An Easter lily transforms into the horn of a gramophone in the HMV logo. Bougainville petals are the ballerinas’ delicate pink tutus. Gulmohar petals become flaming orange trees. The Turk’s cap hibiscus decorates the headgear of a Native American. Leaves morph into dinosaurs. An upside down closed up hibiscus becomes a gorgeous yellow gown for a model with hands on her hips.
Welcome to the world of garden art that Subhashini Chandramani indulges in, thanks to the lovely garden she has around her home. She started creating “garden art” — where leaves and twigs, petals and entire flowers merged seamlessly with her hand drawings to form a whole, surprising picture — at the beginning of this year.
Subhashini’s life revolves around her home garden in Bengaluru’s lush Girinagar colony where there are over 100 varieties of plants, she says. Firangipani is her favourite flower and she also has over 12 varieties of hibiscus in her garden, where some of the plants are over 30 years old. She also has a vegetable patch where she grows greens as well. “A garden is the only thing which gives without seeking anything in return. It’s beautiful. You can talk to your garden, you’re not judged by it. Trees give bounteously; green keeps the mind calm,” is how she explains her love for gardens. She is surrounded, even outside her own garden, by Ashoka and Honge, the Gulmohar and other trees. She picks any interesting garden material that catches her eyes, wherever she goes.
“I love photography and macro photography in particular. Every time I looked at a flower I would think of the many ways I could portray it. I wanted to create something different. I wanted a butterfly to fly out from my photograph. And so I started putting my ideas together. Photography changed my visual perception of the external world. Sketching made things easier. With a few interesting additions such as seeds, feathers, twigs, and other things collected from the garden, I started creating images. I could bring two contrasting elements on the board — I call every art work created as a ‘board’ — such as fresh flowers and leaves juxtaposed with withering ones. To me, there is more beauty in a wilting flower,” she says.
The ‘board’ withers away within a few days. So framing the board itself is not an option, she concedes. But large framed photographs of her works have made for great gifts to friends. “Sometime in the future, I hope it get them published as a book.”
Subhashini believes that her love for all things green started at her grandparents’ house in Salem and Karaikudy, nestled among huge trees and vegetable patches. “I am sure that is the cherished memory for a generation of people whose grandparents lived in villages.”
Subhashini grew up in Chennai and shifted to Bengaluru when her father got transferred. She finished her BSc at Mount Carmel College. Her first book of micro poems “From the Anklets of a Homemaker” was published in 2013. NeelaVanam is her nom de plume — it translates to Blue Sky. The entire book of micro poetry is based on nature. “If anything can energise me, it’s rain,” she laughs, and you can tell from her poetry — “After a heavy downpour/resting on garden chairs/tired rain. I only would ask all Bengalureans to please grow a garden. Bengaluru has lost so many of them over the years…you need more oxygen.” Her second book, a poetry e-book “Maya’s Garden Song” is a richly illustrated picture book, set where else, but in a garden!
You can see more of her art at http://bluesky-gardenart.tumblr.com