Artist Rasika Reddy’s series of hummingbird paintings began as a quest for joy and healing during the pandemic
It’s Time to Heal, reads the title of Kadari Art Gallery’s new exhibition in Hyderabad. We might be staring at the third wave of COVID-19 in India while hoping that things do not get gloomy in the coming weeks, but the sight of the 100-plus watercolour paintings of hummingbirds at the gallery does have a calming effect. Artist Rasika Reddy began working on the series in the early stages of the pandemic, to take her mind off the uncertainty and gloom all around.
“We were all at home figuring out what to do, beyond the regular activities of cooking and cleaning. A sense of helplessness set in as the pandemic raged on in New York,” recalls Rasika Reddy, the Hyderabad artist who now resides in the USA.
Artist Rasika Reddy | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
She picked up her brushes and drew a bird, then two, and enjoyed the process. She read up about birds and was intrigued by hummingbirds: “The birds are adaptable [and their music is] known to be healing and joyful – the attributes we need to go through the pandemic.”
She had earlier worked with media ranging from oils to acrylic but chose watercolours for this series. In the early stages of lockdown when the supply chain for non-essentials was briefly hit, she borrowed colours and brushes from her granddaughter’s colouring kit and began painting, until she could get her own tools.
Rasika painted hummingbirds and shared them on Instagram. “I have never been too active on social media, but I took to it since that was the only way to reach out.” The feedback she received spurred her on to paint more.
Soon, she was painting a bird a day. “The idea behind the series was nothing earthshaking; it was intended to put a smile on the face of the viewer. I painted around 240 birds and intend to do more. There are nearly 350 species of hummingbirds.”
Some of the paintings focus solely on the birds framed against a white background, while others place them on a branch of a tree or amid the foliage. Rasika wanted nature-identical hues and experimented by mixing and matching colours. “The colours of the birds and their surroundings are ridiculously beautiful. Each day, as I painted, I noticed that it was also a source of joy to my family.”
Initially, she found herself on a learning curve with watercolours. “The technique used to highlight something is different from that of acrylic. While we paint a few layers to highlight something in acrylic, for watercolour, we darken the surroundings of the area we want to highlight. I learnt this from my son who is an amateur painter.”
Rasika did her masters in philosophy from the University of Hyderabad and moved to the US. She pursued arts at Brooklands College and West Surrey University for Art and Design when she lived in the UK intermittently.
In her earlier series, she has explored themes inspired by Indian culture, gender and karma using different media and techniques and states that the commonality would be the meditative quality of her work. The hummingbird series, too, she reckons, had a prayer-like and meditative effect on her.
(It’s Time To Heal is on view at Kadari Art Gallery, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad, till January 19)
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