What is the distance between fact and truth? After arriving at a fact, how does one reach the truth? And what exists between these two. Journalism introduced Kota Neelima to the supremacy of facts in a story but she wanted to go beyond in search of something more. She turned to writing novels and got closer to her search but it was still not all. So came up painting which took Neelima even closer to the answers, she was looking for. “We, as journalists, are taught to focus on facts but I realised over a period of time that fact is not truth. There is something beyond these facts. It got me into writing,” says the writer who started to research Vidarbha in 2005, the same year when she began to exhibit.
Rural India, farmers in distress and the women they left widowed became a subject of intense research, after she quit full time journalism in 2005. “Going to Vidarbha and immersing yourself completely in those surroundings was one of most poignant experiences I felt. I wrote books and then I realised that those experiences are not getting translated completely. Something is still left behind and I took to painting,” she says. With every body of work, she painted, Neelima tried to deal with this issue deep and deeper. “What the eyes can see” is her fifth exhibition that opens today at India Habitat Centre. Her impressionist-abstract oils on display in simple words is about the limitlessness of the universe that one can see only when one desires to see. There are so many ways to see a situation. “When I began researching Vidarbha, I realised I needed certain answers and got into ancient Indian texts like Upanishads. I found them to be full of questions which were timeless. And one can look at them from a contemporary point of view,” says the artist who learnt painting techniques at Arpana Caur’s Academy of Fine Arts and Literature. The works draw from the questions Nachiketa asks Yama in “Katha Upanishad”, about that which is beyond the right and wrong, the cause and effect, and the questions of “Kena Upanishad” on what drives the eye, the mind, the speech.
Easy accessible symbols like trees, moon, sky, birds mountains, rivers make her work decipherable to all but on that canvas, she incorporates as many indecipherable things to make the mind wander. “As a person who has dealt with facts all her life, it is important to include some point of reference.” Relatable visual occupies important space in her works because “it is the limited view that tells us that it’s limitless out there,” as the artist put it/
(The exhibition “What the Eyes Can See” begins today at Visual Arts Gallery and will be on till September 16)