A soaring of the imagination – Deccan Herald

“Did you know the colours of the birds change at different times of the day in keeping with the measure and strength of sunlight?” asks Delhi-based artist, educator and conservationist Rupa Samaria. “This makes it very challenging to get exact photographs of their real colour.” Her fascination for birds set in during her early days, hearing their twittering and chirping amidst the leafy trees surrounding her house in Patna. “I have always been intrigued by their uniqueness and striking plumage, and my artworks in vivid colours mirror the sprightly creatures in their natural resplendence,” she shares with a smile, on the eve of her solo exhibition, A Bird Call, at the Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre in New Delhi.
The graceful body language, expressive faces, and colourful diversity of birds inspire her countless creations on canvas. Rupa Samaria has created close to 50 artworks in an array of brilliant brushstrokes. Avian art brings its own challenges owing to the ecological relationship the artist establishes in the artworks, and this exhibition is a silent call for help, drawing attention to the rapidly dwindling population of our feathered friends as the concrete jungles thicken and throttle their natural habitats. Rupa goes about her work silently, and steadily, connecting with ornithologists for understanding the birds. She is focused on sending out a message to people through her art. “Sometimes I take the liberty to explain my concept, and play with colours and shapes,” she explains. It stems from her love as an educator, as her passion has made her work on multiple bird projects with children, during her earlier association with a school.
Evocative portrayal
Are there any endangered species she has captured on canvas? “Plenty of them,” she replies. “I have been working on owls, as they have been experiencing the brunt of human insensitivity in particular over the past few years. They are sought after for their body parts like skulls, talons, beaks, feathers and even blood — a practice driven by irrational myths. Owls are massacred in our country during Diwali, for luck,” she rues, and adds, “Even the Forest Owlet is on the endangered list due to many reasons like human encroachment, forest fires, dams…”
Rupa’s repertoire is evocative of her penchant for birds and wildlife conservation, celebrating the stunning brilliance and delicate fragility of the winged creatures in equal measure through diverse mediums such as watercolours, acrylic, and charcoal. She has showcased her artworks pan India, spotlighting the fascinating contours of the kingfisher, the black-billed magpie, and the near-extinct house sparrow. Rupa’s towering artwork for the Gaj Yatra (organised by the Wildlife Trust of India), was a beautiful four-and-a-half foot tall sculpture of an elephant with a perched egret atop, titled ‘The bird and the Elephant’. It is her ability to spin interesting dimensions through music and art that helps in educating children and adults about the rapidly disappearing population of birds in our surroundings.
Rupa first studies the bird she wants to paint, researching the species. She derives inspiration from erstwhile naturalist and wildlife artist Carl D’ Silva, known for his stunning avian art, ornithological handbooks and field guides. Born in Goa, he worked with Salim Ali and illustrated several of his books. “I also refer to photographs from different parts of India. Luckily, I have access to 47 photographers, including Nikhil Devasar, SarwanDeep Singh, Noel Foning, Krishnamurthy, Raja Charles and others who have been supporting me with wonderful photographs,” she confesses. “After drawing, I paint, making use of my imagination to render the birds in my own unique style,” she reveals.
There is precise artistry in the coverts, with Rupa making use of brushes, pens and pencils for fine detailing and intricate strokes. As she soaks up the birdsong and the visage of the birds, there are sometimes special experiences she tends to reflect on. “In Dehradun, once I witnessed a male Baya weaver bird building its nest painstakingly with superb technique. Then sadly, and inexplicably, it destroyed the nest. Perhaps the little one was heartbroken as its nest was rejected by its suitor. Deeply moved by the incident, I painted Love Birds,” she recounts.
What’s next for the devout birder? “I want to take my exhibition to different cities and explore different mediums like sculpture and technology. My dream is to create a larger-than-life installation of birds,” she says.
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