From Bhiwani's bylanes to London's Nehru Centre, a journey with strokes

By Sukant Deepak

New Delhi, Jun 3 (IANS): As a school-going boy, he would always stop seeing men making natural dyes and pigments in one of the bylanes of Bhiwani, Haryana. He remembers finding the process fascinating. This went on for several months until one of them invited him to sit with them.

"Well, for several days I was asked to get tea and do odd jobs -- guess they were testing me. Thank God I passed. It was here that I learnt everything," smiles artist Ram Pratap Verma.

Fast forward to the present: Paintings, stacks of drawings, sculptures, and awards -- they mark their presence almost everywhere in his apartment. Antiques collected over the years are in the balcony, and there is another room full of paintings.

Panchkula-based Verma is busy giving the final touches to the 25 works in natural pigments and acrylic that will be exhibited during his solo show 'Past in Present Tense' at the Nehru Centre in London from July 3 to 7. "In so many ways, the past lives in the present, and gives direction to the future. Through multiple metaphors, I want to narrate my own past which is in sync with my present."

The works to be exhibited have been inspired by the wall paintings in Havelis. In fact, the artist also wrote the book 'Wall Paintings; The Vanishing Treasure' and documented the same in a film by the same title that was released last year. The movie will be released in the UK on July 5.

This College of Art pass-out has documented the remarkable paintings, executed since the 18th century based largely on mythological themes. Spending several months researching the artwork, artists, their styles, the kind of colours they used and how the prevailing situations at that time influenced the artists' works, Verma says multiple times periods and diverse styles came together to create those works on the walls.

He has already started work on the second film which will document the temple art of Madhya Pradesh. "I have completed the still photography part and will be hiring a film crew from Mumbai as I did for the first one. For me, it is extremely important to work with professionals and not compromise on quality," he said.

Investing his own money in the films, he said either one can make art or get trapped in the bureaucratic red tape of procuring funds. "I did try approaching government agencies, but the whole process is so tedious. I may not be from a rich family but do understand that making art is all about giving."

For Verma, it was important to start major work after his wife passed on. "My poet friend Nirupama Dutt would call me often and exhort me to start a project that would keep me occupied. It made all the sense to go back to Fresco paintings which were a part of my growing up. I just hope that a heritage body or a government agency comes forward to preserve them before they vanish owing to neglect."



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