Exploring the beauty of our ethnicity: Namrata Kumar

Whether it is her collection “Women of Ceylon” or “The Rani Series”, Namrata Kumar’s work instantly catches your eye.

Her opulently dressed women in their maang-tikkas and strings of pearl, seem alive and assertive; as if they are going to pop out of the painting and ask you for directions to the local fair.

Leaving no details out, Kumar adorns them in their local styles of jewelry: gold chokers, nose rings with pearls dangling from their ends, golden trinkets that grace their midnight hair.

In a painting titled “Madras” – five women seated together look directly into our eyes. One can sense a familiarity between them (hands delicately placed on the other’s shoulders, holding the back of someone’s chair.)
It is a touching painting that illustrates a feminine bond in an understated fashion.
It does not scream it’s theme at you but rather whispers, “these are entwined tree trunks that refuse to crack”

In a world that continues to idolize cream skin, now more than ever, we need artists who admire skin that is umber, nutmeg, and cocoa in its coloration. Kumar celebrates our ethnicity. She celebrates our woven culture- the burgundy silk drapes, the cyan ghunghats, the fuschia chunnis, plum-colored blouses, the juniper of someone’s saree. Kumar’s paintings are an explosion of color- yet color that is to the point.
It is ornate but never ostentatious. The fluid brushstrokes of the paintings, give them a sense of movement- a recognizable trait of all Impressionist art.

There is a certain tenacity to her women. An aura of resilience and vigor surrounds them all. It is in moments like these that the artist’s talent shines through- How is it that through a seemingly simple portrait, Kumar is able to make us feel for these women; at the same time also managing to reveal a little bit of their character?
It is the detailing. The minute observations the artist makes about human behavior that she later integrates into their work.

Linear eyebrows and a straight lip points to a disinterest.
A face slightly bent down shows vulnerability.
Avoiding eye contact is a trait of a guarded person.
A faint smile shows an eagerness to open up.
Hands placed in one’s lap, the elbows awkwardly risen in the air show discomfort in being documented.
Kumar’s paintings are laced with subtle cues waiting to be picked up on. Every single one of her paintings, reveals character.

The focal point of the paintings are the women- the background is left blank on purpose. Kumar is very clear about what she wants us to ruminate on. A scant tree, a saturated sky or a jade river would distract us. When the background is plain, the subject is pushed forward, almost giving it a new dimension.

“Minimal construction for maximum impact” seems to be Kumar’s motto… and it’s working.

All paintings by Namrata Kumar.
Text by Tanmayee Thakur.

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