The desire to articulate is really the desire to clarify,
to confront the various personae that hide behind the masks life presents.
A self-portrait, in this context, is an attempt at understanding what
lies beyond what one sees in the mirror. Naval’s oils attempt to
reveal a person fully drawn into herself, reclusive and melancholy at
times and at others, defensive and alert.
Using a thick knife and trowel impasto
work, the artist, through a manner that is unmistakably expressionistic,
tries to take us to the centre of pain. Pregnant nuns, crucifixes and
all, for example, look soulful, ready to bear social ignominy with a sense
of equanimity that would wipe out the shame.
Interestingly, if there is one important influence which
shows in all these frames, is that of Edward Munch. Using the Munchian
swirls and striation strokes, Naval tries to pierce the heart of darkness
that casts a pall over human happiness. Not always successful in this
attempt, it is in the Still Life that she realizes ably her vision and
evens the score. The lanterns – red, yellow and green – are
organized by situating them as sources in the middle of the respective
frames, distributing the tension along vertical line-strokes around them.
The landscapes, proceeding from a definitely lyrical impulse,
are intimations of that which lies, so to say, beyond the blue mountain.
A sense of mystery is striven to be evoked even as the
elements carry their play on to a charged and feverish pitch. The local
topography of Rohtang comes alive as scraggy peaks rush to meet the egg-white
It is the quality of obsessive loneliness, however, that
attends all the frames, almost as the resident virtue. Huts dot the mustard
yellow harvest land lifelessly even as the lamp on a crooked lamp-post
keeps a relentless vigil on the deserted road that is passing it by.