AUG 16, 1994

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 sky.

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.