For Mrinalini Singh, a spiritual woman who believes strongly in fate, a rewarding personal connection with flowers was predetermined. After all, mrinalini means lotus in Bengali Sanskrit, and she has felt a kinship with flowers since she was a child.
Describing her current exhibition, Mandala — An Inner Journey, she said that each one of us represents our own mandala, (loosely translated from the Sanskrit as circle), a continuous spiral, of concentric circles emanating from the time of our birth.
Mrinalini, 47, arrived in Jakarta in February with her husband, Indian Ambassador to Indonesia Hemant Krishan Singh, and this is her first solo exhibition in the country. By painting and exploring flowers, Mrinalini has developed the personal clarity and understanding needed to appreciate her own journey. Her art seeks to invoke emotions of clarity and happiness, and help the viewer understand and be themselves.
Despite the confidence with which she now speaks about her own intimate connection with flowers, her path toward this relationship was not always clear. She believes the journey and the connection was there earlier, but she was not conscious of it. Since she began working with flowers eight years ago, she has been able to better understand the purpose of events and see signs more intuitively, she said.
“My art gives me the sensibility to see things unfold,” she said. “Painting flowers is my vehicle to finding happiness, and finding out who I am.”
Prior to establishing and building this connection, Mrinalini earned satisfaction by taking on the ever changing challenges that she encountered as she and her husband moved around the world.
While living in eight countries with her husband and two children, she graduated via correspondence from university, trained to be a journalist, did some freelance travel writing, learned five new languages and even took on a rigid golf club.
“I enjoy anything that I could really put my mind to,” she said. When her husband became a member at a golf club in New Delhi, Mrinalini took the fact that women were restricted to a second rate course as a personal challenge. “The only way to beat the system was to prove you were better than the men,” she said. She played almost every day and in seven months cut 17 strokes off her handicap — and forced the club to let her play on the good course.
Despite the reward of succeeding at these different challenges, Mrinalini found that whenever she finished each project she would always go back to her art. “I enjoyed so many things that I had to force myself to get focused, and say that this (painting) is the thing that I enjoy more than the others,” she said.
She did this about eight years ago, around the same time she began focusing on flowers.
“I like detail, and flowers give me the opportunity to observe in detail how they change and how they work,” she said. “I look at flowers like I want to get inside the flowers and feel them and show how big, grand and beautiful they are … I like to focus on an aspect and explore each petal.”
Her desire to explore each detail means that her paintings project large color-filled petals across the canvas. The flowers are not typical of still-life paintings that portray a bouquet of flowers, sitting in a vase on a table. Instead she explores on large square meter canvases the details and textures of a few petals and styluses. The bright colorful petals fill the canvas and force the viewer to sit back and slowly take in parts of her work, one stylus at a time.
Her passion for painting is fueled by the happiness and the clarity it brings her. “My flowers center me and help me to see where I am and the world around me,” she said. “Nobody else is going to give you happiness, you have to find that within yourself,” she said.
Mrinalini draws inspiration and guidance from the poetry of famous Indian Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), and credits Armendo Villegas for helping her develop as an artist. Mrinalini trained under Villegas, one of Columbia’s most recognized artists and a pedagogue — an artist who has been trained to teach other people who have artistic talent — in Bogota before she came to Indonesia.
Villegas taught her to feel every brush stroke with her heart, she said.
When painting flowers Villegas said to feel every petal, feel the essence, texture of every flower, and transmit this from the heart onto the canvas.
Since leaving this important mentor, Mrinalini said that art has helped her settle into Jakarta.
She joined a weekly class for sculpting with a group of women led by well-know Indonesian sculptor Dolorosa Sinaga. “I was interested in human figures and enjoy this different dimension and new form of creative expression,” she said. These sculptures, created in clay and cast in fiberglass, will be on display along with her paintings.
Mandala – An Inner Journey will be on display at KOI Kafe and Galeri at Sanerro House, Jl. Kemang Raya No. 10A, South Jakarta, from July 21 to Aug. 10, open daily 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Jakarta Post, 20 July 2003
Jock Paul, Contributor, Jakarta