Meet Ms. Neela Ramchandran

Flying, languages, instrument, dance, painting, sculpture…. An artist par excellence

Her life experience spans many worlds. Born and raised in a rural environment. She was home-schooled in academics as well as music. She achieved a high level of proficiency in Saraswati Veena (A traditional Indian musical instrument). Her marriage took her to Bhubaneshwar (Odisha State, India). Neela pursued German and took courses in classical Indian dance. She was one of the few women of her generation to clock several hours of hobby flying.

When she moved to New Delhi in the 70’s, she resumed playing Veena, and was accepted as a student by one of the foremost maestros the late great Emani Sankara Sastri. Delhi also gave her an opportunity to use her German Language skills. She worked with the Goethe Institut in their cultural affairs department, handling correspondence in German, translation and arranging concerts and exhibitions.

In the mid- 1970s Neela took a clay modelling course and discovered her innate ability to make her fingers speak through clay. She worked mainly with terracotta figurines, stylized animals, tiles, pottery and murals. She took to sculpting in the 1980s. She felt that the art was made for her. Recognitions followed automatically. All the three sculptures she submitted to Lalit Kala Academy were selected to be exhibited. By now she had become a recognized artist of the All India Fine Arts Association. During her solo exhibition at the Taj Hotel in Bombay (now Mumbai), M F Hussain, the renowned painter and artist surprised her by walking into her exhibition barefoot, and expressed his admiration of her Ganesha bronze. Another artist visited the show every day with his students.

Neela’s sculptures focus on giving form and dimensions to emotions. Her inspiration is intuitive. She believes that an artist need not stick to one uniform style. The forms she gave her sculptures were chosen based on what she wished that particular sculpture to communicate. Some of her works seem cubist and abstract, while others flow with fluid lines. Some were more realistic and explored the human form, with the intent of capturing certain key aspects of the outward form that suggest a particular state of the person’s inner reality. She says

I follow my mood and feeling at the time of sculpting and I always finished a sculpture that I started in a single session. Some of them took me almost eight hours or more at a stretch to finish. I was always spontaneous, never systematic – like some artists.

Neela toured many countries in Europe in the 70s and held an exhibition of her sculptures in the UK in 1991. She was accepted into the Sculptors Guild of Michigan in 2005. On her 80th birthday, her daughter, Chitra, surprised her with her website that captured her work. A surprise that she cherishes and still holds close to her art. At 87, she is brisk and positive. Art is her world and her space. She is keen to do art exhibitions and we hope to see this soon Neela is certainly an inspiration to all of us.

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