“My work is a quest to discover and reveal myself … My work can be described as spontaneity at its best. I work mostly at my subconscious level… At times I find the act of painting as a unique and a very blessed activity through which I am able to discover the psyche of people around as well as discovering myself at a level, which I could not be in front of people. I find a different creative side of mine being satisfied in this process of revealing myself. This feminine side of mine is very bold with its sole purpose of creation, which I find very powerful.
NUPUR KUNDU TO UMA NAIR
Stepping into Nupur Kundu’s studio at Chittranjan Park in Delhi is to appreciate the colour fugue that meets your eyes in her crescendo filled canticle of layered art, it helps to know something of a deeply feminine composition born of the ethos of an artist who is also an accomplished Kathak danseuse. Over the years Nupur has developed a distinctive style that can also convey her meanings without words. In her drawings, on paper for example, she will collapse together sharply contrasting sensations of scale. Open plains, deep perspectives, echoing spaces — but also jittery little passages of impasto. Or, to put it differently, grand ideas have intimate yet deeply felt melancholic consequences. Her enormous canvasses depend upon many smaller nuances and passage in the rites of time and upon the fine grain of the expanse of her feelings itself.
Often, her hand is both skillful and awkwardly quick. She will draw colour zones in a chaotic way and make use of the quirky look of junky illustration while at the same time handling other elements, such as oil/acrylic, elegantly. The result is that her art often looks powerfully defaced, as if a heavy hand had suddenly entered high art. She appears determined to face down a recurring, reflective yet resonant darkness that some of us may know.
The resulting explorations in colour fields are frank but also elusive: look closer and study them in silence -they have a tremble, both visual and existential that belies their creation. But if each canvas is a mood in the blues of psychological deviants and destinations she is able to deliver a Pop smack density that is neither sterile nor mechanically stiff; it does not pin down the eye the way a poster will. It may evoke the giant faces on billboards or in the movie theaters, but it has no commercial slickness. There is a constant flicker, a back-and-forth continuity, between the hand and the mechanical means. (The hand is never quite as inexpressive as the artist might wish.) The very idea of the image seems to issue from some fraught space between painting and perception.
Over the years Nupur who loves bold and brazen brushwork, began to free her hand. She continued to lay out grids on large canvases, painstakingly transferring the image from a photographic memory impulse to a canvas, but she loosened the tight stitch of the zones of fragments. In one series, she filled the spaces with staccato painting; she would create a massive facet from thousands upon thousands of delicate brush strokes. In another series, she filled the grid with bits of painted layers that seemed to look like pulp paper. The more Nupur emphasized her own touch, the more subtle and varied the light became in her abstractions until she was no longer just an abstractionist but on the way to becoming a sensitive and graciously gestural painter, standing back and responding with increasing spontaneity to the evolving image. Her offspring becomes the backdrop around which her emotions dwell. Existence is the elixir in which her gestation evolves, this is why she states:
My sole purpose of existence is very clearly in molding and seeing my creation – my son – bloom well in happiness. My inner subconscious creates these spaces of happiness in solitude on the canvas and I am at very much at ease with myself in this solitude planes. I am confident being alone and not lonely to be definitive.
Dancing has always been very inspirational to me. So is – now – painting along with my son in my studio. I am amazed seeing him paint spontaneously and strive myself to be as free as the young spirit myself when I paint. I have also worked with special children and find that very cathartic.
Look anyway at her canvasses large and small- there are technically diverse layers of material accretion, readily apparent from the soaked-through patterns and symbolism on the canvas, to deliver an all-over effect that is at once aesthetically arresting and infinitely gripping. Our sustained experience of the painting is rewarded with a feminine catharsis, as the compositional complexity of the work continually fluctuates between the shadows of rhythmic patterns and the disorganized chaos of painting unrestrained. We are left with pools of intensely hued colour fields that stain and weave the many moods as if all is superseded by a looping matrix of tensile tendrils slicked onto the uppermost paint strata. While the dense filled surfaces encourage the eye to examine its detail, the density of layered pigmentations create a dynamism that presses outward toward the canvas edges and go beyond the frame itself.
Nupur’s pursuit is immediacy as well as the fluid union of material and creativity as one. The process of creation is also the act of unraveling in the sojourn of sub texts. Her words swing through:
The process of creating is in itself a journey for me, which I enjoy the most. I work on 3- 4 works together. As always I have been comfortable on large spaces of canvas. Enjoying bold attacks on the space with the oil pigment applied thickly. I enjoy the process of layering. I revel in the sensual treatment of the oil pigment on the canvas and build it with my palette knives, dentistry instruments and paintbrush. Colour is of utmost importance and builds itself one over the other ultimately revealing a structure of spaces and a scape which is uniquely my own. I like to see a lot of colour on my canvas space. I like creating spaces of colour divisions and dimensions. It is the intense activity at the time of creation, which creates a vibrant textured feel of the thick impasto pigment that I like….
Crescendo of Resolution
Perhaps it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Nupur’s candour lies in her mastery of colour. Indeed, the combination of the harmony of pure color and the tensile strength of linear design positions these paintings in the highest order of her oeuvre. The skeins of material interweave to build the structure of a picture that seems almost to possess an inner life and ultimately a sense of wholeness emerges from the combination of physical abandon and aesthetic control. You wonder if she has faced an unprecedented dilemma in deciding the moment at which a painting arrives at its crescendo of resolution. In this respect the present work is yet again a definitive example of her own abstractive genius. This show is also about her own definitive and distinct new paradigms, and she echoes it in her ruminations:
In this recent body of work I have both worked on the canvas, paper and acrylic sheet as a medium. All three surfaces have been supportive of my spontaneous playful attacks of colour. I find my work very therapeutic at a level – for myself, for the viewer. Many a times I do work in a collage like manner continuing from one work to another and combining them together as one work – like in the example of the work attached – which are nine individual works (3ft by 3ft each) as well as work together as one piece of work (9ft by 9 ft). It is my vision of colour scapes through a prism.
Indeed Nupur’s innovations are elemental and instinctive, born of many years of struggling with the tension between the reality of life and finding a world of abstraction that is born between the field of fantasy and the actual gravity on the ground, between the struggles of abstraction and the desire to create an individual yet fractured sense of representation, content and context and technique and seamlessness. From the idea of picking up the paintbrush to work on the tenets of drip, to create dense pools of paint and cull fields of dense and deep pigments from pots and sticks and flattened tools, brushes and other implements-Nupur Kundu has come a long way. Her journey mirrors not dexterity but a devoted yet total physicality that orchestrates the fluidity, density, speed and rhythm of her sensibility to gives us a medium that has evolved into an all-over composition of cohesive yet candid expressiveness. This is the genesis of one woman’s journey-it is Nupur Kundu’s template for exploring the subjective experience of colour—the effects that adjacent/tangential colours have on one another, for example, and the illusion of flat/ piled up planes of colour create in a composition that celebrates the abstractions of advancing or receding inherent expanses in space.