An art affair with Hampi

Enchanting depictions of rocky terrains and monuments  

Home is where the art is: the Hampi Solitaires-a celebration with Robert Geesink, on display at Rangoli Metro Art Center, features stunning oil paintings of the enchanting ruins, monuments and people of Hampi.

Robert, a Dutch artist from Holland, made Hampi his home four decades ago. When he travelled to India in the ’70s, he was looking for a good place to paint. “I wanted to live amid nature, and Hampi was the perfect fit. I have lived the life I wanted. Now I wouldn’t know where to live in future,” says Robert, now in his seventies.

“The first 20 years, I was on an island in the river. It was living inside of my paintings. I became a part of Hampi. It was a love affair with the place and that is what I try to express in my paintings.”

The life-like paintings appear three dimensional, reflecting Robert’s mastery with oils.

There are incredibly realistic paintings of Lambani women, with every detail captured, their intricate jewellery, the facial expressions and their sharp features. “I painted the ladies for a French man, who is knowledgeable. He loves fine work. If you look closely, you will see their dresses are full of detailing. Every holi, it is a tradition for women to participate, but over the years, I see fewer of them. That is why I draw portraits, so that I document this tradition.”

There are even portraits of langurs. “People are often distracting,” he laughs, adding, “So I try to put in some animals.” The exhibition is primarily about the rocks of Hampi, though Robert says, due to heavy smoking, he has breathing problems, and so cannot climb the rocks anymore.

Robert married Seeta, a Lambani woman. After she passed away, he remarried and moved to a small village behind the main temple.

The exhibition also has self-portraits of Robert and of his family and children. “If you put people in the paintings, then it becomes another story. Some of the paintings are personal. I have tried to capture the characters of my kids.”

Robert’s father was a commercial artist.

“He used to sit in a cloud of smoke, drawing away. He inspired me.”

But it wasn’t until he was in mid-twenties that Robert decided to seriously take up painting.

“I only started to paint because I wanted to be independent. I started out as a graphic artist. I had a steady job in a magazine. The art director gave me total freedom. But then, he went on a trip around the world, and another art director came and said let’s do something in an American style. That’s when I left.”

The creative process for him starts when something catches his eye. “I look around and see something and think it will work on a canvas. The first few strokes are great. But then it’s a challenge. I start somewhere in the middle and work my way around it. There is always a part where you struggle to get everything together. So the painting takes its own shape and I follow up.”

Robert knows the Lambani language. “I also know Hindi, English, Spanish and French. But am totally lost with Kannada! It’s embarrassing, because I have been in Karnataka for 37 years,” he laughs.

The exhibition will be on at Vismaya Gallery till August 30, from 11 a.m. to 7.30 p.m.

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 12:39:48 AM |

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