In the Media

Curves and curls JAYANTHI MADHUKAR | Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Apr 06, 2018

Remover of obstacles - acrylic on canvas

Artist Venita Lall Vohra’s solo show will shine a spotlight on abstracts in technicolour

Abstract art may not be everyone’s choice of expression. Superficially, it does seem the easiest. But when you compare the early and later works of a veteran artist what you will see is their entire oeuvre veering towards abstraction and minimalism. Therein lies the difference between abstracts and abstracts. What do the works communicate? Is it a life’s philosophy or is it just a frivolous whim? These are the questions that one needs to ask as a viewer when face to face with an abstract painting. It is hard to teach or point out but when one sees a scintillating abstract, even if it is a few scribbles (Cy Twombly or closer home Jogen Chowdhury, or SG Vasudev) one becomes aware of the years it may have taken the artist to distil their complex thoughts with such precision.

City-based artist Venita Lall Vohra says that she has been painting for over three decades and claims to have found her calling in abstraction. As she gears up for her show Texturres (sic), Vohra is taking stock of the 30 abstracts she has done over two years. An interior designer by training, she seems to know the value of having neutral themes and pleasant palates. Each of the paintings has been given a title and the artist is quick to explain her reasons. There are large works in shades of blue, iridescent and teal hues dominate; and there are sunset orange, fiery reds, and cool greys and lilacs; making the entire set of paintings colourful. Once she explains and gets you to see her perspective, the paintings become more than colourful swirls.

Vohra points out to a triptych depicting the flames of fire in a burning forest. Then there is a large painting with swirls of blues and white showing an underwater seascape or a sunken treasure.

As one follows her line of thoughts, the paintings become apparent and clear with the messages.

She believes that they invoke calls for protecting nature and creating a better environment. “Maybe the next generation will be more aware of the beauty of nature,” she comments. Her two children, she says, are not as tuned to the outdoors, having been brought up in the city. “This is unlike my childhood which was spent in the lap of nature,” she says.

Having grown up in Darjeeling amidst the verdant greenery of tea estates, Vohra’s colour palate is decidedly influenced by the hues in nature. An intrepid traveller, her house is filled with bric-a-brac from various places. The furniture is Oriental, a nod to her maternal familial roots in Hong Kong.

Vohra points to a set of Chinese style paintings of nature which she had done for her last show in New Delhi. “I learnt this style in Hong Kong,” she explains and immediately adds that she wants to get away from that style now and concentrate on abstracts.

Other influences that Vohra cites are art movements such as Art Nouveau, De Stijl (Dutch), Suprematism (by Russian Kasimir Malevich) and Bauhaus (at its zenith under architect Mies Van der Rohe). She names Mark Rothko, the iconic American painter who is credited as the leader of New York Abstract Expressionism, as a major influence as well.

As Vohra walks through her paintings, she stops at some distance from one of her paintings and points out to the perception of depth in it. “It has been years of experimentation which has finally led to this style,” she says. “I have constantly worked on the textures using whatever tools I get – sometimes even objects from the kitchen.” With Texturres she hopes to take her art out of her studio and into other people’s homes. “Or hotels or anywhere,” she notes.