The ability to place colours on a surface to produce what is called a painting is a part of who I am. I did not ask for it as a skill, did not study and train for it; it has always been there. Painting has shaped me and made me aware of the need to achieve excellence in everything I do. While achieving excellence and all it entails is not easy and totally dependent on personal interpretation when I paint I do get a sense of satisfaction; a fleeting sense of achievement.
Why do I paint plants? I made a trip down the memory lane and realize that the origins probably lay embedded in my childhood;
My earliest memory is of a jasmine; a potted plant on a window sill whose soft white flowers enveloped me everyday in their sweet smell. As I was growing up my home-town offered two delights; a zoo and a botanical garden.
The zoo was all about activity. Children and adults in tag, hurrying from one to the next enclosure; monkeys swinging in frenzy and begging for peanuts, hordes of parrots and peacocks and ducks and pelicans creating an exciting mix of tweets and chitters, quacks and honks; the larger animals moving away urgently or growling and snarling as you approached. The zoo impressed me with its air of agitation.
The other aspect of life awaited me at the botanical garden; a peaceful haven; the plants stayed in place, glorious in their pristine colours, displaying amazing shapes and emitting subtle scents. I looked up at the towering giants called trees and wondered about their strength, their solidity, their kindness in sheltering innumerable animal forms. Nothing ran away or jumped at my approach. I was able to sit and admire them; I enjoyed the dew on leaves and flowers, and felt their velvety texture with a sense of contentment. Being still and peaceful appeared natural for a plant. I realized that the plant is a reflective organism, in every sense of the word. There is the light to which it responds, the terrain to which it bends, the nutrients and water that it seeks, all in a patient, calm and peaceful manner. For me the plant became a self-sufficient organism that represents nature’s supreme creation.
That reverence and appreciation of this supreme organism is what I wish to capture in my paintings and why I continue to paint plants.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jaideep Mathur is a Plant Cell Biologist at the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Guelph, who combines science and art to develop an understanding of plants. His present research employs a combination of modern molecular – cell biology techniques. The cutting edge tools developed by him comprise numerous genes and multicoloured fluorescent proteins derived from different organisms that are stitched together to form a living colour palette spanning the entire visible spectrum. His colourful images of cells and sub-cellular details grace the cover pages of several scientific journals. An exhibition of work from his lab entitled ‘Cellscapes” was held at the University of Guelph in 2012. In leisure his love for colour and plants comes together in a completely different manner as he pursues oil and water painting of his favourite subjects. While nature inspires his paintings the effect is often surrealistic, solely reflecting his impressions and an imaginary world of beautiful plant forms that exists in his mind.