Heavenly Bodies’, an exclusive show of 4 of Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings, was recently held by Gallery G in association with The Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation. Apart from the fact that they come from the celebrated artist, what made these paintings even more special was the fact that they had been embellished by Olaf Van Cleef, belonging to the well-known Van Cleef jewellery family and a consultant at Cartier.
The event, a pop-up store of sorts, included limited edition trays, mousepads and keystands all crafted for the occasion to enhance the 4 masterpieces by Raja Ravi Varma, namely Laxmi, Saraswati, Ahalya and Hamsa Damayanthi. The pieces had been adorned by Olaf Van Cleef using swarovskis and other precious gems, with careful attention to detail, making it a visual delight.
Olaf’s deep-rooted connection with the country can be traced back to his mother who spent much time in India. Olaf himself first came here with her when he was 14 and kept returning. He now lives between Paris and Puducherry.
Most of his topics are Indian-inspired drawings that are watercolours highlighted by Chinese ink.
The paintings are in pastel colours and great attention is given to details. The themes of most of these paintings are Hindu gods and goddesses as well as scenes from Hindu mythology but now he has moved to Buddhist figures inspired by his first trip to Bhutan.
“I love India...the colours, the smell, the light in the sunset. I also love the personality of Indians and their courage. I love the importance they give to their family. I admire their kindness and the respect they have given me. I try to depict through my paintings how much I love them too,” said the accomplished man.
Some of the highlights in his career include 21 celebrated exhibitions in the past decade and a number of lectures across the globe.
His works reflect his love for India in general and Kolkata in particular. Regarding his connection with Indian gods and his art, he added, “It’s mostly my passion for jewellery that gives inspiration to paint the gods. This is where I can finally mix my art and precious stones, and then of course, I like Indian gods. They are all so beautiful and young.”