If Leonardo da Vinci had a good eye doctor, he might not have become such a great artist. At least that’s what an analysis of paintings and sculptures believed to be modelled after da Vinci suggests. The artist may have had exotropia, a type of eye misalignment that causes one eye to turn slightly outward, and it gave him an artistic edge. And the rest is history. His Crossed Eyes condition made way for him to become the most influential and popular artist of all time, whether it is paintings or sculptures or even engineering. Everything had his influence in the years to follow. It is difficult to depict his vision on a canvas with the entire gist. But Kochi-based artist Bindhi Rajagopal did that on her canvas and her work is going to the Florence biennale so the world can also enjoy it.
Her painting that stands in the dimension of 10 feet X 9 feet, depicting da Vinci’s vision as a large eyeball painted in a mix of variant shades of blue and green, will be part of many works that would be featuring at the event. Quizzed about her selection, she says, “This year, the biennale concept is Leonardo da Vinci. I selected the vision of da Vinci as the theme. The painting was done at my studio at Bindhi art gallery and it took me almost nine months to complete it by applying layers of textures of white, deep blue and monochromatic colour scheme on cotton thread,” says Bindhi, who is a two-time state award winner.
The greatest challenge she faced was to comprise his ideas and visions in one work. “Since da Vinci was a great scientist and artist, I have tried to paint his vision itself. I have used blue colour to express the depth of his vision and contributions towards society. He was a multi-faceted maestro. The great Italian artist was interested in everything.”
He watched builders and studied the mechanics of their cranes, talked to soldiers about the latest weapon designs, and observed the way birds fly. This programme of self-guided learning started when he was young and continued all his life. da Vinci’s greatest artistic achievements are not his handful of surviving paintings, but the drawings and notes in which he explores the world. The notebooks showing the original designs for the model machines on display at the Science Museum may seem like secret books of wisdom. They are not. They are something much more beautiful: the record of a lifelong quest for understanding. Leonardo da Vinci was convinced of the power of vision as an instrument of knowledge. He felt that it was above all through our eyes that we grasp and understand the world, that visual representation is the primary method of recording knowledge and, most importantly, that such knowledge enables us to master and control our environment. Depicting all these in one tested Bindhi’s mettle, she admits. She has also given a texture to the paint so that it will ensure that her work won’t be copied or duplicated.
Bindhi, who started her career in realism, gradually turned attention to abstract painting. “The artist doesn’t copy the reality as it is in realistic paintings; instead, they portray things in certain vague images, lines, colours and shapes. I find it more appealing; may be that is one of the reasons why I shifted focus to abstract painting. At first, I thought of painting something in realism for the biennale, but since I have already adopted abstract as my main style, I thought it would not be appropriate to go back.”
Her other works are also mostly done in the abstract style and her emphasis is on the message they carry rather than the ‘realism’ in it. The degree of departure from reality varies from slight, partial or complete. Artwork which takes liberties, altering colour and form in ways that are conspicuous, can be said to be partially abstract. Total abstraction bears no trace of any reference to anything recognisable. It is more like personal. She is also very clear about her ideas and says it all depends on the message and context they should convey.
Her subjects are also really vivid. “I have used the subject water in a lot of my works as it is the base of our life. I have also done paintings that are lively and moving. I am also very keen to do projects that are socially relevant.”
She will be travelling to Florence in October to participate in the 12th edition of the Florence Biennale.