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Sunday August 18, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday August 18, 2013 MYT 8:08:27 AM
by victoria brown
Pop of colour: One of Lekhasri Samantsinghar’s favourite paintings in her exhibition is the eponymous Memories Of The Other Earth. — Photos by BRIAN MOH/The Star
She creates works by having a ‘dialogue’ with her canvas, and she wants you to ‘talk’ to her paintings too.
THE sea of colours is the first thing that strikes you when you enter Sutra Gallery’s main hall exhibiting Lekhasri Samantsinghar’s series of 20 paintings entitled Memories Of The Other Earth.
“I love working with colours, I think that’s the main reason why I started painting in the first place,” says Lekhasri.
She has always had a passion for art, being drawn to “the sensuality of paint, its smell, its texture and colour”, all of which inspires her.
“But I grew up with parents who believed a creative person would not be able to sustain herself, that is why I ended up having a science education,” the Indian artists explains at an interview when she was in Kuala Lumpur recently.
Lekhasri decided to study Zoology, and moved on to win gold medals for excelling in her Bachelor and Master of Science.
But husband Bijay Mohanty, knowing her passion for art, helped her realise the creative energy in her and encouraged her to pursue her passion.
She took up a one-year course on painting while she was on her post-doctoral leave, saying that she “grabbed the opportunity with both hands and never looked back”.
Since then, the 42-year-old has become one of the most dynamic and cutting-edge woman painters in Odisha, India.
On top of being a rising artist, Lekhasri is also a Zoology professor at Ravenshaw University in Odisha, and is raising two daughters with her husband.
When asked how she juggles her family, teaching career and painting, Lekhasri says, “When you have a real passion, you make time for it. Everyone has 24 hours in a day, but when you love something, you simply make time for it.
“People do see influences of my biology training in my pieces,” she adds.
Homage To Klee
Memories Of The Other Earth is Lekhasri’s third solo exhibition and her very first exhibition in Malaysia. According to the artist, the whole series took her over two years to complete and she describes her work as “philosophical bordering onto the spiritual”.
“I believe in the immortality of the soul, my works are like a remembrance of a past life, past thoughts, past wishes and desires. It’s something that’s in the subconscious, something that is there but yet not there.
“It’s like when you wake up from a dream and you’re not sure whether it was a dream or it really happened because sometimes it feels so real,” she adds.
Lekhasri identifies strongly with her Oriya identity and has cites Oriya philosophy as an influence on her works. (Oriya is an ethnic identity in India with its own culture and language.)
She also expresses a strong sense of déjà vu while working on her paintings: “Sometimes, I feel like I’ve felt this before or I’ve done this before, but I’m not exactly sure what it is. The shapes and ideas keep recurring, and I sometimes have to make a conscious effort not to repeat them,” she reveals.
“But it’s difficult because there are certain colours, certain textures and certain shapes that you like so much that you end up doing that,” she adds.
When asked which painting in her series is her favourite, she replies that she particularly likes the title piece as well as Homage To Klee.
“Memories Of The Other Earth has a really strong feeling of other-worldliness to it. It is as if I belong to a different planet and this is that planet,” she muses during a tour of her works.
Her other favourite is a homage to one of her favourite artists, Paul Klee, who she describes as “the father of modern art”.
“I like Homage To Klee because if you watch it from a distance, the figures seem to float off the surface of the canvas.
“This piece is inspired by Klee, it is, literally, a homage to him. In Hindu philosophy, whichever god you eulogise, you give your best offering to them, so it’s my best work that I’m giving to him,” she adds.
Lekhasri is not about to slow down when it comes to painting because the best moment is when she is creating her paintings: “I’m in a hyper-excited state when I paint. It’s like my painting is more of a dialogue with the canvas, it’s not like I’m thinking of a particular thing then putting it on the canvas.
“I have a vague idea of what I want the final picture to look like but sometimes that’s not what the final picture turns out to be. But I like it all the same; whatever that comes out in the end is to my satisfaction.
“But after the painting is done, it is like an anti-climax for me and it’s time for the viewers to take over,” says Lekhasri.
If you plan on visiting the exhibition, the artists has a recommendation: “I want them (viewers) to spend some time with my work. I believe that my paintings will speak to them and they will speak to my paintings and they will be part of the dialogue that I have shared with the canvas when I created it,” says Lekhasri.
Memories Of The Other Earth by Lekhasri Samantsinghar is on at the Sutra Gallery (No. 12, Persiaran Titiwangsa 3, Kuala Lumpur) until Sept 5. The gallery is open to the public from 9.30am to 6pm every weekday; entry is free. For enquiries, call 03-4021 1092, e-mail email@example.com, or go to
For a sneak peak at the artist’s works, visit The Star Online (thestar.com.my).
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