Mas­ter­stroke

The story of a vil­lage girl with a pas­sion for au­to­mo­tive art

The Luxury Collection - - Contents - -By Anand Mo­han

When I usu­ally come across skilled fine artists, the word ab­stract is thrown around a lot. There is no limit to imag­i­na­tion and usu­ally, there are no con­straints ei­ther. Artists hate con­straints be­cause it ties them down. If you learn to em­brace them, you’d prob­a­bly fol­low the path of de­sign­ers and ar­chi­tects who marry sci­ence and art for func­tional out­comes. And then there are artists of a dif­fer­ent kind. Meet Poonam Jad­hav, a painter skilled in the rare field of au­to­mo­tive art. A few years ago, I was vis­it­ing a friend who comes from the same alma mater. He’s an au­to­mo­tive de­signer from Coven­try Univer­sity in the UK and I hap­pened to study au­to­mo­tive jour­nal­ism there. Com­mon in­ter­ests got us to talk­ing on au­to­mo­tive de­sign one day at his stu­dio in Pune when I glanced over to see a girl with a sketch­book gaz­ing at a car parked in the stu­dio. She turned out to be my friend’s sis­ter. He was en­cour­ag­ing her to think be­yond ab­stract art as she was just about shap­ing her ca­reer as a fine artist. It started with small sketches at first but just like her brother, Poonam has al­ways been up for big chal­lenges.

Life had been a chal­lenge too for Poonam. Her fam­ily hails from a small vil­lage called Pusegaon in Satara district. Life in vil­lages of In­dia is tough, be it trans­port, a good education, so­cial pres­sures or even the free­dom to dream big. She stud­ied fine art at a col­lege in Satara and would take a 70km round trip by bus ev­ery day to be­come a bach­e­lor in fine art. Be­cause you can’t go to a job search web­site to get a good salaried job eas­ily in this line of work, she also did an art teacher diploma course si­mul­ta­ne­ously. Then the cost of equip­ment and travel to ma­jor cities to get more ex­po­sure en­sured life was tough in her for­ma­tive years as an artist. While these pres­sures ex­isted, Poonam was shielded by her lov­ing par­ents and brother and given the op­por­tu­nity to ex­press her­self in what­ever way she wanted.

This small vil­lage in Ma­ha­rash­tra is prob­a­bly wait­ing to be recog­nised af­ter the fame of the Jad­hav fam­ily and the par­ents recog­nised that early. The fam­ily seems to have art run­ning in their veins and whether its Poonam’s el­der brother Sachin or the younger one Dhi­raj, each comes with an artis­tic bent of mind. The brothers ap­ply sci­ence to their art (Dhi­raj is an ar­chi­tect) while Poonam lets her imag­i­na­tion run wild. She took to art like a nat­u­ral but her ini­tial paint­ings were a bit aim­less. It started with ab­stracts and land­scapes, then the oc­ca­sional whacky dis­rup­tive paint­ing, but even­tu­ally she re­alised that her skills needed to be chan­nelled well.

You couldn’t call her ear­lier work co­he­sive and there was cer­tainly no theme to them. It’s when she was sug­gested to ex­plore au­to­mo­tive art as a theme is when she truly be­gan to set up a strong foun­da­tion as a painter. It started with small sketches and soon Poonam was learn­ing the play of light on au­to­mo­tive sur­faces. An ex­am­ple is a fi­bre mould cast in the shape of a car Sachin had made in his stu­dio. When painted with a metal­lic shade and held un­der light, it would re­flect a dif­fer­ent colour based on its con­tours. That taught Poonam the role of light on car sur­faces and the dif­fer­ent shades it would re­flect. “I used to stare at these casts in my brother’s stu­dio for hours, wait for the light to change and stare some more.”

Soon she was shop­ping for large can­vases and re­search­ing on au­to­mo­biles. The his­tory of cars and mo­tor­cy­cles, the scope of clas­sic paint­ings and the ab­strac­tion of mod­ern ma­chines, Poonam be­gan hon­ing her skills. One of my favourites is the vin­tage Jaguar nose with its flared grille and glossy bon­net that re­veals the re­flec­tion of the prowling cat to per­fec­tion. It took her a week to get that re­flec­tion ac­cu­rately.

Then there’s the play of colours to dra­ma­tize the clas­sic Ford with shades of blue. Once she be­gan to fo­cus on de­tail­ing a lot more than she used to, the re­sults were sim­ply stun­ning. The re­flec­tion on the con­cave sur­face of the head­light in the clas­sic Porsche 911 is an­other ex­am­ple of jaw drop­ping de­tail­ing. Her fin­ished work has en­cour­aged her to work on her lat­est piece of art – a de­tail of the Fer­rari F1 car when Fer­nando Alonso drove for the pranc­ing horse. “Paint­ing glass is very dif­fi­cult” says Poonam. “Metal is eas­ier be­cause the re­flec­tions have some smooth­ness to them, but glass is a big chal­lenge as there is a re­stric­tion on the colours you use and the in­ten­sity of them too. The glossi­ness has to be main­tained as well”, she adds. The pas­sion with which she speaks about ex­e­cut­ing a chal­lenge is what gets to me. Poonam is a dif­fer­ent kind of petrol­head. The me­chan­i­cals don’t mat­ter, the aes­thet­ics do and Sachin comes up with the most dif­fi­cult of ideas to get Poonam to make an art­work of. Au­to­mo­tive art can’t be too fic­tional. There are al­ways sources of in­spi­ra­tion – a pic­ture or a story. Get­ting it to can­vas is Poonam’s spe­cialty. I ask her for a pro tip from her years of prac­tis­ing this rare art form, (she’s the only girl I know who paints cars and mo­tor­cy­cles) and she’s quick to say, acrylic works best. The most im­por­tant thing while paint­ing au­to­mo­biles is to de­pict the en­ergy they pos­sess. The speed and power can only come with the gloss of acrylic paint. Water based paints are too soft and the matte fin­ish of oil paint­ings are not suited to set the mood of the paint­ing un­less the set­ting is of a clas­sic in fad­ing light. Where does she go from here? “It’s tough ac­tu­ally.” “There are very few au­to­mo­tive art con­nois­seurs in the coun­try and those who don’t ap­pre­ci­ate it want my art pieces for give­away prices. I know the ef­fort re­quired in cre­at­ing these and at least I de­serve what ir is worth.” “I know the work I do is unique and there are a hand­ful few who work on au­to­mo­tive art. Hope­fully I will get some global recog­ni­tion if I get a good launch pad.” Her voice gets softer as she says that. On the in­di­vid­ual level with her fam­ily’s sup­port, Poonam has been work­ing hard to build a ca­reer around her pas­sion but the hold­ing hand just isn’t there. Au­to­mo­bile com­pa­nies in In­dia don’t have a rich his­tory here and so the fan base is just not there. In­ter­na­tional brands have their fol­low­ers in the western world, a world far away from this shy vil­lage girl. Now only if her art could speak for her.

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