I caught my breath when I finally sat in my seat in the flight. The journey to the airport to catch the flight had been quite bizarre and at this point, I could not be bothered with the refreshments provided in flight by the attendants. What caught my eye, however, was the mesmerizing painting in the water bottle given to me.
With heavy eyelids slowly dropping, I closely observed the painting in the Himalayan bottle hazily before completely shutting my eyes. The picture I saw on the bottle lingered in my mind. I imagined I was in that world, and it felt very familiar and I thought that I had seen it before somewhere. I went on to explore similar landscape paintings in my imagination. As I slowly walked through pages of my memory, I was taken back to the art room in school and the episodes of my old art teacher showing us similar paintings. Then it finally rang a bell, and I could remember where I had see the painting before! The painting was a work of Nicholas Roerich. I was sure of it. A Roerich painting done in the Himalayan bottle couldn’t be more unlikely.
I felt a sense of pride having recognized that painting; not because it felt artistic but rather, it felt like I was honoring his legacies of great works left behind. One can surely recognize works of great painters like Monet, Van Gogh or Kling and so on. But being able to read the work of an unfamiliar artist is what makes it exciting. The Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York city is not well known but the following is a fervent one.
I’m personally drawn to his later work, his work done in the west also has the charming touch of fantasy and the style remains the same. Visually speaking, it reminds me of a mix of old soviet animations, earlier Disney movies, and vintage fantasy storybooks.
Roerich is well known for his expeditions and explorations both in art and spirituality. He was on a quest to find his own Shangri-la which would’ve been nirvana had it not been for the eastern influence. His paintings are therefore a reflection of his journey. One such example of his work is “the path to Shambala” a mythical place that exists as a concept or Kailash a holy mountain that cannot be climbed by men.
In the end, it is said that he did find the entrance to Shambala and lived to tell a tale and guide others the way through his paintings. He died in Nagar near Kullu, Manali in Himachal Pradesh. A place close to his heart and appropriately located right at the entrance to Shambala. His estate has now been converted into a museum.
I was awakened by bright orange rays of light from outside the plane window. It had been a dark winter morning at 4 in the morning when I boarded my flight. Now I could see the sunrise over the faint snowcapped mountains which slowly turned pinkish-orange creating an illusion like those of Roerich’s paintings. Was I hallucinating? Unable to tell dreams and reality apart? Having a background of sleep disorder, it was hard to tell but I liked the impact the painting had on me which felt like a daydream.
It is undeniably true how humans have the tendency to turn everything to art- paintings, fashion, architecture. It would be a loss to simply pass each day without living through it. This could start from little appreciation. Drawing from deep into nature, artistic expressions are gifts and manifestation and making it ours, we need to engage in art with care and responsibilities. It all comes down to being able to appreciate what is around us, taking a time to step back, take some time and breathe and pause. We hear of this everyday but it comes with practice. The pursuit of greater things, bigger glamour always gets the better of us. However, the appreciation of Roerich’s painting on a water bottle while flying in the sky with the clouds and colors was an enriching and precious experience to me. In order to enjoy art, all we need is a keen eye and a sensibility to the creative expressions that is found everywhere, even in a water bottle.
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