Thursday, April 6, 2017

Padma Prasad, Painter & Poet/Writer, Tells Her Story

I always thought and think of myself as a poet, a writer. My father and America found(ed) the artist in me.

I came to America ... California in 1997. I was a bitter woman. Leaving home, my wonderful parents and sister, my cherished career as English lecturer at Stella Maris College, Chennai, India – anger, turmoil, conflict, that was me. A good candidate for depression. As I spoke to my father on one of those timed calls to India, he said, why don’t you paint; you used to be paint so well as a child. It will help you out of this.

Girl, Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20 inches
Note: Painted for the Toronto Library Solo Show

My husband bought me the little Winsor and Newton oil painting starter kit and a tiny canvas. I had only done watercolors as a child. How hard could this be? Even to this day, I marvel that I had not one moment of hesitation when I looked at that blank canvas. It was like I had always done this. I knew instinctively to how to handle and work the brushes, the smell of turpentine and linseed oil was quite heavenly, the colors were my friends.

One simple explanation for all – my Dad. He was a painter, a contemporary Indian master. I realized I was a sponge: that all my childhood I watched him at work, listened to him about the line, about the essential ingredient for creativity - a free mind. I had stored it so well in my brain, that it was now recreating myself in another frame, (sorry, could not resist that pun).

Just Looking, Oil on Canvas, 22 x 28 inches
Note: I saw the rhododendrons for the first time. My mother had passed away a few months ago and I felt how much she would have loved their beauty. So I painted my mother looking at those lovely blooms.

There was no stopping after that. It was December and ice-skating was going on, on the TV. That became my first subject. I was not happy with it, but it was just a warm-up. 

My second painting was a man at a café. I was naturally drawn to figures, people with interesting gestures and postures. I joined the local art club, rather proud of my work. Sad to say, no one saw what I saw. Photorealism and pretty landscapes were in. Strong colors were avoided, figures, were a no-no, except maybe as a prop, or as stiff portraits. Still I was so full of myself that I did not care for the approval of anyone. I sent pictures to my Dad. He was highly appreciative, but before he could provide detailed feedback, he passed away. I always regret that.

Contemplation, Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20 inches

Despite my confidence, I needed to know from my peers that I had the right perspective. I took a summer art workshop, where my instructor said, “Looks like you know what you are doing, you just keep right on”. We moved to Toronto shortly after. My painting ‘Barbecue’ was selected for the Peel Regional Art show. They even sent me twelve dollars! I was thrilled, Aha, I knew I was right all along! Then my work was selected, out of hundreds of submissions, for a monthly solo show by the Toronto Public Library. I painted furiously and produced fifteen paintings in a month’s time.

Flying Yogi, Oil on Canvas, 20 x 24 inches
Note: I am very much into mysticism, this is inspired by the mystics of my home, the Siddhars, who can fly around. 

I came to Virginia in 2003 and became a member of the Fairfax Art League. My style was so different and I was conscious of it. But the members were warm and welcoming. I realize that I am constantly searching, understanding myself through my art and understanding my art through myself.

ShivaOil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches
Note: In my spiritual search, I am very much inspired and guided by Shiva. 

The figures have changed now, I feel a necessity to be abstract. That confidence with which I started has gone. I am now in search mode. I feel so deep now, that nothing can easily satisfy me. Which makes me wonder, what is the source of art? Does it come out of a search for peace? Or does it happen because we are peaceful? I am thinking, what started it was a search for peace. I am also thinking: what continues it is, is because I am peaceful, somewhat.

CozumelOil on Canvas36 x 36 inches
Note: In January, I had the opportunity to visit Cozumel. It started my exploration into abstraction. 

I thank Brenda for this wonderful opportunity to share about my art and I hope you enjoyed it.

This is week 13 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Padma’s story today. To see more of her work and connect with her, please visit the following links:

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