A self-taught professional artist, Meena Subramaniam focuses almost entirely on the natural world that surrounds us. She doesn’t feature people instead the artist paints exaggerated fantasies of the landscapes that she has experienced, with real subjects from in and around a particular locale.
These include birds, mammals, butterflies, rare balsams, orchids and ferns. Recently, she was awarded the TN Khoshoo Award by Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) for her pioneering work in the field of science communication.
“I draw attention to landscapes inviting the viewer’s empathy and awe. I often attempt ‘trompe l’oeil’, especially with larger canvases. It is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions. The medium is mostly acrylic on canvas as it facilitates the kind of texture I apply on my canvasses,” says Meena.
She grew up being encouraged to love all creatures in the environment. “I love to paint animals, birds, the flora and fauna. I’ve focussed mainly on the biodiversity of the Western Ghats because all these are extremely fragile habitats and they deserve to be painted. I was totally inspired to portray the beautiful landscapes on my canvas.
We are still discovering new species, plants and still haven’t completely understood about these areas. People are forgetting the fact that forests, hills and seas are what we have and it is high time we preserved them. We have to be closely involved in nature conservation and climate protection,” shares the artist.
You can see strikingly bright real landscapes of nature along with a bit of a fantasy element in Meena’s paintings. The acrylic technique involves the application of several layers of very thin wet on wet acrylic washes in rapid large and small brush strokes, extensive texturing and distinct use of light and highlights.
“People who collect my paintings prefer something that’s cheerful and bright. My colours are restricted to a mixed palette, limited to one set of primaries, except for the subjects.
Apart from the photographs that I have clicked, I also borrow from digital images for the accuracy of species. As an artist, I concern myself with shaping a world, both fantastical and mystical to evoke a sense of wonderment for the viewer,” explains the artist, who lives near Thekkady in Kerala.
Whenever Meena needs an inspiration to paint, she steps out of her house and goes for bird watching and trekking in the remotest parts of the country.
“l love watching birds — they have a different eco-system where you get to see many other things. You can spot lizards, snakes, trees, flowers, grasses, etc. I make notes that help as reference points for my paintings. I also love to study and experience the last remaining wildernesses,” she remarks.