Published in Roopa Lekha, VoL 55, 1984, pp. 65-68

Arpana Caur, today, is at a fascinating stage in her life as well as art. In her late twenties, as a person, she has had time to come to terms with herself - her great enthusiasms and antipathies for ideologies, art theories, persons, places and things. These intellectual and emotional parameters determine the broad choice of themes of her paintings.

“I cannot think”, she says, “of any art that is not born out of the artist’s personal involvement with life and Society.” Her themes: ‘Missing audience’, ‘Veiled women’, ‘Women and interiors’, ‘Burden’ - they all come from intense involvement. They are felt experiences.

As a painter her drawing is much surer and firmer today. Colours are a good deal simpler with more effective rhythm control and with a subtler handling of volume.

Are they fully conceived before they are rendered on canvas?

“No, not fully, the drawings”, she says, “are visualised more or less fully before they are done on canvas though it may take me anything up to eight to ten efforts and alterations to get them just right.” In applying colours, however, she is wholly guided by her sense of rhythm - as work proceeds, bit by bit, day by day. The problem of drying oil paint on canvas does not allow forcing the pace. In a way it helps. She says: “I have always painted the human form and am amazed at its inexhaustible potentialities: the way it relates and reacts to other forms. How a mother is related to her off-spring narcissistic extensions of herself, her mirrors, whom she loves or rejects with equal passion……A series of images obsess me, drive me to flesh them out on the canvas…..My paintings are not the product of any academic discipline…The burnt browns and chocolates and tobacco browns breath and expand. They spill over the edges beyond the limiting boundaries. The compositional counterpoints and design evolve in the process. The massive colours become flesh-lines.”

The process involved seems rather parallel to what T. S. Eliot described as the process for giving form to a poem: “A poem may tend to realise itself first as a particular rhythm before it reaches expression in words - and that the rhythm may bring to birth the idea and the image.”

Arpana’s sense of colour and her distribution of areas of colours, is enriched by her study and enthusiasm for Rajput and Pahari paintings - particularly, Basohli School. She has imbibed and used some of the ideas of repetitive rhythms of architectural details in ‘Women and interiors’ and elsewhere. In her figure drawing she, it looks, is indebted a good deal to Kalighat popular paintings from Bengal. Also Douanier Rousseau and Chagall from among the European stalwarts have impressed her. Happily, these influences, injested so to say, have become part of her own psyche and enriched her. All true art has to have ancestry: to which you bring your own imagination, your new perceptions and the real test is - does it become a new and genuine entity integrated and all of one piece. All that one can demand of it is that it should be totally sincere.

Is it just right in its formal expression? How simple or How rich and complex? These are matters in which the strange alchemy of the artist’s individuality has its play. Its impact ought to come through to a sensitive viewer.

In Arpana’s paintings this feeling of total sincerity does come through. She is not a so-called self-taught enthusiast. She is a serious dedicated painter. She had her training in India and in London, to the extent that she felt she needed that training to learn the requisite skills of a painter. Even if the traditions of the craft of painting are no longer in vogue. Currently she is learning etching at the Garhi studios of the Lalit Kala Academy. This she finds enriching. Some of the effects she now incorporates in her paintings are also due to this new element.

What about public recognition and Rewards? Arpana counts herself lucky in that regard. Some early recognition has come her way but financially it is still hard going - just enough to be able to carry on.

Considering the prevailing ethical and artistic climate in Delhi and other art centres in India for a gifted artist it is not bad at all to be able to carry on.

If enthusiasm and dedication hold we could look forward to many more paintings from her at the steady rate of one major canvas every month.

Published in Roopa Lekha, VoL 55, 1984, pp. 65-68
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