True womanliness is regarded in our country as the saintliness of love. It is not merely praised there, but literally worshipped; and she who is gifted with it is called Devi, as one revealing in herself Woman, the Divine.
– Rabindranath Tagore in gifting the theme of Devi to writer Prabhat Kumar Mukherjee.
Kanchan Chander has undoubtedly come of age. Her chosen path has been a constantly evolving one. Yet the recurring leitmotif of the ‘body’ has been constant in Kanchan’s visual vocabulary. At home in the world, Kanchan is very much embedded in the present. She is young, vibrant and articulate. Driven with energy Kanchan is reclaiming the space of the creative feminine.
It was the tempestuously beautiful Amrita Shergill who, also, because of her privileged social position became the poster girl for women artists. And in the India present women as artists command their respective geographies. Kanchan too has carved her own niche. Kanchan like many artists is very much a part of what is happening in the interdisciplinary practice of the artistic productions. A painter, printmaker, sculptor, lecturer, Kanchan is very much the artist as defined in the canonical text, the ‘Natyashastra’.
Written in the sixth century AD at the height of the Golden Age of Indian Art, the ‘Natyashashtra’ is one of the most inventive and seminal of all texts thus raising it to an iconic canon. Often celebrated as the fifth Veda, the ‘Natyashastra’ is a compendium of the understanding of Indian aesthetics. The ‘rasa’ theory, which is introduced in the ‘Natyashastra’ for the understanding of traditional Indian performing arts, also spills over into the visual arts. For, in the ‘Natyashastra’ the clear interdependence of the plastic and performing arts is well established. A dancer could be a poet, a poet could be a sculptor, a sculptor could also be musician.
There were no hard and fast rules limiting an artist. It is the same trajectory which is being tracked by Kanchan. Her latest exhibition consisting of a body of works are the portrayal of the versatility of the artist herself. Taking off from her familiar torsos painted in vibrant colours, Kanchan has moved to the representation of the iconic Frida Kahlo.
Why the icon of yester year Frida Kahlo:
Amrita Shergill and Frida Kahlo have been two women artists that have always been deeply admired from the past for many years in Kanchan’s life. Both have had strong reflections of autobiographies, have had ups & downs. Though Frida has gone through physical pain – Kanchan has had a life full of tragedies, ups & downs. When she paints autobiographical, her life becomes an open book with the strong portrayal of the self. Frida belonged to an era of the traditional Mexican culture, which was quite similar to our Indian culture, when it was tough for women to express themselves in a male dominated world. In the same way, Kanchan started working in the early eighties when not many women artists were there – the trend had just started. Frida and Amrita’s powerful self-image and ideologies have always been engulfed into Kanchan’s life.
Kanchan returns time and again to paint and repaint the torsos. This time she has taken direct references from classical Indian Temple Sculptures. Kanchan then transforms the classical forms into contemporary images with her colour palette, which is mercurial and vibrant. She applies layers of paints one over the other bringing in complex textures. Gold leaf is a material which Kanchan favours.
Her mixed media works are printed out of photographs that are personally captured by her in her travels to different parts of the world, sometimes to highlight the decorative in her work or to enhance the emotive. By mounting it on a thicker board, she uses acrylic, sometimes stickers, feathers or paper cutting depending on the mood and the shape of visual representation in the artwork.
Her etchings meanwhile are all hand made with no photo-exposures. In the last one year, Kanchan experimented with Stainless Steel and moved into the realm of sculpture which she had touched in 1994 while working with Indian craftsmen. In 2008, while creating a special body of works for the Stainless Gallery, Kanchan felt unusually drawn to the medium.
Materials have always been a fascination for Kanchan – from using sequins to laces, from wood to metal, paper to canvas. Kanchan gets into the skin of the material itself and yet it is not only the material but the end result i.e. the form which ultimately becomes her signature.
Kanchan’s journey is a continuing one – like her layered work, she continues to investigate, to interrogate her inner and outer worlds. The landscape of her existence is dotted with experimentations and adventures with a multitude of mediums. The restlessness of finding her language is history and today Kanchan is at peace in the ocean of stillness and calm.
“Profound thought was the pillow of her couch,
Vision was the unguent for her eyes.
Her wealth was the earth and Heaven”
– Rig Veda. 10.85.7