When you look at Meena Subramaniam’s work you are invited to enter a wonderland. The painting seduces the spectator to enter a habitat and you will find yourself in the midst of thick foliage surrounded by diverse flora and fauna. The paintings though made on a canvas seem more like doorways to a dense and expanse jungle. The colours, lines and strokes seem to come to life to narrate a story. A story of the abundance of the breath-taking beauty of Mother nature.
Talking about her childhood, Meena shares how fortunate she was to have an imaginative mother who loved visiting wildlife sanctuaries and abodes of nature far away from human settlements. They would visit Jog Falls & Sharavati, Bandipur, Point Calimere and several other places in India. Though her mother was not a trained naturalist, her unfettered love for the natural world was what drew Meena to drown in the world of nature. She says that she is moved by mountains and is in awe with the fact that they sustain and nourish so many species. She also adores trees and believes that old trees with their majestic buttresses are record keepers of time and events. The curiosity and the sense of wonder continues to make her heart dance with joy when she spots a beautiful bird, flower or when nature throws in a surprise when least expected.
Meena’s deep bond with the natural world is what informs her work and is evident in all her paintings. She largely works with acrylic, and creates layers and textures when portraying the bio-diversity of a habitat. Her work entails some amount of research about the subjects she portrays in her work. She studies the natural habitat in detail and incorporates the nuances of smaller plants and birds, and their importance in the larger picture. With superimposed fauna on foliage, the painting does not seem crowded but instead the work seems to represent the richness of life co-existing in dense forests.
While living in and around Kodaikanal, Meena was overwhelmed by the rapid development the town experienced with uncontrolled tourism. Added to this was the long term pollution from a thermometer factory. She was shocked to see the amount of waste generated and deeply saddened by the style of development that does not take into consideration the impact it has on the natural world nor lesser humans. She had been painting all along. As acute water scarcity started to hit the Palani Hills, moving close to Periyar Tiger Reserve seemed a better option. Better rainfall, lush tropical forest close by, and living in a town which works well with its tourism and waste management, saw her make Kumily town her home for the last many years.
With magnificent tropical forests in her backyard, Meena says that she shares a synesthetic relationship with the variety of sounds offered by the forests. Be it the rubbing together of bamboo stems, the way a steady wind makes grass blades sing or the busy cackle of a woodpecker, she believes that some sounds can evoke a scenery or imagery. Her aural sensibilities perhaps is what renders her work lyrical and the soundscape seems to be integrally woven with landscape in her paintings. Her art is definitely a reflection of the life style that she has chosen and the beauty that she experiences through her senses. When she is not painting she likes to take long walks and go on hikes. She finds them to be the best way to clear the mind and cleanse the soul and also watch birds. She has travelled in the North East of India and bits of South East Asia, where she looks forward to spending more time with a sketch pad to finally render records as paintings.
Meena has also been an activist and worked for years towards providing justice to the Unilever Mercury victims. With an amalgamation of research, conservation and art, Meena hopes that her work’s impact can foster conservation and protection of bio-diversity. She is open to sharing her research, painting style and technique with individuals who are interested in art and ecology. Meena looks forward to encapsulate much more of nature’s wonderful avian fauna and flora on her canvas introducing the audience to the diversity of the natural world and hopes to get people to appreciate the glorious natural heritage.