“In a painting, aim first at the general concept of rhythmic vitality, and then the filling in of actual forms. Then weigh and consider. But if one has not the clear idea of the general developing of movements and starts to think about the laborious details, one will have lost the rhythmic vitality already.”

(Han Chuo of the Sung Dynasty (11th -12th century A.D.)

I endeavour to reveal the process of my creativity through my paintings and to discuss the event of creating a painting through my work. I am interested in the physical and material aspect of art intervening with the ‘illusionary’ aspect of an image created on the two-dimensional surface. To conceptually combine and dissect the object(process) – subject(image) dichotomy with an idea that not only brings out my ‘art-creating’ process but also reflects the uniqueness of the concept being implanted on the canvas. 

I have selected the idea of a ‘Camouflage’ as a subject of my paintings. Combining the ingenuity of the concept through daubs of paint, I seek to explore the constant rhythm in nature to bond both the notion of a camouflage and the process of my painting. Through this concept I have sought to explore my painting process and blend it with themes in nature that motivate me. 

Camouflage, a phenomenon discovered in nature, can be described as the art of concealment practiced by both predators and prey. The connotation of the word ‘camouflage’ is similar in my paintings. A painting occupies fields of motionless colour which creates a vision or an illusion. While a canvas may spatially limit these visions, they are let free by the artist’s imagination and ability to creatively disguise. Likewise, a camouflage refers to deception through the disguise of form and colour. In a painting, the background, middle ground, and foreground, in its actual or tactile sense, are not really there. The real or tangible appearance is an effusive gush of varied paints on the flat white surface of the canvas creating ‘illusions of space and form’. Such observations were similar to the fundamental queries on the dimensions of fine art raised in the early 20th century. These initiated various avant-garde movements that restructured and deconstructed the very nature of paintings, by exposing multi-dimensional forms on a single plane. My attempt, while in a similar vein, is slightly different. 

I seek to reposition lines and colours to the foreground by exposing the different layers that surface on a painting; these layers usually work to create illusions of perspective and dimensions. The various layers created on the flat surface are partially covered revealing the underlying layers. Thus, the opacity in a painting, which creates illusions of space and perspective, is now revealed. In this process, I felt it suitable to make the notion of camouflage as the theme of my works – to reiterate the ‘paradox’ of the idea of camouflage in a painting. 

There is a lesser-known but equally inspirational form of camouflage which does not rely on the concealment of the presence of an object, but instead on masking the fact that it is moving. Called ‘Motion Camouflage’, this dynamic technique was also discovered in nature. Hoverflies and dragonflies use this strategy to surreptitiously move towards their prey without being detected. They appear static while, in fact, they are in motion. As a painting is, in a literal sense, a motionless surface manifesting the artist’s imagination, I have taken the artistic liberty to create the contrary. A field of sunflowers lined up in symmetry, giving the impression that the sunflowers at the other end are in symmetrical movement, while in reality they are motionless and calm… 

As noted above, the imagery in my work is primarily inspired by nature. At this stage I am working on the physical aspect of art and without stressing on any particular idiom. I am presently working on the two – dimensional form, as in ‘painting on canvas’. 

I seek to develop a resonance with the activity of art making. By giving importance to the process of creating the work… making it the creation itself. 

Nirali Lal