Saturday, 21 September 2013 00:00
My memory of Rudrani Devi Das goes back to a video clip I stumbled upon on YouTube where she runs across the beautiful Atugoda ashram in Gunnepana, Kandy. At one point she picks up a musical instrument and joins her brother Ravana and her father Rahju for a sing-along session of ‘Rahju, Rudrani and Ravana; Tapas Mantra Rock kids’ practice’.
Rudrani was home-schooled by her father and eventually attend four years of institutional education and dropped out just before her 13th birthday. Under the watchful eyes and guidance of Rahju, she officially commenced her art lessons. It took her six years to recognise and settle into her unique style of painting and recently announced her debut exhibition later this year.
Catching up with her was quite challenging but despite her busy schedule Rudrani freed up some time for an interview with the Daily FT. She elaborated on how she has been shaped into who she is today as an artist and invites all art enthusiasts to join in witnessing her debut unveiling of ‘World of Fae’ from 28 September to 4 October at Gallery Mount Castle No. 2, Arunachalam Avenue (off Horton Place), Colombo 7. Gallery hours are from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
By Sarah HannanQ: Other than Rahju, from which artists do you draw inspiration?
A: I draw inspiration from many artists, mostly those of the past. I love everything from renaissance art to impressionism, with healthy doses of the baroque artists, Norwegian romantic landscapists, the pre-Raphaelites, and my absolute favourite, the Orientals. Of course, there are so many more, but I cannot name them all here. So far, my art has been very Western-influenced, especially when it comes to technique, but ancient Eastern aesthetics has just come to my attention, so I have no idea who might inspire me next.
I must admit, Rahju’s work inspires me in content, more than any other aspect. I think having a mentor whose intention of art always had a spiritual end has made me aware of the purpose and possibilities of creativity, which pushes me to find a higher and evermore intellectual understanding of the history and uses of painting.
I love artists who can move me, not with technical ability, which is doomed to be temporarily awe-inspiring, but with the esoteric power to remind me of things deeper, which permanently marks the viewer. As an example, I think Caspar David Friedrich does this well with his landscapes.
Q: What would be your greatest achievement as an artist?
A: My greatest achievement as an artist would be the day I infuse art with knowledge and living to a point they are harmoniously synchronised and no longer at odds with each other. I consider true art not be an act, but a way of being, not separate from the rest of experience, or uninfluenced by the levels of knowledge or understanding of the individual artist, but fed by them and thus dependent on the artist being aware and discriminating. In short, finding the true purpose of art and adhering to it would be my greatest achievement.
Q: What are the aspects and themes that you focus on through your art?
A: Currently, especially by looking at my collection, one can see that I am expressing my experience of life through my work. I have lived a very positive, magical and beautiful life until now and this analysis of what has been so far comes out through my work in the themes of femininity, nature and fantasy. The faeries embody all three elements, which is one of the reasons they are the visual interests in my paintings.
The feminine aspect is a representation of who I am and yes, it is a little self-conceited, but how can I not be so? Given the world to explore, I am first interested in the explorer. I am by no means opposed to masculinity and I hope to explore that element creatively in the future, but right now, the feminine foundation is what I know and what will flourish in my visual statements.
Nature has always been my world and my inspiration. I still believe people underestimate the power and necessity of nature in our lives and the absolute requirement of it for our emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. I use it as a backdrop for my faeries as they come from a world of balance, beauty and magic and only nature can embody, and not only represent, that as an environment.
Fantasy has always been the great liberator. It is the place where the mind can take flight and look for things, whether authentic findings, or contrived make-believe. Either way, the journey into the creative unknown only accessible through the power of one’s own mental vision and limited only by one’s incapacity to let barriers down, has probably not been just a part of my life, but by now, taken over my life as a guiding force. With fantasy, reality can take on new dimensions and life can be experienced with relish.
Of course, I know my art has to evolve and grow and that it will take time until my lines are eloquent and speak clearly as I wish them to without any confusion, but for now, as the culmination of the initial stage of my life nears, this is the presentation of my vision.
Q: At any point have you changed the drawings of your pictures from the original sketch?
A: My finished paintings are nothing like their original sketches. Some similarities may lie in the concept or composition of the subject, but the overall feel, mood and tone are different. I do not usually draw details in my sketches. I like to leave them loose and basic, so that all the details may paint themselves while I am at work on the canvas. If I have a definite, rigid idea that must be copied line for line, detail for detail, I feel constricted in my creative explorations and I have found I do not enjoy the journey so much.
On the other hand, having only a rough guide to help judge the position of say, a fairy, in my image, I can then take liberty to explore so many details and variations before the balance of completion is found in my painting. This is, of course, general. There are exceptions to the rule on both extremes, either recreating the image faithfully, or not using a sketch at all.
Q: With this being your debut exhibition, what were the challenges you faced when building up on your collection?
A: If there was difficulty, it lay only in reassuring myself that all the paintings inhabited a plane of equal quality; I needed cohesiveness not only in imagery but in the rendering of those images. Of course, it cannot be helped that with a collection, some paintings will seem more accomplished than others will, though that tends to be a matter of the viewer’s subjectivity and preference, especially as there is enough variety in style and colour in this collection for each painting to be individually cherished.
To be honest, as I have been working since last year for this exhibition, I have taken my time over the paintings and have not stressed too much over them. Each painting has offered its own journey, exploration and adventure, taught me enough lessons and widened my understanding of experience and work and left me a better person for the subsequent journey.
Q: Anyone special people you wish to thank for nurturing you to who you are today?
A: Many people have brought me here; people I have known closely, people I have known fleetingly, and those who have influenced me from another part of the world or an altogether different era. After all the obvious thanks are offered to the people in my life who have done so much for me, I would like to thank everyone who has ever pursued art and creativity in general, intellectual wisdom and understanding, spirituality, freedom and all the finer and higher things and taken the time to express their findings and discoveries. They may not know me, but I know their work and that has been very important and essential to my growth.