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“Moods of Nature” in the Roerich Himalayan Estate 

On May 31-June 3, 2016 the famous artist from Punjab Ashwani Kumar Verma held his exhibition Moods of Nature in the International Roerich Memorial Trust, Naggar (IRMT). 

Already in childhood Ashwani covered the walls of his house in the village of Urmar Tanda with strange drawings. His father, a village goldsmith, understood the value of art and beauty and supported his artistic inclinations encouraging him to study art professionally. Having done well in art while in school, Ashwani went on to pursue M.A. (Fine Arts) from the Government College, Hoshiarpur. He has received 35 state and national awards to his credit (he received his first award already in 1983 while still in college). His biggest pride is the National Award he received in 2010 from the then President of India Smt. Pratibha Patel.

Ashwani Verma does a lot to promote art and support young talents. For two years he ran an NGO called ‘Srijan’ (Creation), which promoted the art of gifted children. As Executive Member of the Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi, Chandigarh, since three years Verma has been actively organizing exhibitions of budding artists. Being simultaneously Head of the Department of Fine Arts in Kendriya Vidyalaya School 3, Jalandhar Cantonment, Punjab, he regularly takes his students for art camps to the mountainous areas of Kashmir and Himachal.

He claims he never studied western art and was never influenced by it. “I copy only Nature, no other artist,” says Mr. Verma. However, he acknowledges he had received much inspiration from the greatest watercolourists of Punjab Pt. T.R. Sharma and C.L.Sharma.

Nicholas Roeirch wrote of the necessity of  “true impressions of reality” for artists. Ashwani Verma is a firm believer in working en plein air. “You can’t make a painting if you don’t experience the landscape firsthand,” he says. “You can’t depict snow if you haven’t felt its coolness.”

For working en plein air he particularly likes foggy mornings in his native district Hoshiarpur. Having discovered the right time and place, Verma normally makes a small watercolour sketch and then brings it to his studio to turn it into a large-size painting (up to 3x4 feet).

Most of all Verma likes mountains. He is never tired of painting them. In fact, most of the works he exhibited in the IRMT depict hills. His confident brush conjures up the images of Dalhousie, Khajjiar, Manali, Shimla, Chamba, Pahalgam and other hill stations. His views of Manimahesh Kailash, the famous pilgrimage spot in the Chamba District that he visited thrice, are a special attraction for visitors. 

The artist called his exhibition Moods of Nature quite appropriately. Well familiar with the nature of the Himalayan region, Verma knows how unpredictable and unsteady the weather in the mountains can be. And his Himalayas are, indeed, moody. They are at once massive and ethereal, solid and almost see-through, transforming as it were with each passing moment.

Verma is fascinated with snow and likes winter in the hills. In the exhibition one can see highlander houses under snow,  snow-capped temples, vehicles stuck in the snow, layers of snow on roofs and patches of snow in the woods...

Ashwani Verma worked not only in the Himalayas. He travelled to Varanasi and toured Rajasthan. In Maharashtra he created a series of works about the temple city of Nasik. One of them is displayed in the exhibition. With its abundance of temples and sadhus, with its traditional atmosphere and the cooling touch of the river Nasik provides wonderful opportunities for painting.

According to Verma art is God’s gift. Quite often, having given a finishing touch to the picture, he steps back in amazement and asks himself:  “Have I done this?” In his view, painting is able to communicate with the onlookers and first of all to its maker. When artist puts his heart and soul into it, it begins to live a life of its own and tells the artist which colour should go where, and how dark should be this or that part. 

Regarding his creative process Verma says: “I see nature with my eyes, pass it through my heart and put it on canvas with my hands.” And these words sum up the concept of art of this gifted and remarkable artist.