Paintings of an Inner Journey
Many years ago, in issue # 188 of September 2004, Auroville Today reported about the work of Hufreesh Dumasia Chopra, a young Auroville artist. This August, Savitri Bhavan organized an exhibition of her recent paintings, titled “Inner Journey,” displaying her 15-year artistic development.
“I have changed a lot,” says Hufreesh. “I’ve had so many experiences since then. There was first the Florence Biennale, for which I was selected, helped by a grant from the Dutch Foundation ‘Stichting de Zaaier’ for which I am extremely grateful. Without their support, I would never have grown and matured. It was my very first experience out of Auroville and India as an artist. It cured me of the many misconceptions about the art world. There is a lot more to the art world than meets the eye.
“Then I participated in the International Art Festival in Marseille, France; in the Izmir Biennale in Turkey; in the Venice Pre-Biennale in Venice, in the International women’s exhibition in Spain and Berlin, and in many more. One of the most interesting was the Art Residency near Houston, Texas, which happened last year.”
Hufreesh guides me through her exhibition. “I call myself an intuitive abstract artist,” she explains. “When I start a painting, where it will lead and how it will end is a mystery. I try to be guided by something from within.” She points at a painting called ‘Gateway’. “I was experimenting with papier mâhé and paint, and this was the result. It gave me incredible joy as I was able to achieve a certain unexpected result from the experimentation. I felt on top of the world to have been able to materialize an inspired idea on a canvas.”
Nearby is a painting titled ‘The Flower of Life’, a diptych with strong, dark and deep vibrant colours. “I like to experiment with multiple canvases to inspire my creativity in a different way. These two had to be placed close together like this, while the gap in between gives a dimension which would not be there if I had joined the two canvasses.”
‘Gateway’ and ‘The Flower of Life’ were both created during the six-month art residency near Houston in Texas, USA. “I was one of the three people selected for this art residency, out of a hundred applicants. The Artist in Residence programme at the Horlock Art Gallery & History Museum gives artists the opportunity to live and create art. We were provided with a studio space and living quarters in a 100 year old house. It had an art gallery below and we took turns manning the gallery and receiving the visitors. The locals would visit and I had some of the most interesting conversations about my art. It was surprising how open they were and what they told me about my art, what they saw in my paintings. Once an 11-year old boy explained what a particular painting was about. ‘It shows me the chaos caused between the energies of love and anger.’
“This residency was a gift, as all we needed to do was concentrate on our art, to come up with new forms of expression, free from all the mundane cares of the world. I had the time to envision within myself a new form of art free from material limitation – no more canvas and paints. Technology is redefining art in strange, new ways. Both art and technology challenge our perception. Given the opportunity I plan to create art that is both luminous and interactive simultaneously.”
The exhibition is a mix of paintings that were created in the USA and Auroville. Is there a difference? Hufreesh reflects before answering. “I would say ‘yes’. Auroville is my home, and the art that is created here is more centered and grounded. In Texas, I was in a completely unknown territory, a new place, new people, and new experiences. Art does get influenced, and sometimes significantly, by the environment of the artist. It pushed me to create in ways I might never had considered had I not gone out of Auroville. But at the same time, the Hufreesh that is here is the same that is there. I carry my Auroville with me wherever I go and that flavour continues to permeate my art. This residency has been a time of challenge and growth, tempered with disappointments and delightful serendipity.”
She points at a painting of leaves, in white, gold, and crimson. “That one was made in Auroville. It took me several years to complete. I had started it in Auroville, left it unfinished, and completed it when I returned. It took its own time. Every painting has its own unique journey and I cannot push it. But it is decidedly different from the works I painted in the US. Does it show a more ‘psychic’ inspiration, psychic as defined by The Mother? Hufreesh laughs. “There is a certain mindset which thinks that when something comes from the soul, the colours have to be light, pleasant, a certain shade, expressing silence, going within, and peace. But that’s not necessarily the truth. Everything is part of the inner journey. My inner journey can – and needs – also to be expressed in strong colours. We have to break free from those pre-set ideas. For we do not know what’s there within. That’s what I try to explore in my art: what is there within that I cannot see with the ordinary eyes? In what way does my soul speak to me?
“I have very diverse interests in life and that shows in my paintings. Most artists stick to one way of expressing, to one style of painting. With me, almost every other painting has a different style and that is who I am. I am also a scuba diver, a salsa dancer, lover of Nature and I have jumped off a plane; there is an adventurous spirit in me, which wants to experience life to the fullest. And that is revealed in my art as well. For example, my love for scuba diving led to the painting of the ‘Water Fairy’. In this painting, initially, one only sees the myriads of beautiful fishes in the ocean. It is only after a while, one realizes that there is a presence there amongst the fishes ... a presence that creates this magic underwater. In essence, I aspire to link up to the force which is behind everything, to the energy that is creating all this beauty around us which we are usually unaware of.”
Hufreesh’s art, she says, connects with the inner most part of her being. “It is like having a conversation with my soul and expressing that through my art. It’s a self-discovery process of finding one’s true Nature. My life became a big adventure into the unknown and the unpredictable. My art reflects this adventure ... to find something beautiful in the unknown, in the unpredictable and even in the chaos of life.”
In conversation with Carel
For more information on Hufreesh visit www.hufreesh.com or contact her at email@example.com