As an artist it is my purpose and style to want to put down into a piece my feelings about it and portray the essence of the subject. Sometimes pieces call out to me to put more details in them while other times I feel the need to restrain. Leela is not an effort at minimalism but a revelation on getting down to the essence of a piece.
My intention of simplicity in this piece was to bring out the beauty in this very ordinary table. Of course simplicity is a relative description and means different things to different people. To me it meant achieving an elegance in form, in design, in the details, and color while staying with the core idea of an ethnic representation. This by the way I consider to be difficult…for ancient Indian work from the period of the Mughals, the Rajputs, Pandyas, Cholas, or the Vijayanagara empire was well known for its opulence, extensive details, and extravagance and not simplicity.
And this simplicity was achieved by a lot of forethought and planning. It took me a lot of effort to achieve this simple elegance, than to add more details and fill open surfaces with elaborate painting. I had to stay away from adding too much details, choose to paint only what really mattered, while still keep the interest. Too much simplicity and bareness would have made this piece boring. I have fielded suggestions and questions on this piece to the effect of….”why not add something on the top?”, “you can draw well, why don’t you paint something different?”, or “you should have used some other color”. It’s important to know when to stop in an artistic work; the statement that was made with just this much would have been diluted if I had added more. I also like to step away for a while or simply ‘sleep on it’, it helps to reinforce the trust in my ideas and thinking.
This piece reminds me a lot of a picture I have of my mother from before she got married. The simplicity and beauty that I feel in this picture always came to mind when I was working on Leela. In fact, I named this piece Leela as a reference to a conversation I remember having with Ma when she talked about Leela Naidu, one of her favorite Indian actresses and the elegance, grace, and simple style Leela Naidu portrayed that appealed to all. With the same last name, Ma felt related to her though they had never met. All these adjectives that Ma used for one of her favorite actresses, I find exuding from her own picture along with an embrace of love and warmth.
I don’t think you set out to achieve a simple piece; but in understanding the piece, the purpose it would be used for, the other accompanying pieces in the room; you approach the end result as a by-product of your work. Simplicity for the sake of it will fail….it has to resonate within and have meaning.