Exhibition: Exploring city’s changing skylines

Over the years, Puri experimented with various mediums and techniques in her paintings.CE speaks with the artist and dives into her choice of theme, materials used and what inspires her as an artist 
Vallery Puri's painting
Vallery Puri's painting

Vallery Puri’s artistic journey began naturally, as she discovered her innate talent for drawing and painting at a young age. Despite a brief stint at Sir JJ School of Art when she was 15 years old, she considers herself a self-taught artist, emphasising her commitment to developing a unique style devoid of direct influence from other artists.

“Art has been my teacher and companion in this journey of life. It has taught me to be fearless, embrace my mistakes, and learn from my experiences. It has made me realise that life is not black or white but a spectrum of constantly changing colours,” she said. 

Over the years, Puri experimented with various mediums and techniques, evolving from simple black ink on cartridge paper to textured relief vintage acrylic paintings. After a life-altering car accident, she transitioned to oil on canvas, a medium that allowed for a more manageable and less physically demanding creative process.

“Creating the textured two-dimensional base for vintage look paintings was time-consuming, but focusing for long hours huddled over a canvas can be quite meditative. The result was almost always a surprise as I worked with bright, watery colours that settled into the grooved reliefs at will. The last coat on the painting was black, followed by a vigorous rub with a wet, soft cloth to create shade and light and an overall antique look,” she said. 

This year, she has added sculpting to her foray and has three sculptures in epoxy air-drying clay on display for the first time. “I have used most mediums to express my thoughts — acrylics, oils, inks or pastels. I have used butter knives, brushes, backs of brushes, croquil pens, pencils, twigs, toothpicks, swivel sticks and several other everyday tools to achieve a delicate, intricate look in my various works. Experimentation has been at the core of my work over the years. It has been a ‘learn along the way as you play’ journey,” she explained. 

Elaborating on the choice of the word ‘Urbanesque,’ she said, “Urbanesque is a word I had coined way back in 2010 when I did ten paintings as part of a three-series themed solo exhibition in Gurgaon titled ‘One Billion Plus’. Urban + grotesque = Urbanesque.” 

Hyderabad’s granite rocks being quarried and processed to be used in the construction of high-rises take a prominent space in her paintings. “India’s urbanisation is unplanned, chaotic and architecturally a visual disaster, with mediocre and ugly skylines popping up as quickly as its burgeoning population. As Hyderabad continues to develop, these ancient rocky hillocks are subject to the changes that urbanisation brings. New settlements have mushroomed in their vicinity.

This series is inspired by the pain and angst of watching the destruction of beloved giant rocks and the flattening of old hillocks — my playgrounds of the past. Hyderabad — that city of undulating hillocks and picturesque picnic spots is vanishing before my very eyes,” she said and broke off into self-composed poetry: 

“I see - Cars, crowds, construction and cows.

The traffic of trucks, tractors and treeless terror.

Droning drills digging up dust.

I hear - Honking horns, screeching breaks;

Moaning buses and groaning roads;

Grunts of a growing giant.

I feel the

Overwhelming overdose - Of Homes in high rises;

Of Wires, cables and Power towers;

Of Homeless humans, cats, dogs, birds and bovines” 

Addressing environmental concerns associated with Hyderabad’s development, Puri acknowledges the challenges but commends the Telangana State Government for its initiatives to protect lakes, plant trees, and enhance the city’s green spaces. While acknowledging the positive changes, she remains vigilant about the need for thoughtful city planning and sustainable practices to counteract the destructive aspects of progress.

On being asked what inspires her to make art, she said, “My paintings are entirely from imagination, inspired by all that surrounds me. I am strongly influenced by nature and human behaviour. They are full of questions about certain choices that our human world has made over time, be it our population, disintegrating forests, our ‘bursting at the seams’ cities or the changing skylines of our towns and metros.

People, poses, pots, pans, figures, faces and flowers are all part of my paintings, as I am predominantly a figurative artist. Eyes are the windows to our souls; their wordless expressiveness completely enamours me. Their flowing shapes, colours and curves continue to inspire me and are noticeably prominent in my artwork.”

The exhibition will be on display till November 29. 

At Kalakriti Art Gallery, Banjara Hills.

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