How parallel wings span multi-dimensionality
My best memories of Rini Dhumal are of the time I spent with her in Prague. The Czech capital is beautiful, more so in summer. Rini Dhumal was not exactly in the pink of health. But despite her years, and subdued physical condition, she did not miss out on even a single sight-seeing spot or an evening out. Schedules at art camps can be quite taxing. But Rini, through her fiery spirit showed us all that she is 70-years young, not 70-years old.
Born in Bengal and living in Baroda. How did your journey from the East to the West begin?
I was born in the land of Rabindranath Tagore. Calcutta was then the hub of Indian art. Home to some of the country’s best art and best artists. Bengal has been the birthplace of modern Indian literary, artistic and pedagogic thought. I am therefore fortunate to have been born in those environs and be exposed to just the right stimuli and knowledge.
I got married to a Maharashtrian but ended up finally in Baroda. The journey from Shantiniketan to MSU Baroda was very eventful and very very artful. I had the good fortune of studying under, and working with legends like KG Subramanyan, Krishna Reddy and Somnath Hore. That completed my East to West transition in terms of exposure and experience.
As a result, my works have a blend of two different ecosystems which makes it a new artistic language. My work is contemporary, yet it carries old beliefs of past traditions.
What were your learnings as a teacher?
I have been teaching Fine Arts since 1984. The Baroda school of Art is a rich institution which carries the legacy of our soil. I feel blessed to be an integral part of such an esteemed institution; and to understand the ethics and ethos of that place of learning. The Baroda school as an institution was built by thoughtful visionaries who knew full well how a fine art faculty should function and flower. As a teacher and as an artist I sincerely progressed with total dedication and commitment to the students; not having any personal gains to garner in the outer world through fame, fortune or success. I feel privileged to have been a part of this great institution, both as a student and as a teacher.
You have been honored with many a prestigious award like the Chancellors Gold Medal in 1972. What do you make of such awards?
All these awards and recognitions are just stepping stones, you climb the ladder slowly and gradually. In the end, it is all about what you are and why do you exist?!
You trained under KG Subramanyan. How was that so special or different?
Mani-da, as KG Subramanyan was fondly known helped me be exposed to weaving techniques and toy-making. He was a great teacher, a thinking teacher, a teacher who would lead by example. He also taught me the virtue of patience. He would never hurry with a piece of art. He took his time. He ‘baked’ every work to perfection. I learnt all that from him. Other stalwarts like Shanko Choudhary and Somnath Hore too contributed to my learnings and my evolution as an artist.
I also had the good fortune of training under Ramkinkar Baij while at Shantiniketan. Working with such masters taught me to use my hands in sync with my creative thoughts. Everything in my art is my own. I use no digital help and I do not employ any technology to embellish my art. My art is pure. My art is pristine.
Tel us about your show recent show in Mumbai?
My show at the Tao Art Gallery in Mumbai, titled ‘Parallel Wings’ showcased 66 of my works, from paintings to sculptures, terracotta to tapestry. My art is meditative. It is redolent of religion but is expressed in a form and language that is only Rini’s. It is drawn from my experiences and my inner self.
All my works make a unique and signature statement: they define my ethos, my philosophy, my style, my own metaphors. I have depicted the woman in many forms. The woman represents my core inspiration. That is the true me.
How do you best describe your art?
I really don’t care how you describe my art. As I have said before it is a reflection of me, my ideas, my thoughts, my dreams, my expressions. At my age that is what counts. The freedom to be myself and to create art that embodies my own true spirit.
Rimi Dhumal is an inexhaustible figurative painter, woodcut artist, print maker, sculptor, ceramist and more. How do you decide what to do?
I go by the flow. Whatever my heart desires. I paint and do my woodcuts in Baroda. The bronzes are done in Shantiniketan where I enjoy the peace and the quiet. When I started to dabble in terracotta, I did it because the medium has the smell and the sensitivity of my country’s soil. Shaping the terracotta is cathartic.
(Mukul Rai Bahadur is an art lover, collector and critic. He lives in Mumbai and works in a media company. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Pictures courtesy: The Kailasham Trust