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Articles on Indian contemporary art by Swapna Vora

Rainbow Girl
by Swapna Vora

February 13, 2009

(click on the small image for full screen image with captions.)

Amisha Mehta: She's like the rainbow! Her paintings offer rang leela: the story of colors, and rang raag, meaning color, love and passion in Sanskrit. Her work looks at our mysterious being, the grandeur and control that keep us going while asleep and awake and the millions of unknown, hardly noticed inner stimuli, the colors and chemicals that keep us alive. Who is this that knows when to awaken and when to sleep? What heals, what are these chakras, why these particular colors? Her work is perhaps a modern inheritor of ancient religious art where colors and shapes are doorways and corridors to ecstasy. Indian art is replete with sacred symbols, auspicious colors and yantra diagrams meant for visiting other states of consciousness. Her artwork follows this path but reaches out to today's time and space, a world sometimes so full of stress. What guides our responses to color? A careful artist, Amisha offers us beautiful art along with her unusual understanding of the emotional impact of hues, the vibration of shades and their effects on human psyches.

Colour Dance

"A painter yes but a color therapist?" one queries warily. Amisha Mehta says her art and paintings are not just for visual delight, mental pleasure or even thought but designed to heal, to induce calm and create energy. Any painting may bring joy, perhaps sorrow or at least simple, indifferent observation. Her work is designed specifically to not only appeal physically or emotionally but to heal, to bring balance. She throws golden energy everywhere. She heals through her paintings and helps others heal when they paint with her. "I do color therapy through art and colors." Very open to sensory experience, she uses music and aromas alongside the paintings. She is truly like the rainbow!

The rainbow girl's journey began years ago as a child. Bombay born and bred, she did the conventional thing and studied art at the Nirmala Niketan Polytechnic. She went into realistic work, started landscapes, practiced applied arts and then taught children and trained them for the elementary and advanced art exams. She then became a full time artist. However she was very much into self-development and evolution and ventured into this amazing understanding of color therapy.



Amisha works in a quiet studio on the ground floor near the mighty Babulnath temple in Mumbai. One asks for her and the watchman nods, yes, follow the plants, the artist is there. The smell of lemon grass, perhaps a drift of roses or sandalwood follows and capers around the room. The music is on, soft angelic strains like Kitaro and Halpern, perhaps a deep classical raag. There are words of poetry on the wall and shelves are piled with the world's wisdom from the world's masters. (A master, we say, is someone who got there before one and hence can point the direction.) Well trained in classical sitar playing and Bharat Natyam dance, she seeks to heal the world's heartaches as she reaches out more and more to people and makes them aware of the wonders available, right now, to everyone. "What I have been getting naturally is a free flowing, generous energy. Such a channel of abundant energy, overflowing happiness."

She reminisces that when she opted for painting and entered fine arts, her parents worriedly suggested she study humanities and commerce as well. Like most parents, they wanted to ensure her financial stability and were uncomfortable with art as a career. However she sought art and was very determined and totally focused that "this was it". Her parents fretted as to how a Vania child from the business community was going to work in an advertising agency and then succeed as an artist. Amisha has not only succeeded for herself, her paintings have almost literally flown off the walls into buyers' arms, and in addition, she has helped many afflicted people staggering on life's mountains. She has been able to calm down many children and there are even cases of epilepsy disappearing, headaches vanishing. One student suffered from convulsions, and ever since her calm treatment and therapy with colors, her convulsions have stopped.

...the enchantress

"My six months in the ad agency really helped me. I learned many things. Initially I had worked with a calendar artist, another learning experience. I used to watch him paint. And then I began making art and also learned to communicate verbally. I did a tiny stint with a huge ad agency but found it too big and impersonal. I then returned to my original training in calligraphy."

"I live with my family and my in-laws. With marriage and young children, all I could do was freelance. However I have evolved good arrangements and can now paint peacefully. Now, they do not need me all the time. I tell them firmly, not quantity but quality interaction! I can't stop this art. The children grew up and many mothers asked me to teach painting to their children. And so I got back into more creativity. But I was not satisfied yet and was restless. Bit by bit, this restlessness built up and suddenly something changed. It was like a blast, a bit sudden. I went in, shut myself in, and the flow of work continued. However now I was meeting various spiritually oriented folk who grounded me. Art I knew but to get into spiritual art was not easy but they kept motivating me. Various masters helped." She started working with children at the Tata Memorial Hospital for treating cancer. She loved it especially when the shy and initially scared, indifferent children slowly opened up and started painting. She guided them into the colors appropriate for healing their pain. Then the art festival at Kala Ghoda invited her and she worked with street children. The resulting joyful picture needs no words.


Deep Purple

She speaks of her work: "This abundant energy. This is purely energy work, not representative, not figurative or even abstract." Trained in Bharat Natyam dance, she now gets her group moving physically. However working with 25 children and teaching them self-expression through art therapy was rewarding but extremely exhausting and draining physically.

I ask, "What would you do if you knew you would not, could not fail?" She sighs and said in her life long term plans seem to change with their own will and so she only plans short term and that works well.

"Many times, long-term plans have not worked and so I visualize mostly for shorter chunks of time."


Is there a life plan?

"I work on instincts, I depend on energy, shakti flow. I have no wish to ever harm anyone or anything, like the Jain ideal of ahimsa. I do not wish to climb on anyone's efforts, anyone else's energy and ideas. I want to help more and more people, I have abundance to offer."

