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Breathtaking reality

The exhibition ‘Gazing at Reality’ showcases paintings of Nature at its best — at a time when the environment is at its worst in the capital

As one steps into one of the premier art galleries in the city, the green landscapes on the white walls take your breath away. Portraits of Nature so real, it’s almost a record of what may one day become extinct.

Lush green forest, lakes, mountains, artist Basist Kumar’s paintings seem like a snapshot that transports the viewer to a beautiful land. Growing up in a small busy hillock in Jharkhand, Kumar shares that his love for nature goes back to his childhood. “I used to go exploring uncharted spaces along with friends. Many a time it evoked fear and a sense of adventure. My works sometimes trace these memory lanes to envision specific spaces.”

The title ‘Gazing at Reality’ refers to both the realism of the paintings as well as the method of ‘gazing’ incorporated by the artist. “Gazing as a practice could be very overwhelming. While keeping the body and eyes still, if we gaze at something for long, we start uncovering a different kind of reality. A simple process of looking can start to open up a different level of reality which is always there”, adds Kumar.

At first glance, the paintings appear to be quite simple; however, a closer look reveals striking details. “I think the apparent simplicity of anything can be very deceiving. Our perception of things is based on past experiences and over time we almost turn blind towards it, as if we know it in its totality,” explains Kumar.

The detailing is so carefully done that one is almost convinced that they have seen a similar photograph somewhere. He takes months to complete some of his canvases. “Most of these works derive their inspiration from some landscape pictures I took before, but there is a lot of work done on composition itself, so much so that the perspective completely changes.”

Most of Kumar’s work depicts the environment, in an era where it is being pushed to the sidelines without much thought. “Nature as a subject in itself is a vast series of different phenomena. I am very much attracted towards visual aspects of it. A natural space of a grass field, a rock, a mountain breeds a certain sense of familiarity in our minds along with a non-physical sense of mystery.”

For those living in the city, this sort of familiarity is probably triggered only through paintings or photos. It reminds us how low nature factors on our list and pops up only in times of immense crisis like the current smog engulfing the city.

“We are wearing masks and people are getting used to it. It’s slowly transforming into an everyday reality,” Kumar adds.

Completing his post-graduation in fine arts from Santiniketan, Kumar has developed his own style of painting. “I can say that my works, at a level, try to penetrate through everyday reality. I feel intimate with what I am painting and this leads to fine details. These works without details would not give the sense of moment and stillness I am trying to express. So, in a nutshell, I consciously took recluse from narratives of any sorts and tried getting closer to my own instinct.”

Perhaps it’s time we should go beyond just ‘looking’ at the threats to our existence, before it transforms into our reality. It felt like a real chore to leave and walk out on the streets to have my breath taken from me in an entirely different way. I put my mask on, and reluctantly continued on my way to work.