When happiness blooms for artist Mittu Gopalan, it does so in bright red. When the magnolias mesmerise, it is because their whiteness stands stark against a deep redness. And even when darkness falls, the redness doesn’t dissipate.
The vitality and excitement suggested by the colour red, were quite the recurring theme in Mittu Gopalan’s first solo art exhibition held recently.
Happiness in Bloom, When Darkness Falls and Mesmerising Magnolias are the names of some of the works included in the exhibition entitled Add Colour to Your Life.
It is a title that is apt, because as special guest Victor Dominello (Member for Ryde and Minister for Finance, Services and Property) pointed out at the opening, the rush of colour is one of the first things that grabs you in this exhibition.
Water is bluer than normal – and the leaves greener – in Mittu’s world. Even her vineyards are so filled with colour (see pic) that you have no doubt that the wine they produce is full-bodied!
A Sydney-based solicitor and hobby artist, Mittu Gopalan presented some 75 of her works at Brush Farm House in Eastwood. Ranging from oils and acrylic to water colours and resin, the body of work included a variety of subject matter – still life, landscape, some portraiture, even a smattering of abstract.
“Art has been enjoyment for me,” Mittu told Indian Link. “As a young child I spent hours painting, and won awards at school and uni. Moving to Australia as a young adult, work and family life came in the way of my art, even though I tried to keep it up as a leisure activity. In recent years, a hobby course at Macquarie Community College rekindled my passion, and well, here I am!”
The exhibition included the early pieces Mittu had made in India, as well as more recent ones. (They all went up for sale, alongside merchandise based on the art, in the form of bags and cushion covers, purses and stationery).
Each of Mittu’s pieces tells a story. Tear of an Angel is quite clearly about loss. “The idea was born as my close group of girlfriends all went our separate ways after finishing school.” Crossroads, believe it or not, is based on the life experiences of a client at Mittu’s legal practice, and Tribute to Rebecca took shape at the funeral of a close friend’s 20-year-old daughter.
The older pieces in Mittu’s collection are clearly defined with an Indian sensitivity depicting the ethos in which they were created. Fellow Keralite Raja Ravi Varma, one of India’s best-known modern painters, was a clear influence. More recent pieces include Australian themes (Gumnuts, Waratahs), and some highly detailed and vibrant imagery (For the Nocturnals, Dancing Peacock, Where is the Current Going).
There are tributes as well to the great masters of western painting, such as to Monet, quite unabashedly (A Tribute to Giverny came out of a trip there); to Cezanne in the many still lives, and to van Gogh more subtly, with the irises. There’s even an unreferenced Renoir, as the iconic Dance at Bougival takes on a new avatar as It Takes Two To Tango.
Mittu’s evolution as an artist is interesting to observe. Her early works (The Intrigued and The Tear of an Angel, for example) suggest more than depict, causing the viewer to linger somewhat. The newer more representational work is less subtle: Arrum Lillis in Spring, Birds of Paradise, Irises and Pears etc, all look at life up close and less passionately. The vision is simple, clear and focussed. And finally, with the abstract pieces, it is a tentative or experimental quality that communicates through the loudest.
“Clearly I was expressing myself differently in each of the phases,” Mittu explained. “As a young person I travelled a lot and explored landscapes (in the outer as well as inner worlds). As an adult with responsibilities, art was release, and I found comfort and happiness in my flowers! I actually wanted to be a florist, so I managed to fulfil that through my paintings. More recently, with my abstracts, you could say I’m exploring my spiritual side a bit more deeply.”
No wonder the gold makes a stronger appearance in the abstracts: as a colour it is associated with spiritual illumination, a connection to the divine, even divinity itself.
“I do see the world through colour,” Mittu revealed. “The colours that you wear or choose to keep around you, speak a lot about the person you are. In my own work as a solicitor I find that it helps me gauge the person I’m dealing with.”
It is almost as if the quiet observer has come into her own – Mittu’s done with observing; now she wants to make a statement. She’ll do it with her bold strokes of colour on the canvas, just as much as with her steady gaze and her vibrant pink sari.