Stepping into an art gallery is like walking through the mind of an artist.
When you step into Aradhana Dalmia’s ‘The Artemist’ in Kolkata, for instance, the displays are bound to keep you riveted for a while. That is, until you come across a series of a paintings from her collection ‘Luminous’.
It was the painting titled ‘Benares Ghat’ that commanded my attention the moment I saw it. It was a bird’s eye perspective of the Benares Ghat done in a way that has not been seen before. We know for a fact that the Benares Ghat is not hexagonal – yet it is depicted that way. Encompassed in this hexagon, are all the images, sounds (yes, because your imagination, coupled with what you are seeing, will make you hear it) and emotions associated with walking through the Ghat. The houses and temples that border the Benares river, the naukas that float around, restricted by their tethers, the fluttering red umbrellas and even the smoke of the arathis that are constantly taking place, are mesmerising.
How a Scene Came to Life
As I watched this painting, taking in the minute detailing, suddenly the lights were turned off, leaving just a lone black UV light trained on the painting! I blubbered in surprise – because, before my eyes, the Benares Ghat painting had come to life!
Luminous oil paints had blurred out the background of the painting. While the houses and temples had faded into the background, the little red spokes and pop coloured circles showed me where the flags flew majestically and the mystic sat under his umbrella. The symmetrical stairs that led down to the river seemed to beckon (with their streaks of luminescent paint) that I take a step forward.
Never before had an abstract demonstration of an Indian scene evoked such surprise and awe.
I have always loved working with oil paints, for their fluidity, range and their ability to be a meditative process. While undergoing my formal training at the University of London and the Manchester School of Arts, I dabbled a lot in Indian-inspired scenes. One thing many of my professors said was, that they wished my paintings would glow. I guess the inspiration began from there!Aradhana Dalmia
Having lived away from home for many years, Aradhana returned to Kolkata and very soon found herself at the centre of queries for a range of paintings in varying techniques. It is what inspired her to open her art gallery and begin commissioning work for her clients. Through it all, the refrain of her professors goaded her into researching the possibilities of creating luminescent oil paints, something that has never been tried before.
I tried various permutations and combinations, had detailed discussions with pigmentation engineers – and yet the right formulate evaded me for close to a year. I had plastic paint bottles melt because of the chemical mixes I used; spatulas would begin to rust on coming into contact with paints I made, yet the determination to succeed persisted, despite most of my friends and family being quite skeptical of what I was trying to do.
How One Eureka Moment Led to a ‘Bright’ Innovation
The Eureka moment happened one evening when after a round of experimentation and failure, Aradhana decided to hang out with some friends. When the UV lights of the night spot they were at turned on, Aradhana was shocked to see her hands glowing too!
Ecstatic that she had cracked the formula, she went back to work the next day and perfected the luminescent oil paint formula.
The ‘Luminous’ range of paintings that Aradhana has created with these paints provides the viewer with three experiences – one of the painting in regular light, one with a mix of regular and UV light which brings forward pops of luminescent paint and a final, which in black UV light, gives you only the pop of colours.
Aradhana personally believes that her style of painting is not confined to pre-conceived ideas.
I start with a blank canvas and go with the flow. Paint a bit, go back and look at a few things and return to the painting. My work is more research based. I am indirectly influenced by things that I see around me or from good work of others. But when you look at my paintings, you will see a whole new style and application.
What Aradhana wants her viewers to take away is that the subject is not as important as the final effect of the process, where you are able to elicit a response.
It’s about materiality of it – some paintings have texture, some are flat, some 3D – it’s the coming together of ALL these elements.
Going forward, Aradhana hopes to be able to create a motorised light that will move around the painting highlighting various areas. She also plans to go bigger in terms of size of her canvas.
Working with oil paints is a meditative process for Aradhana and one which drives her passionately each day. It has a lot more in store for her, which she is just waiting to explore.
(Ruth is a media professional who has worked across multiple platforms in the last 15 years. She believes that every experience and interaction adds a new dimension to her perspective of the world and she loves every minute of what she does.)