ANURADHA THAKUR: HOPES AND DREAMS IN A KALEIDOSCOPE
Artist Anuradha Thakur truly brought a client’s dreams to life in her most recent commission. In her signature tribal style and rainbow color palette, the final 48 x 72 inch painting radiates joy and hope for the future, as it represents the client’s dream of having a family of her own one day. But in order to achieve this stunning result, a high level of communication was essential, and it was one of the trickiest — yet gratifying! — commissions completed here at Laasya Art.
This particular project is a perfect example of how every commission is a collaborative effort between the gallerist, the client and the artist. Below, we share the perspectives of each person involved in the process and how, over a period of several months, they transformed the initial concept into a gorgeous work of art.
THE GALLERIST’S PERSPECTIVE
Commissions run the gamut from fairly simple to exceedingly complex! The most straightforward projects typically involve a ‘reference work’ that the client would like to translate into a larger size or different color palette. In the most challenging projects, the client has only a vision of the look and feel they want, but as the gallerist, I need to understand what is motivating this vision so we can capture its essence on canvas. This involves going a bit deeper to understand what the client is really seeking here and how we can deliver on that.
This project with client Shalini and artist Anuradha was something along those lines. Coordinated entirely over video calls between the client and the artist in India and myself sitting here in California, we started the project sometime in the fall of 2020 and delivered the painting in the spring of 2021. It turned out to be one of the more challenging and interesting projects, interspersed with a few twists and turns, not to mention a lot of fun and laughter, as we went through multiple rounds of sketches and presentations to the client.
Artist Anuradha truly went above and beyond. We have worked together on multiple commissions, and I could see how this one posed some obstacles — Anuradha does not usually depict children so young before, but she rose to the challenge and even ultimately delighted in it. And our client Shalini was very inspiring throughout the process! I feel privileged to have been part of this project, and I could not be happier with how it all turned out.
THE CLIENT’S PERSPECTIVE
I first stumbled across Ms. Anuradha Thakur’s work at a hotel in Hyderabad, India. I use the word “stumbled,” because at that point I was weak and uncoordinated; but I get ahead of myself. This was in April 2019. I had come to India with my mother in March, because I was suffering from a neurological illness and required urgent treatment. This was not merely a question of getting better, but staying alive.
I can recall how ill I was, how even standing for a few minutes or walking small distances would leave me exhausted, stiff and virtually immobile. I experienced unrelenting migraines, gastroparesis (nerves in my gastrointestinal system were not working the way they should, and I could not properly digest food and absorb nutrients), muscle spasms, temperature dysregulation, syncopal attacks, chronic joint and neuropathic pain, etc. (You can look up anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, for a full, rather harrowing, picture of what I was experiencing).
When I saw Ms. Thakur’s painting, I was wearing these lovely wedges after many years of being unable to walk in heels, and though my ankles protested in weakness, I stood up straight, attentive, because her painting had captivated me. The canvas was rich with bright acrylics and featured two men and four women. The women were bejeweled and dressed in radiant Rajasthani lehengas with matching cholis and odhnis; distinctive white bangles adorned their arms. The male figures were attired in turbans, silver jewelry and bright, eye-popping dhotis and angrakhas. When I saw Anuradha’s painting, I felt as though I was peering through a kaleidoscope, filled with rich colors, textures and incredible beauty.
Though I was severely depressed, disheartened and could barely stand, I gave myself over to the painting, and it was as if all the pain and suffering I had experienced was erased. I felt uncontainable, unbridled joy; an emotion that had been missing from my life for so long. Enthralled by the painting’s colors and vivacity, I forgot my problems and immediately felt lighter and the first stirrings of hope.
I discovered the artist was Anuradha Thakur and as things began to evolve and I permanently settled in Hyderabad, I decided that I would like to have one of her works in my home. During my search, I came across Laasya Art Gallery, read the wonderful reviews and got in touch with Ms. Sonia Patwardhan who has been wonderful to work with. I asked her if we could commission a work by Anuradha, and she was open to the idea and asked all the right questions. She was particularly interested in why I was commissioning this work and what I hoped it would convey.
When I finally received the 4 x 6 foot canvas and had it stretched and mounted, I was awestruck. The painting depicts my dreams for the near future. I am the bride wearing an orange lehenga choli, standing next to my husband. I have two sons, around ten and eight years old, and a young daughter, of about six years. I have always wanted to be a mother and have a tight-knit family, so this is partially what the painting depicts. On the right hand-side of the painting is another couple, whom I imagine to be my father and mother. My Dad is no longer with us, but I still feel his presence and guiding hand in all that I do. There is another man however, on the left side of the painting. He is not a relative and he stands, slightly removed from the scene, almost an observer. Who is this man? And what is his role?
Though he stands apart from the others, this stranger is very much involved in their lives and destinies. To me, this figure symbolizes the magical, mysterious facets of life. My reason for saying this is many-fold. The chances of surviving with autoimmune encephalitis for over twenty-five years is very slim. After my mother and I visited Johns Hopkins in February 2019, and the neurologist said I needed to receive treatment for this autoimmune disease, it was as if a whole chain of events was set in motion that is truly miraculous. I was put in touch with an incredible human being and physician, Dr. Rukmini Mridula, at NIMS Hospital, Hyderabad. The chances of receiving a diagnosis after so many years, of being gifted with such a wonderful doctor, and responding to treatment…
What can I say? I definitely feel that a Higher Power/God has played a hand in each step of my recovery. I have walked through the abyss of anguish and despair, and often I felt there was no hope, no way forward. I do believe however, that though there is pain and suffering, there is also life, hope, beauty and light. And sometimes people enter our lives, but they are actually our guardian angels like my mother, doctor, Sonia and Anuradha, to name a few.
We may have to traverse the most difficult paths, but God works miracles through such special individuals. This is the message I wanted to evoke with the commission and Ms. Thakur and Sonia helped realize it.
This painting will hang in the hallway of our new home. Every time I pass it, I will be reminded of how lost and low I once was, and I will be thankful that I hung in there, because life will have metamorphosed into something bursting with immense beauty, joy and love.
THE ARTIST’S PERSPECTIVE
Sonia called me about a client’s vision for a 4 by 6 foot painting, depicting three generations together in the painting — the client and her partner, three children between 6 and 10 years old and grandparents in their 60s. There would also be another man closeby, a friend of the family.
After I completed the first sketch, Sonia and I spoke again. She explained that the kids should be younger and the grandparents older. I pointed out that even if the children are 15 to 18 years old now, they will grow up fast, and the painting would only remain an ‘accurate’ depiction of their ages for so long. After all, the painting will be with the family for many years. But then, I learned that this commission is not a simple family portrait — it is a dream, a manifestation.
As is my optimistic nature, I always believe that the glass is half full rather than half empty. This attitude is like a lamp that keeps showing me the way, even in difficult situations. I realized that the thrill of walking on difficult paths is also its value as an experience. So I always try to put this light, positive vibes and colorful mood on my canvas, and I hoped this would come across to this client.
With the client’s idea and my style, I completed the painting and was very happy with how it turned out. After hearing more about the client’s experience throughout this commission, I truly felt like we had a “heart to heart” conversation and connection — my art brought her dreams to life.