Exploring enamel

SINGED BY intense heat to generate luminous colour, `The Touch of the Flame' is an exhibition of paintings on enamel by Veenu Shah, a Delhi-based artist, who has been imaginatively working with enamel since the 1960s.

Having attended art school at Brussels, she wanted to explore beyond the traditionally academic oils and watercolours. What initially began as a new medium to be experimented with, took on her signature when she recognised the creativity it afforded and the versatility in its wide-ranging applications, from fashioning jewellery to producing vast climate-proof wall murals. Simply defined, enamel is glass, transparent ground glass mixed with oxides to provide the colouration, which is applied on to metal with a higher melting point and fired to fuse in a kiln.

Working on small copper or steel plates in a square format, her works possess religious and cultural associations with the inherent symbolism afforded by the shape of the bindu and the phallic form of the linga. Rooted in ritualistic language and providing associations with the sacred, the subdued earthy colours are highlighted by auspicious brilliant scarlet.

Indefinite forms and imprecise lines evoke a sense of spontaneity and innate growth with gently shifting planes suggesting profundity. Forms emerge from the background, achieving definition from the amorphous. The addition of bold calligraphic script applied by silk-screen printing on the enamelled surface serves as a motif exemplifying the "power of the letter a, the first syllable in any language, the beginning of sound which leads to resonance."

Speaking of thematic content, Veenu believes her paintings provide "what is a meditation point, the centre of your life, of your self. Time and again, no matter how much I deflect from that, I go back. In the end, my painting has just one focal point, a centring that pertains to my values and spiritualism. It must go with the times, combining the dichotomies of life and binding the contemporary with our heritage, mindful of convictions and principles."

She describes her work as a continual learning process and a humbling experience. "It is like life, you can control it up to a point but beyond that you can't; and the moment you let go, you really get what you want.

Hanging on to what you think you have, you don't know what you want. The reason why it gives me such a sense of fulfilment is that I have reached a point where no expectations, whatever I get I am very happy."

Veenu has also been instrumental in starting the Enamelist Society, an NGO that seeks to ensure that "the traditional art and craft of enamel in India does not die, but is channelised into fresh directions, which will attract the younger generation."

As a part of this effort, she is also conducting an enamelling workshop as an augment to the exhibition, which is on until December 18 at the Apparao Galleries, Wallace Gardens, Third Street, Nungambakkam. For details regarding the workshop, contact 28277695.


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