you perfect,” she says wondering of her struggles if she had studied MBA.
With Benares close to Kanpur, she has visited the city many times and finds new subjects to paint. “Benares is part of our conversations and discussions. My sister lives there and my family understands my desire to experience the city artistically so they give me space and time to satiate my soul. With family support, my energy multiplies,” she says adding her earlier works displayed at Benares evoked got good response.
( Shikha’s Art Strokesss is on Alliance Francaise till October 18)