Portraits of trees by Ompal Sansanwal

Artwork by Ompal Sansanwal on display at the Jiva exhibition, Bikaner House, Delhi | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Anticipation is high as artist Ompal Sansanwal prepares for the launch of his show ‘Jiva’ at Bikaner House this Saturday evening. For over a decade and a half, Sansanwal has meticulously crafted 60 artworks that celebrate the enchanting qualities of trees.

Sansanwal recollects his childhood amid the lush greenery of Katwaria Sarai, Delhi, in the 1970s. He shares fond memories of his mother accompanying him on daily strolls, during which they would rest beneath a grand Banyan tree, the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata unfolding through her storytelling. Little did he know, the splendor of nature was quietly nurturing his artistic soul.

After earning his degree from the Delhi College of Art, Sansanwal’s solo exhibitions graced the Museum Gallery in Mumbai and iconic spaces in Delhi, with group exhibitions extending to London and Yugoslavia. Graced with the 2022 National Award, he proclaims that ‘Jiva’ stands out as an especially entrancing showcase since his hiatus from solo exhibitions in 2009.

At the age of 60, he returns with a collection of 60 striking paintings using acrylic, pen, and ink. These pieces showcase the detailed cross-hatching technique, a nod to Renaissance artists, and marry classical Asian influences with modern Western art styles.

Uma Nair, the curator, speaks to the profound impact of Ompal’s art, stating that visitors will depart with varied, deep-seated impressions. An accompanying coffee table book, Meditations on Trees, further encapsulates the art and will be presented by the distinguished conservation architect Ratish Nanda, CEO of Aga Khan Trust for Culture. The book is the result of a collaboration between Aleph, Black Cube Art Gallery, and Namtech Art Foundation.

Honoring the Planet

Ompal Sansanwal's vivid tree-themed paintings at the Jiva exhibition in Bikaner House, Delhi

Ompal Sansanwal’s vivid tree-themed paintings at the Jiva exhibition in Bikaner House, Delhi | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The exhibition resonates with an ecological consciousness, especially poignant during April’s Earth Month celebrations, says Nair. Sansanwal, looking deeply at trees, envisages connections to the human form, weaving tales of intertwined roots and dense canopies with his distinctive pattern work.

Sansanwal’s art creatively combines earthen tones and vivid colors, centering the tree as a compelling figure that evokes both deep reflection and vivid imagery.

A glimpse into Ompal Sansanwal's artistic interpretation of trees at the Jiva exhibition in Bikaner House, Delhi

A glimpse into Ompal Sansanwal’s artistic interpretation of trees at the Jiva exhibition in Bikaner House, Delhi | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

One of his standout pieces is a portrait of the revered poet Tagore, depicted as a towering tree continuing to influence through his works—a portrait characterized by emotional depth and intense monochromatic hues. These creations, each taking months to complete, are Sansanwal’s artistic manifestations of personal memories and broader life metaphors.

In the largest piece, an 8×4 foot panel, Sansanwal immortalizes his childhood recollections of a wooded landscape, symbolizing life itself. The gap spaces in nature become the canvas for illustrating spiritual and mythological narratives.

Stories of the intimate relationship humans share with nature are painted through Sansanwal’s lens, morphing trees into historical scenes – from Krishna shielding the populace beneath Govardhan Hill to the solemn occasion of Christ’s Last Supper, alongside depictions of Shiva and Parvati’s marriage and the epic battle of Kurukshetra.

Exploring the spiritual aura in Ompal Sansanwal's tree paintings at the Jiva exhibition in Bikaner House, Delhi

Exploring the spiritual aura in Ompal Sansanwal’s tree paintings at the Jiva exhibition in Bikaner House, Delhi | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Nair views Ompal as a seeker of trees that resonate with his own sensibility and sensitivity, allowing viewers to experience a profound spiritual presence within his works. For Ompal, these trees emerge in his art as symbols of life’s very cradle.

The ‘Jiva’ exhibition will be open to the public until May 3, at the Main Art Gallery, Bikaner House (near India Gate) from 11 am to 7 pm.

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