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Meaning in the mundane

The 88-year-old Pune-based artist Nisreen Moochhala is holding her first solo exhibition in Bengaluru. Here is a preview
Last Updated : 28 January 2023, 20:06 IST
Last Updated : 28 January 2023, 20:06 IST

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A few works by Nisreen
A few works by Nisreen
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Nisreen Moochhala
Nisreen Moochhala

“Age is just a number,” says 88-year-old Pune-based artist Nisreen Moochhala. “I do not feel intimidated by it.”

By all accounts, Moochhala has had an interesting journey in art. Born in 1935, and schooled in Surat, Moochhala went on to complete her Diploma in Painting from the Sir J J School of Arts, Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1957. Such was her confidence in her own competence and abilities that she insisted on and secured (after a test) direct admission into the second year of the diploma course.

She also completed her postgraduate study in Mural Decoration at the J J School. Fondly recalling her association with the institution, Moochhala feels that her academic drill helped in honing up her skills in portraiture, still life, anatomy studies, design and composition.

Following her marriage in 1958, she moved to Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1959 to embrace the rigours and routine of domesticity and raising children.

Her artistic flame was, however, kept kindled thanks to the goading of her seniors from the J J School who were also in Calcutta. They included Toofan Rafai, Jeram Patel, Manu Parekh, and Madhvi Parekh, who became big names later.

Moochhala recalls that there have been different phases in her, including one where she just made pencil drawings. “I have worked with different mediums and genres, each having its special flavour and significance.

Some of my works are very small in size, as small as a visiting card or a postcard. But that does not reduce its significance or visual content.”

One incident she distinctly remembers is a visit to her maid’s house in Calcutta. “It was so tiny in size but still accommodated several people, their earthly belongings besides their dreams and desires.” This incident set her thinking and also inspired her to make ‘box paintings’ — seeing life in a box, as it were.

Moochhala acknowledges that gaps in her artistic journey did affect her art but does not rue the past.

In fact, she says that her solo exhibition in 2006 at Tao Gallery in Mumbai gave a much-needed impetus to work with renewed vigour. Since then she has exhibited in several shows in different cities and venues.

Moochhala’s first solo exhibition in Bengaluru ‘Life Around us: Celebrating Things Ordinary’ opened yesterday. It presents a selection of her paintings showing everyday objects, events and incidents, which are captured with a sense of playfulness, understanding and a touch of humour. Playing children, elders relaxing on park benches, exercising young men, dogs on a leash, whining cats, flying kites, hanging clothes, wayside shops, doors and indoors of middle-class homes… they all resonate in colourful images held together in tight compositions.

“I look at my surroundings. I observe things and happenings around me. They provide a real source of inspiration for my work. But I do not just reproduce them. I interpret them and give life by tunnelling into their hidden stories and adding my own memories, life experiences, and even fancies. So my work is a combination of reality and fantasy in equal measure.”

‘Life Around us: celebrating things ordinary’ concludes on February 3 at Gallery Time and Space, Bengaluru.

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Published 28 January 2023, 19:44 IST

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