'EXISTENCE' is Ruma Choudhury's contribution to the Group Visual Arts Project 'RACONTEURS', which ended June 3rd, 2018, at the A.M. Studio in Kolkata, India. Here she addresses her close connection with Mother Nature and its importance to the well-being of society, who more often than not disregards and abuses it.
I come from Dubrajpur, a small village in Birbhum. Dubrajpur for me is not only a place filled with nature and natural objects, with trees, plants, and flowers surrounding throughout. It is a space that speaks about my Existence as a human being, as an artist. It speaks of my journey from childhood to being an adult. By growing up in a place such as Dubrajpur I have memories, relations, and affection dependencies, which affected my life thoroughly. I have grown up seeing greenery all around me, with nature being my all-time companion. An unusual friendship grew between nature and me, which I became aware of as I grew up. I have always believed that the works of all visual artists are the reflection of those persons. Being one of them, this is the same for me. As I started working prior to my Art College days, I used more basic compositions, following conventional practices; but as I got to the depth of things, especially with the beginning of my Art College / Professional Art Training, I started finding the resemblances that my creations had with my early life experiences. Thus, my works predominantly featured the different aspects of images of nature and natural objects. I was practicing on that line of work and had set my journey accordingly. Nature became the most important ingredient in my food for thought while creating my paintings.
I shifted base from Birbhum to a larger metropolitan city, Kolkata, after my college life. With the shifting of base came a shifting of images. The effect of a busy city life took its toll on my creativity as well as on myself. I started facing a deep existential crisis regarding my self, my thoughts, and my experiences. I saw how the greenery of Mother Nature turned into the concrete jungle filled with human figures. Suddenly my inspiration faced a huge block, and I became creatively numb for a good amount of time. In the city life is fast, busy, and people rarely have the time to breathe freely and be aware of their surrounding and their affections. This was a rude awakening for me, as I saw people rarely give importance to or cared about natural objects and Mother Nature. This materialistic ways of thinking overlooked the actual reason of our existence. I saw people forget the reason why we exist on this planet; people who have totally forgotten about the fact that we exist because Mother Nature exists with us. We breathe because Mother Nature breathes with us. Our dependency on Mother Nature is completely forgotten and washed away from the minds of most people living in this metropolitan city. With utter sadness and mourning, I realized that like me, my best friend, Mother Nature, was also facing a crisis, and to be fair and existential crisis.
As they rightly say, every human being’s life is a struggle: a struggle for existence, a struggle to survive and a struggle to express. As an artist, my journey took a new form with the introduction to city life. It took a lot of thoughts, realizations, and self-assessment for me to find and choose the right path to re-ignite my creative self. I made a few decisions for the sake of a smooth running through my art practice. Firstly, I tried to re-create the ambience in my house that was naturally available in Birbhum. I started gardening and planting extensively in the limited space that I had in my present home. Through this practice I again brought about the feeling of care for Mother Nature and this gave me huge mental satisfaction and happiness. A feeling of respecting the disrespected and caring for ‘the outcast’, filled my heart and mind with positivity, and it helped me in reenergizing myself to start afresh with my art practice. In my own way I wanted to give Mother Nature the importance and positive space that was missing in the city. I thought that, with me, Mother Nature could cope with the strong negativity of her existential crisis.
I learned the art of papermaking in my college days; with the help of some of my teachers, I rigorously practiced papermaking and even successfully made paper from different plant fibers. This practice has been an important part of my art-making process since then. I re-introduced the art of paper making into my practice. I started composing and drawing on paper which I made with my own hands and doing different experiments, through the amalgamation of my drawing and art of papermaking. I tried to treat the surface as part of my drawing. Paper became part of my subject; the feeling of existential crisis in me and Mother Nature in this city helped me in thinking and conceptualizing this, as I tried to involve in my work the paper I made from natural fibers. I used fibers such as banana, tussar, sugarcane etc, in my final works and compositions. Thus, I involved nature into my works, not only on a mental and visual level, but on a practical level as well. Nature as I saw it, was un-caged by me and given back its rightful place again. As I continued with my art making process, I realized that the city life had affected my subjects as well. As I was drawing what I was seeing, human figures entered my compositions; I consciously let this happen as a reflection of my current mental state. I composed the similarities I found in the human body with nature, the physical resemblance which I could see and observe.
I started composing the pain I could see in nature due to the lack of love and care it got from human beings: I wanted to speak for Mother Nature, who always takes the pain and agony but never retaliates. I wanted to express her anxiety through my works, as I depicted her pathos and pain from a human perspective. I tried to create images of Mother Nature crying out her agony just like we human beings do when we feel pain and different emotions. My works became a satire for nature and a metaphor for the human being perspective.