Far from the madding crowd, nestled in the bushes of Blue Mountains are several thousand pagodas. Each a different size, form and shape, these pagodas are part of Australia’s stunning landscape.
Sydney artist Gauri Torgalkar has explored beyond the popular pagoda formation – Three Sisters, and brought to life the magnificent structures hidden deep in her artwork.
Following a successful exhibition entitled Strange Familiar, the artist’s stunning new presentation is called Pagoda Country. Her quest for renewed inspiration found her at the heart of the Blue Mountains. Gauri’s self-funded art residency in the region resulted in the new collection.
“During my stay at BigCi Residency, I was introduced to the pagoda rock formations in the Gardens of Stone National Park and Wollemi National Park,” shares the artist.
An architect by profession, many of her drawings and paintings depict urban spaces. “This residency opened a window of opportunity to explore the beauty of Australian bushland and share it with the world via my art,” she adds.
This exhibition held at Art Est. Art School & Gallery too has been instrumental in this collection. “In 2015, I won a competition held by the school, which provided this invaluable opportunity to exhibit my collection at their gallery,” she reveals.
Gauri’s artwork is a fitting tribute to the pagoda formations that have stood the test of time. It is also strangely reminiscent of the gopurams of southern Indian temples and the many temples of South East Asia, which again beautifully amalgamates with the Pagoda Country theme.
Each of the 28 drawings and paintings in exhibit showcase the many facets of the pagodas in all their glory.
The artist has experimented with different placements of the rock formations to create a visual delight. The collection of paintings and drawings ranges from abstract to muted to vivid and colourful, each rivetingly exquisite in its own way. The colour scheme may appear random but upon careful observation, it is apparent that she has played around with the colours that occur naturally in the pagodas adding her own interpretation to represent the beauty of it.
Another apparent aspect of this collection is the incorporation of Gauri’s fascination for Indian fabrics.
“I’ve used a lot of dry brush strokes to imitate the ikat design,” she mentions.
The vertical and horizontal strokes in the artist’s paintings resemble weaves that appear in Indian handloom fabrics. “I love the uniqueness and the little imperfections in the handloomed fabrics, and I’ve tried to incorporate that technique here,” shares Gauri.
One drawing titled ‘Anatomy of a Pagoda’ is a reflection of her love for uniqueness; it depicts the varied shapes the pagoda is formed in, as opposed to the common imagery we have of the structure.
Gauri has made use of acrylic, oil pastels, liquid graphite, oils and charcoal mediums to showcase the enchanting pagodas. At the residency, she had the opportunity to explore the beauty of the bushlands and walk among the gigantic pagoda formations. It is during this time that she also learnt that the imposing natural structures are in grave danger.
“These rocks have taken several million years to form but are sadly being damaged by illegal trail biking and local mining activities. It is in dire need of conservation,” she shares passionately.
‘Fragile Giants’ seems as an apt tile for another series of paintings, where the attention is drawn to the delicate flutes in the giant structures that are chipping away due to human intervention. “Very little is being spoken about these pagodas, and even less about the damage being caused to it,” muses the artist.
“I hope that through my art, I can raise awareness for these beautiful structures,” she concludes.
From the bushlands to the brushstrokes, this is pagoda perfect.