Childhood memories of climbing trees and encountering birds along the way are often fresh in the minds of those who grew up surrounded by such riches of nature. And for Delhi-based artist Rupa Samaria, such nostalgia became part of her inspiration to paint birds as a full-time profession.
Currently, around 50 of his recent avian artworks are on display at the exhibition titled A Bird Call. And the conservationist and ornithologist has dedicated a section to Delhi’s state bird, i.e. the house sparrow, which is a declining species. Hoping to hear the resonant chirps of this species once again in the metropolis, Samaria says, “I grew up in a house with house sparrows. They are now coming back to Delhi, but it’s not like before (before). It is the state bird of Delhi, and we still don’t see them in our homes anymore. This is due to many reasons including pollution and matchbox style buildings. It is not impossible to recover them. Planting native trees and artificial nests is one way to try to do this.
Realistic acrylic paintings of 40 species of birds, including the sparrow, owl, kingfisher, apostle and peacock, among others – mostly created during the pandemic – appeal to viewers of this show. A tactile installation of a house sparrow is also part of the show and activates by touch, launching into the chirping of a chidiya. A terracotta sculpture of an owl stands out. And for flora lovers, there is also an exhibition of paintings of ash prinia on a champa, strawberry finch on a magnolia and Asian koel on a cotton silk tree.
Samaria, who quit her regular job at a city school to paint birdscapes full-time, shares, “Before I paint a bird, I research its habitat and character. I love the brilliant colors of the bird’s plumage; it fascinates me because I am first an artist and then a conversationalist…”
“This show was supposed to take place exactly two years ago, in mid-March 2020, when the first Covid confinement forced us to cancel it”, recalls the artist, adding: “To deal with the vagaries of the pandemic, I’m painting a mural of a budgie on my patio. I’m staying in Green Park, near Deer Park, and there are a lot of birds around. There were a lot of budgies visiting my patio, and I went crazy with it. the colors of the birds, during the pandemic. Painting at that time gave me a lot of confidence.
“During the pandemic, people started talking a lot more about nature and birds than before. People got closer to nature and the birds started coming to us in the metropolises. You don’t want another pandemic for this proximity, do you? So we should be doing things that make the birds stay,” believes Samaria, who seeks to amplify the silent cry of birds for help, through her works. She also makes a visual commentary on the practice of owl sacrifice during Diwali.
Catch it live
What: a bird’s cry
Where: Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road
Until: March 23
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Nearest metro station: Jorbagh on the yellow line and JLN Stadium on the purple line
Author tweets @siddhijainn
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