“She dwells on this image while remembering a song by Rabindranath Tagore, which says that in spite of sorrow, death, and pangs of parting, there is also peace, joy and even eternity. For Chameli, the illness and untimely death of Anjum Singh was the cause of a deep sadness. And so, the fleeting life of a blossom surfaces in a number of her paintings.”
- Ella Dutta
Flowers Bloom, Flowers Wither Away, Flowers Bloom Again is a long-awaited solo exhibition of watercolours by artist Chameli Ramachandran.
Chameli has always nurtured an immersive and entrancing relationship with nature, which repeatedly strikes an impulse to paint the skeletal and spiritual structures of flowers over and over again. In this latest series of flower studies, Chameli expands her symbolic vocabulary of the flower and its parts by viewing them as metaphors for life and death. She notes their sudden budding as a celebratory arrival of beauty, grace and fragrance, only to wilt shortly thereafter. As Ella Datta writes, “She dwells on this image while remembering a song by Rabindranath Tagore, which says that in spite of sorrow, death, and pangs of parting, there is also peace, joy and even eternity. For Chameli, the illness and untimely death of Anjum Singh was the cause of a deep sadness. And so, the fleeting life of a blossom surfaces in a number of her paintings.”
Datta adds, “Each of Chameli’s flower studies expresses an intimate language of emotion – meditative, ecstatic, melancholy. The life of a flower may be short but not its image painted by Chameli. It continues to resonate in one’s memory.” Chameli renders her flowers with deft brushwork and elegant personas, and captures both their life-brimming potential and fallen obscurities with the same attention. While she usually paints from life, in this series of work Chameli also newly relies on memory to experiment with form, especially the sthalapadmas on her terrace in Delhi that were just about to bloom when the Ramachandrans left the city for a long sojourn to Mumbai towards the end of last year, where the fullness of the heavy, multi-petalled flowers kept haunting her, thus working in subjective exaggerations for the sake of storytelling. Her list of protagonists is long, including orchids, sthalapadma (Hibiscus mutabilis), simul (silk cotton), and various kinds of lilies, chrysanthemums, carnations and crotons.
The dramatic personae she accords each of these flower studies varies in curiosity and context, though they all retain a benign loveliness. In her mandala-like compositions, Chameli strives for balance and luminescence, achieved through precise colour, chromatics and texture. Her pensive contemplations spark joy, feeling personal, and warm while also transcendental.