Rhythmic Measures

Grosvenor Gallery, London
28th November – 20th December 2019

For me painting is an act of connection, both inwardly and outwardly. Connecting to my inner-self, connecting to Earth through making natural paints, connecting to people and cultures.

In globally tumultuous times, with an increasing trend towards division and suspicion, the synergy of the visual arts to transmit nuances of thought and perspective across cultures feels more essential than ever. Working with and learning from visual artists in India and Pakistan has been an amazingly positive cross-cultural experience for me, through which new ideas are born alongside traditional practices.

The title of my show ‘Rhythmic Measures’ comes from the poem ‘The Stream of Life’ by Rabindranath Tagore:

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves
of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death,
in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood
this moment.

~ Rabindranath Tagore; from Gitanjali (Song Offerings)

Rhythm & Geometry

This pulsing rhythm or ‘life-throb’ that Tagore speaks of is what inspires my painting. This body of work aims to connect to that source, the pulse, the life force. The slow process of painting is a reminder to be present, to enjoy the moment and to allow oneself the time and reflection to make choices with intention. In a world where attention (or distraction) is monetized and in which we have created technological prisons for ourselves, I hope these paintings will serve as a reminder that our loss of attention – either to our inner world or to the natural world – is a loss of presence and ultimately, a loss of life.

The ‘stream of life’ described in Tagore’s poem is both inward – the constant beating of the heart, the inhalation and exhalation of the breath – and outward – the rhythms of the tides, the seasons, the sun, the moon and the stars. The visual expression of this beating, pulsing, rhythmic repetition of life and ‘the life-throb of ages’ is made manifest in the visual language of geometry. It is the bridge between what we know and understand about the universe and the timeless, limitless, vast mysteries of space.

Tales of a Parrot

Another recurring and more personal theme in my new body of work are parakeets. I was first inspired to paint parakeets after feeding them in London’s Hyde Park. Around the same time I came across India’s ‘Birdman’ of Chennai and Tutinama (Persian: طوطینامه ), “Tales of a Parrot”, a series of Persian stories from the 14th Century in which the parrot persuades his owner not to commit any adulterous act with any lover, in the absence of her husband. I then discovered a beautiful, illustrated version that was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor, Akbar in the later part of the 16th century, containing 250 miniature paintings. I am always reminded of this cultural heritage when I see these exotic visitors from the tropical climates of Western Africa and lowland India adding a dash of electric, acid green to the British landscape. The ring-necked, or rose-ringed, parakeet – now the UK’s most abundant naturalised parrot – calls to mind the interconnectedness of life on Earth and how our human experiences and stories replay in different places in time and space.

Elisabeth Deane – July 2019