Form, colour and texture hold primacy in the works of Indian artist Shobha Broota, whose repertoire witnessed a shift from early portraitures and figuratives to pure abstractions. At a recent group exhibition, titled ‘Shadow Lines: Experiments with Light, Line and Liminality’, the artist showed a large collection of knotted wool and thread on the canvas. Known for her sustained engagement with geometric forms, abstract imagery and relief work, the canvases at the Shrine Empire Gallery are a form of meditation, embedded with metaphysical connotations.

Here are excerpts from an email interview with the artist:

Shobha Broota

What is the role of abstraction and the form of line in essaying themes that concern you, as an artist?

My art is theme-less. I don’t pre-conceive my paintings, neither the rhythm nor the form. It is a spontaneous and intuitive process of expression. What appears as lines are in fact dots. I have been using the technique of knitting in my practice for many years now. The process has an inherent rhythm which has transferred into my painting practice. It’s almost like chanting where your fingers move through beads. A similar meditative effect is created through rhythmically painting these dots.

While the forms in the works at Shrine Gallery are lines, earlier they were circles and in the future they could be any other form or no form. 

Shobha Broota | Wool on thread | Shrine Empire Gallery

Shobha Broota | Wool on thread | Shrine Empire Gallery

What has been the approach in your art, especially with respect to your training in Hindustani classical music?

There is an inherent synchronicity in all creative forms of expression. In the same vein, my training in Hindustani classical music and fine art consciously or unconsciously have continued to complement each other.

With respect to the approach, I would explain the dot in the centre of my painting, the one I begin the work with, as a sort of pitch/scale of a raga. Just as this pitch is explored with swaras or notes in music, colours are used to explore the same in painting. Rhythm and swaras are the bedrock of music; colour and form are the backbone of painting. The process of artistic improvisation using these key tools then leads to the formation of lines through a rhythmic process. The different lines then coincide with each other forming different compositions which while in music are called ragas, in fine art are referred to as paintings. 

With respect to the feelings evoked, a single dot on a plain canvas has the potential to become the Nadabrahma, a channel to connect to the universal consciousness through the individual consciousness. Just as different types of sounds have varying vibrations, each evoking a different energy and feeling, similarly, each colour has a vibration of its own. The process of syncing with this vibration can connect us within and without.  

Shobha Broota | Wool on thread | Shrine Empire Gallery

Shobha Broota | Wool on thread | Shrine Empire Gallery

What is your view of abstract art in India?

In this era, artists who have undergone arts education or any system of institutionalised study of art have usually turned towards abstraction through a process of learning and then un-learning later. However, leaving aside our conditioning, our roots are and have been abstract. The traditions, rituals and practices of India had a lot of buried symbolism. However, there were many forms, the symbolism or meaning of which were not understood till many years later. It is no surprise that many artists who do not come from a background of institutionalised arts study are directly painting in abstract without having undergone the journey of learning and unlearning the real.

The question that needs to be revisited in the Indian arts scene, which unfortunately still believes in the direction of arts to flow from realism towards abstraction, is why it needs to be so? In a world where arts itself is crossing dimensions and increasingly becoming multi-disciplinary, the change in the real inevitably represents a change in the abstract. It is time our mindsets changed too. 

Shobha Broota | Wool on thread | Shrine Empire Gallery

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