It was an empty nest which drove Meenakshi to pick up the brush.
The year was 2007. And along the way, in her own words, Art became therapeutic .. and painting, a relaxed absorption of thoughts.
And, as you view her recent canvas expressions of ‘Reflection’, ‘Silence’, ‘Beyond the Self’ or ‘Being Peace’ .. you hear the language of the unspoken in their silence. Almost meditative. No wonder, then, the calm.
Much like the artist herself. A calmness which is a gift of time, perhaps .. or a heart full of love and joy.
And that is one of the first things you notice about Meenakshi. The warmth. Explains those warm tones on her canvases .. and the bright vibrant ones too, as you connect with her friendly and cheerful self.
While art somewhere was always an interest, it was much later in life that she started painting. But as I observed from our conversation, the colours were picked up and absorbed long before they reached the canvas.
Meenakshi taught for over twenty five years in Delhi, before she moved to Mumbai in 2004. It started from when she would visit her daughter’s kindergarten Happy Hours in South Delhi. A young 21 year old Meenakshi joined the same school that season. She was, in fact, Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan’s first teacher too here.
A Master’s in English Literature already from Sophia College, Ajmer .. she did a course in Nursery Teacher Training and picked up a Degree in B.Ed to equip herself further, and went on to teach Primary sections in Mother’s International, Sanskriti and DPS over the next couple of decades.
But it was not only about Primary Sections alone. Meenakshi found herself drawn to little special kids in her school who seemed challenged in some way or the other. Investing time to draw them out, and hand hold them to a point where they gained confidence to go spread their own wings. A little girl, for instance, in one of her classes just wouldn’t come to school, and would remain withdrawn almost always. She is now doing her Masters in Criminology from U.K.
And Meenakshi, till date, remains connected with all ‘her’ kids. The world has become smaller thanks to technology .. but takes a heart large to take all that world in too. And all that love.
Its easy to see where her smiles come from. And they too find their way on her canvases.
It been a journey .. a meandering path again to where she finds herself on her expressions on the canvas today.
She was still new in Mumbai, when the kids – a son and a daughter – flew out of the country to study further and work. She missed them, and it became increasingly important to keep herself occupied and, well, distracted.
Some classes in Aerobics and Bollywood dancing happened. Tanjore paintings too, about six-seven of them. Pottery Painting on fine bone china – she created 30 beautiful pieces which were gifted away to friends. Art had always been simmering interest .. and Meenakshi was now keen on exploring other mediums.
And then one day, thanks to a friend in her Aerobics class, she met with an art teacher who agreed to teach her. Meenakshi was no beginner though, and was inclined to try start with something not very simple. She had a picture of a painting on her phone – not a smartphone yet, the picture was grainy. Was a nude. And that was her first canvas. A copy.
This was 2007, she was learning under a new teacher soon, and exploring her own range on the canvas.
By 2008, she was painting voraciously – mostly figurative, and mostly copies or from pictures. She gathered more control on her strokes, explored textures .. and found her stride with the brush.
Soon, she developed her own personal unique conversation with the canvas too. And it is three years now, Meenakshi has been creating and painting her own expressions on canvas.
‘My paintings reflect my world .. experiences of life, moments and situations,’ she says.
An influence of both realistic and contemporary is evident in her works, with the bewildering mélange of colours there is also a blend of creativity and ecstasy which reflects her own warm personality. She brings herself to her art.
If there is calm (from years of life) .. there is also a happiness they exude. Careful, yet playful, brush strokes for textures .. along with the colours create an energy their very own.
And as Meenakshi developed and explored her own expressions, her work seemed to move from figurative to abstract.
‘Doing abstract I feel free and expressive, and I have begun to expand my expressions with composition, colour and texture,’ she says. She finds herself constantly exploring and learning.
‘A painting is not just an object. It is many hours of errors and experimentation,’ she continues. And that is where she finds herself very engaged and involved in its pursuit.
Today, Meenakshi paints for the sheer joy of constant discovery of her art .. and herself. What started with keeping herself occupied when the kids flew the nest, is now a form akin to meditation.
And a profession. Meenakshi is a professional artist now, and painting takes up a huge part of her day. Her works have been exhibited in various reputed galleries.
While she taught, she was never ambitious. She taught for the joy of teaching, for the joy of being with children, and for the joy impacting little lives. Those were her pockets of ‘fulfilment’ in her workspace.
And today, as she paints .. she again paints for the joy of it. For the joy of an expression which resonates with the colors she herself has absorbed from life. Happy warm colors mostly.
She is going with the flow. Happily.
Painting is an expression, and she is determined to keep it like that ..
.. by simply allowing the expressions to flow naturally.