Artistic ode to nature

The Asian Age.  | Angela Paljor

Life, Art

Nature intrigues artist Aarti Zaveri and finds reflection and expression in her paintings, installations, sculptures, short film.

For Zaveri, art has no boundaries. “As my father always said, ‘you can find creativity even on an empty piece of paper’.

Aarti Zaveri’s obsession with nature goes beyond her canvas, and is reflected in her installations, sculptures, site-specific artworks, short films. What inspires her constantly is nature’s perfection, its mysteries and complexities, “how each and every comprising element — from the tiniest particles to the greatest astrological objects — mutually complement each other in order to maintain homeostasis, optimal development and basic functioning of the world,” shares Zaveri.

As an artist her ideas are often driven by change in topography, a result of rapid growth and modernisation. Being brought up in an industrial town molded her perception. “As a child, I was fearless and would travel around town and even nearby villages. On such trips I explored regions of Saurashtra that till late 90s had scarce water and vast expanses of dry land devoid of natural habitat.

I would often come across women walking for miles to fetch water with a sense of emptiness clouding the region and not a single bird chirping in the field. Whereas back at Rajkot — a growing industrial city — I saw development taking place at the cost of curtailing the nature. The entrepreneurial activities adversely affecting the environment and mindless greed with simple ethics for whatever it may cost, did convulse my conscience, made me a bit of a rebel and wary of opportunism at the cost of natural surroundings,” says Zaveri, who believes that her childhood experiences have lingered on, reflecting in her work, seekinanswers to this very conflict.

“I truly believe that man’s greed will eventually destroy our mother Earth. As artists, we can highlight the problem of climate change, deforestation, unchecked population growth on the canvas, put our point of view forward and manifest our disappointments. In most of my work, I address these issues but I also leave behind a ray of hope. A hope for a better world, a hope for better hearts and a hope for love,” she adds.

For Zaveri, art has no boundaries. “As my father always said, ‘you can find creativity even on an empty piece of paper’. I started with portraits,” says Zaveri, for whom photography helps conceptualise her artwork. “In recent years I consciously shifted from 2D to 3D, as I began working with sculptures, installations and videos. I feel the use of diverse media and materials is a more holistic approach to the representation of artistic concepts. I have made paper-mâché masks and also worked with both industrial and natural materials for large-scale sculptural or installation works. Recently, I have begun using video for narrative ideas.”

Zaveri feels being creative is more to do with the response mechanism within. “It is asymmetric and swings as you observe, feel and respond. Therefore balancing is not what I look for and the medium of expression may vary as per my perception and depth of understanding of the subject. I have never limited myself to a specific medium, I am always finding new ways of self-expression. The basic creative thought can be put into any form, be it painting or installation or video art. It is important that the purity of my vision stays intact,” she says.

Known for her sensitive understanding of human emotions that made her portraits of Param Vir Chakra awardees adorning the corridors of South Block, Ministry of Defence, a huge success, the multi-talented artist feels humbled to have received this opportunity. “I was given passport sized photographs and old tattered pictures to use as reference. It was difficult to make the paintings age-appropriate and as accurate as possible. During the course of my research, I had the opportunity to interact with the family members, friends and comrades of the soldiers. Their bare emotions, internal grief, pride and expressions of joy and sorrow while talking about the proud sons of soil helped me capture the emotions in the portraits,” reminisces the artist.

She is now working on a project centered around Ganga. “The true grit of a river always influenced me. Whenever I am in a difficult situation I close my eyes and imagine the uncontrollable power of the river. Subconsciously I always wanted to tie that into my artwork; which made me think about one of the most sacred water bodies in our culture; the Ganga. My mind is in a constant meditative state; I kept having visions about conversing with the sacred Ganga. My next project will be my interpretation of this conversation. My research work for the Ministry of Culture envisages exploration of power and sins of being Ganga.”

Currently, the artist is planning trips to various regions near the Ganges to study ecosystems and lifestyles that the river inspires.