What is home? Is it a feeling that comforts us? Is it an emotion that secures us? Is it a person who completes us? For artist Vallery Puri, the concept of home is all of these elements combined in a space with nature and urbanisation. Her ‘Home’ series travels from the city and her personal space, to her garden and further on into nature to explore the multiple levels of the emotion of home, family and friends. The feeling of being in the right place, at the right moment with the right person, is what the artist describes as peace and completeness… the point where home becomes a concept inside out. The artist experienced this feeling when she met her present husband, and this is when the series ‘Home’ was born.

Puri’s figurative works and landscapes are expressive of her state of mind, where nature and urban spaces combine with personal narratives and thought processes. The artist’s paintings are her perspectives of home with reference to feeling, seeing, hearing, learning and absorbing. They take on utopic forms of nature that converse with the comforts of mundane objects, relationships and home spaces.

Everything around us seeds from nature. This is a concept that Puri embraces in her work. Despite the way in which we humans abuse nature through our greed and want for land and materialistic needs, there is still hope for nature and us humans to co-exist in harmony. Nature is forgiving, and will give us all a second chance at life if we allow her to. Every now and then humans are reminded of the power nature still has over us with what we refer to as natural calamities that are beyond our control. However, when we allow ourselves to be one with nature, the fear is overcome by a feeling of happiness, freedom and comfort – this is the feeling of ‘Home’. Looking at nature as omnipresent, the artist optimistically looks at the power of nature to grow back and take over any space, no matter how strongly it has been oppressed by urbanisation and mankind.

In her work ‘Busy Backyard’, a solitary swing suggesting man’s presence is surrounded by the beautiful movement of nature with blooming flowers, fruiting trees, nesting birds and anthills. Describing nature, the artist speaks about the world always being busy in the window until the eyes reach the horizon, which is the sky, and which is where nature still exists. Through her paintings, Puri makes the viewer aware of looking beyond one’s immediate surroundings and spaces. We will find nature all around us by just looking beyond our personal needs and ourselves.

Surrounding areas of images from the artist’s garden, to creatures in nature around her enter the artist’s painting to become primary subjects, feelings, sights and references to home. Trees, wild flowers, sunshine, rocks, lakes, birds and bees populate the nature works in the artist’s ‘Home’ series. The paintings ‘Earth’, ‘Enchanted’, ‘Shade’ and ‘Spring’ integrate us into our surroundings while contextualising us in size, where in, we are miniscule in the large encompassing lap of Mother Nature. The pointillist details of the trees and wide expanse of nature in Puri’s works burst with colours and hope, while also making us realise how giving, selfless and accepting nature is with providing homes to so many living beings. Huts, anthills, swings, beehives, mosques, nests, temples and churches are speckled on flowering fields and mountaintops that are integrated seamlessly into the artist’s imaginative vision of nature-scapes.

Humanising nature, Puri gives her paintings titles with which one would expect scenes of urbanisation filled with people. However, it really is a realisation of the artist’s perception of nature being a part of us, everyday.  The painting ‘Neighbours’ is inspired by Puri’s walks in KBR Park in the city of Hyderabad, where she lives. The field of colours and life with the trees, chameleons, bees and birds is the artist’s celebratory tribute to her green neighbour in a city that is otherwise engulfed in fumes and traffic.

Each of Puri’s paintings is based on a memory, emotion, feeling or connection. Her cat Geisha and her husband’s dog Cherie domesticize nature in a space we humans urbanise and call home. The bond between Geisha and Cherie, which started from dislike, turned into curiosity and finally acceptance, is an example of stages of relationships that we all must go through and accept – not only with one another but also with nature and our surroundings. Both pets make appearances with nature and the artist harmoniously in ‘Kitchen Kahani’, ‘Lap Cat’, ‘Geisha and Cherie’ and ‘Swirling Saree’.

Geisha, the cat who travelled across three continents, was the artist’s companion through various phases of her life. Geisha died while Puri was painting the blue Buddha. The artist laid Geisha to rest in ‘Geisha’s Home’ as she freed, yet eternalised her muse of sixteen years, into nature. This painting epitomises Puri’s understanding of accepting and letting go. Resistance often disrupts the flow and pattern of nature. Similarly with relationships and human beings too, by seamlessly allowing nature to take its course, we blend in to allow harmony and coexistence to prevail.

The mundane moments at home that we often take for granted are visual diaries of time frames in Puri’s work. These predictable moments in our personal spaces are what create the feeling of home. They belong to things that are not strange to us, but might be strange to another person. Habits and things we encounter often also become ‘Home’. It is only when we stop experiencing something everyday that we realise how much we miss it and the extent to which, a certain habit or memory is a part of our feeling of ‘Home’. In ‘Swirling Saree’, the artist captures a moment in a memory of her pets Geisha and Cherie, who were fascinated with the ‘Swirling Saree’ every time she wore one – the long sweeping fabric would become a game for them. Flip-flops and familiar objects are strewn across the indoor paintings in this series of ‘Home’, as metaphors for comfort and familiarity.

Familiar objects and scenes gradually blend into the world outside the window and vice versa. Puri sees the world in layers, and this is also how she paints. She begins painting with a layer and constantly keeps adding to it, until she feels that the final layer of her vision and addition to the work has allowed it to become independent. The artist refers to her layered process of painting as a metaphor to life and the way in which our personalities develop. From the time we are born, and until we reach adulthood, there are constant layers being added by people surrounding us and teaching us. It is the process through which we are groomed and thereby develop as human beings with influences and layers added by our family and friends.

The artist’s initial interest in caricatures and human relations from early on in her artistic career extends into this series through her paintings ‘Family and Friends’ and ‘Friends and Family’. In these two works, nature and coexistence predominate again, with one being a family of birds on wires and the other a family of humans in a garden. Referencing tales from Jataka and Panchatantra, Puri gives the animals in her works an almost human expression and story, while intertwining two worlds. Wit and humour layer these works, allowing the viewer to expand conversations and relations between people, birds and nature through their imagination.

Looking at beauty beyond the everyday, Puri’s paintings are filled with hidden elements. The details in her work make them appear busy, but really what they are, are layers of memory, imagination and things happening outside our windows. A personal artistic story becomes a shared public one with the happy chords of memory and time, which thread through the artist’s ‘Home’ series.

In the painting ‘Krishna Baavi’, the artist goes back to a memory of an old well in Rishi Valley School, where she grew up. This space does not exist in reality anymore, but it still lives in the artist’s mind as one that germinated imagination, stories and ideas. Expanding the memory with her imagination, the artist adds elements to it, such as a tree with white flowers, which for her symbolises a connection with her soul to this space.

The ‘Home’ series is filled with enchanting scenes of hope, imagination, time and memory. Nature and private spaces spill over into each other. In works such as ‘Enchanted’ and ‘Pondominium’, the cycle of life, the magical beings in nature and the possibility of these scenes existing beyond a utopia, raise hopes of nature and beauty reviving themselves as a part of our everyday lives. Home begins with nature that enters our personal space, encompasses us and takes us back out into it. We are born from nature and return to it. By allowing ourselves to be one with our natural surroundings; joy, happiness and positivity that Puri’s paintings exude become a feeling – a feeling called ‘Home’.

-Veeranganakumari Solanki