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“The sun shone in between, and all the little white flowers sparkled. … I went on painting at the risk and peril of seeing the whole show on the ground at any moment -- it's a white effect with a good deal of yellow in it, and blue and lilac, the sky white and blue.”
Letter to Theo van Gogh, c.11 April 1888 by Vincent Van Gogh
The intensity, poetics and singularity of joy that Van Gogh brought to the art of painting flowers remains unrivalled in the annals of art history. In terms of adjusted prices Van Gogh remains the highest priced artist for his paintings of flowers. His ‘Irises’ were priced at more than $100 million (adjusted) and his ‘Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers’ for more than $ 75 million (adjusted).
Before Van Gogh flower painting was a part of Still Life painting tradition. But he changed it all. A man who painted seriously only for two years of his life changed the way we look at flowers and sunflowers specially.
Of other artists who loved to paint flowers the name of American Georgia O’Keeffe comes at the top. Matisse painted flowers largely as part art decorativ style. His flowers carry the flat two dimensionality but are saturated with pure colours as per Fauvist tradition.
True to his Pop Art style Andy Warhol painted flowers as silk screen portfolios of flat colour surfaces reminding about the unreality of ‘representation’.
Artist friend Baljit S. Chadha has a lasting honeymoon with flowers in his artistic expression. He paints some times with frugality of a Zen master. I can understand that as he had his early training in painting in Japan where he lived and studied as a teenager and had the benefit of the tutelage of great Japanese masters. But his present series on flowers nonplussed me with wonder and joy. He has in the present works a new dimension and a new personality of flowers that I have not seen before. This is because he has distilled the expression from his inner joy and happiness that is the essence of flowers per se and not from their forms.
His flowers have a nearly expressionistic, abstract persona. He uses a watercolour like free flow of colour and tonalities to invest his work with a sensual poetry. His works are acrylic on paper and therefore amenable to idiosyncratic overflows that lends a fresh charm to his oeuvre.
Another landmark quality of Baljit’s new works is that they are rendered in fiery shiny glazes. As we know glazes are traditionally done in oil paint medium. But Baljit has worked them with acrylic colour and without the use of pure impasto. The colours diluted with water float and embrace each other and still have lustrous intensity.
Baljit Chadha has created a fresh stylistic edifice and his creative expression jumps from the visible-familiar to spiritually felt flowers in a divine Eden.
Viktor Vijay Kumar
January 16th, 2010
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