"I work alone. I do not like socializing too much or viewing others' art. I firmly believe in less talk and even lesser mingling and mixing. This studio is a small but new space for me and I am totally happy and content here. My family visits sometimes but this is a room of my own! I would get suffocated without this territory. I do not stay here all the time, I go home, but this, this is mine!"


The Play

She spoke of travel allover India and the world. Relying on intuition, she says she decided to go to Delhi and suddenly, simultaneously a Delhi gallery asked her for her interpretation of the Indian tiranga, (tricolor), for a bureaucrat who wanted work for his three storied art gallery! "I just wanted to go to Delhi. I wanted to see the Taj. We planned this and then something fell into place. Before I left, proving my intuition, I got a call from Delhi to bring two paintings. For three days I worked frantically and completed two paintings and fell ill…. And so, there is little planning for the future now. I am very confident that things will work out and fall right into place. I am so confident. Existence will send across the right people. I am not at all worried."

Her mission to heal continues. She said she was interested in healing agents valued in from Ayurved and incorporating them physically into her artwork. She will add healing Ayurvedic herbs to her work. She stressed she was working more and more depicting chakras and this resulted in her chakra series. She commented, as other artists have, on the availability of all that they require in India, all art materials.

Our Divine Prism

Amisha, incidentally, does not use brushes, only her hands, fingers and nails. She has one rather remarkable painting of the Muladhar chakra. It is done entirely in one shade of bright red but she has managed to make it into at least six differentiated shades with her hands: it looks pink, a little purple, some areas have hints of orange, rose madder. Her rainbow series of chakras are for meditation, not discussion. She has been working very cerebrally, theoretically, taken on issues and examined them medically, physically and psychologically: issues like the nature of illness. " You work on each chakra and along comes a big related problem! You have to work through it, solve it."

What makes you comfortable?

"When I have done something good. Something wonderful! I then observe myself, this flow of work. I observe, when I start painting and when I stop, when I will and when I will not paint. Sometimes I stop myself and see what happens. What I do and what I do not. So much has happened, so much work has been done." She refers perhaps to her healing ministry as well. "I keep getting this feeling, which keeps insisting: keep going, time is limited."


Violet Flames

"Yes, money is good but not the only good thing. Many ideas and visions ferment in my head. They can be worked out and presented, so money is useful for this. I can give healing to many people, more often. These paintings work beautifully together with sound and scents. I want to give this healing and this will take money."

She says she admires Anjolie Ela Menon, "I find her mysterious and she deepens the enigma around us. Existence can open up, you are the lever. There have been wrong, difficult phases. Now I am patient I simply examine and alert myself for whatever lesson or knowledge is coming. I want to finish all karmic things. I continue to heal and understand any situation and that too passes away."

"As my children paint, I introduce appropriate colors, appropriate for their healing. People calm down and also get energized. I used brushes initially but felt communication between my soul and the canvas was incomplete, lacking. Now I use my hands, my nails, my very self on the canvas. Do I use natural colors? Not yet but I will. Acrylic paint just washes off. My students learn to use their hands. Initially they use brushes because they are used to them. Slowly they use their hands and become completely free, relaxed and clear with hands." One feels relaxed and loved with her. "Basically my journey is going back home via the rainbow. People use every means to return except the natural one, the one always with us, the abundant one. All of which was and is always there. But they have learned to experiment with artifice and unnatural medication. I am reconnecting with myself."

Angel Lights

"My favorite place in Mumbai is my studio. In times of stress, when feeling low, my feet turn to Kala Ghoda." In the Kala Ghoda art festival, she introduced painting to street children via graffiti. "I rarely see art galleries. Of late, I want my own work, no interference. No dilution. I want to experience myself completely. This is my effort resulting from an urge to create, to explore completely that expanse where one may rise or float, or be submerged and be so dissolved and self-possessed that this becomes a state of total surrender. I portray the sensitive stimuli that flutter inside me and they emerge like faint ripples. The colors are like streams, while blending techniques and canvases are imbued with spirit. Art happened to me early."

While Bollywood and Pop music may play in living rooms and public places, Amisha uses western and Indian classical music and soft, healing melodies in her therapy classes. Children are so stressed today, she sighs, and hence her artwork is done with a background of classical and New Age music. "This would be so wonderful in public places rather than some harsh and strident noises. Most public transport is stressful and need not be. Music makes you stop and collect yourself."

The really incredible thing in her work is not the charkas, the flow of color, the experienced hand, the good composition or even the delight of good work but rather that they have been done with a view to heal, to make those who see them whole, those suffering from mental, physical and other distress. "My paintings are based on color energy and can help with healing illness and make positive changes. Each color has a therapeutic value, a definite effect." She speaks of her experience about the inherent therapy of colors, their role in removing stress and creating happiness.


'Life ' on Moods

This is her journey from being an advertisement visualizer, to a family person, to free lancing art-work to commercial work and finally becoming an artist who depicts the elements of life and cosmic forces. Possibly more important, she is a therapist who "makes what is broken whole" through paint. After experiencing the therapeutic effect of art, music, aromas on humans, she says art can be taught very differently in schools. She smiles wryly and says people run outside to make money and then run to spend it for time to be with their kids.

Colors, she said, are like nourishment and they balance us. When we gaze at them different energies are absorbed. "An interrelated issue is that a specific therapy may never solve a specific problem, for many connected things may be necessary. I want my work to keep giving joy and healing to the space it inhabits." There are perhaps two types of painting: the creative type is only for eyes and the therapeutic is for gently healing and making whole. "The best thing is I can help mankind through my art." She adds, "The imaginative mind travels freely and one becomes aware of the power and grandeur that controls our existence.

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