"Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is a painting that speaks." - Plutarch.
Delhi-based artist, Richa Navani (41) has taken up the difficult task of bringing out the inner contradictions of the human mind using a language of geometric patterns and symbols. To accomplish this task, she uses, quite dexterously, a huge variety of mediums and techniques.
Looking more into Navani’s artwork, one can see that she addresses issues such as gender politics, existential crisis and sexuality. One peculiar feature that often finds a place in Navani's art is the honeycomb pattern. Whether in sculptures or paintings, honeycomb’s geometry is present either as a backdrop or in the forefront of her paintings. The repeated and never-ending pattern of honeycomb has fascinated Navani and its influence can be seen in her artwork.
Richa Navani, a resident of Sector 6, Dwarka, while talking about her fascination for beehives says, "The beehive pattern speaks of life to me. It is expressive of the sensuality of a phallus and female torso. The rawness of a beehive produces a strong effective response."
Every artist strives to talk through their art. In the case of Richa, she says, “My installations, paintings, drawings, sculptures and videos address gender politics, sexuality, and ecology. Geometrical abstract symbols in my work are observations of surrounding life, buildings, terraces, farms, rivers, architecture, sacred rituals, everything and anything that may direct a symbol in my artwork.”
An enduring leitmotif, throughout her oeuvre across media, is the naturally-geometric beehive. Going on to explain the process and her reason for using bees as inspiration, she adds, "I collect beehives, then I draw and sculpt them in various materials until I find any such idea that I enjoy developing further.”
While growing up Richa was more interested in sports and art was a relatively later calling. Says she, “I was a sports person, For me, peace was just playing around and having fun with that, never thought I would pursue Art.”
She continues, “There was a drawing I made in some art test we had in school. When my art teacher saw it she told me that I should pursue art and painting. She saw something of an artist in me. I started drawing and painting more and more and soon started enjoying it. That’s how my journey into art started.”
She says, “Right at the beginning my art was largely figurative but slowly I started to bring geometry into it and it continues in my artwork.”
Richa became interested in geometric patterns and symbols as a child, as she watched Hindu priests create symbols to be used in the religious rituals that were regularly performed at her home. Later she studied the meanings and relevance of these geometric symbols in life. Soon they became the basic building blocks of her artistic expression.
In time her art developed in different aspects and techniques. She says, “I don’t bound myself in one specific thing. I just do whatever suits the time. An artist needs freedom to express art.” Today Richa expresses art through a variety of mediums and techniques: tin, bronze, paper-mâché, fibre, pearls, etchings, digital prints, acrylic and majorly watercolours.
In between talking, she showed us one particularly beautiful cloud series. She explained, “The clouds are always travelling in spaces, finding new places and architectural buildings. As a travelling cloud that sees all these places I too am interested in knowing about the history of these architectural structures. All such structures have histories, some of them have intriguing, violent histories too. As an artist, I am interested in all that.” Recently she did works that showed clouds juxtapositioned with lion heads from pillars of Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu. In another such cloud series work, she used Somnath temple and in yet another work she used an old building from France with a dark and violent colonial past.”
The Covid related lockdown was a difficult period for her like many other creative people. Says Richa, “When I was living under lockdown, initially, I felt an artist can function very well within closed quarters and in isolation. But in time I realised that social interaction and going outdoors is essential for an artist too. The lockdown did affect me and my art. But I survived it.” She continued to create art during the lockdown period too, doing a series titled Corona Talisman by artist Richa.
Nowadays, she is doing a ‘White series’. This is a series influenced by geometric forms of traditional mandalas, yantras and mantras. Says she, “In their original forms, be it in Hinduism or Buddhism, they all represent a deity. But I create such yantras for myself. The yantras or mandalas I create do not represent a deity but they represent the idea that germinates in me at that particular moment when I am creating them and the time and space I am at that particular time.” She creates her own forms at that time, according to how and what she feels deep inside at that moment. Richa uses a different technique called, “perforation on papers,” to create these forms and patterns.
Navani holds a PhD in fine arts from Delhi University. She did her BFA and MFA from Jamia Millia Islamia University, where she won a gold medal in MFA (painting). In 2012 she got a travel grant for France from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, besides three residencies on invitation from various French institutions.
-She was awarded, in 2011 84th All India Art Exhibition Award in (Sculpture Section), 2009.
-Received 80th & 81st Annual All India Art Exhibition Award in (Painting Section).
-2003, awarded Gold Medal in M.F.A. Painting by Jamia Millia Islamia University.
-1999-2002 Meritorious Scholarship Awarded by Jamia Millia Islamia University.
-Her solo exhibition was in 2019 ‘Inhabited Geometries’ organised by Alliance Française de Delhi.
2017 ‘Grammatology of symbols’ Centre D’Arts Citadines, Auroville, India
-Group exhibition 2020 ‘Changing narratives’ IGNCA, Delhi.
-2019 ‘India my Influence-II’ Academy of Fine arts and Literature, Delhi.
-2018 ‘The folk glory’ Hungarian information and cultural centre, Delhi
-2018 ‘India my Influence-I’ Academy of Fine arts and Literature, Delhi.
Richa Navani sends out a powerful message on the inherent strength and resilience of humans through her exploration of the simple leitmotif of a beehive.
Do see her painting: https://richanavani.com