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Bonny Hazuria revives the age-old art of painting on photographs to add new layers of meaning to the subjects of her pictures

ONE OF THE most amusing childhood memories of this writer is of the family photographer's assistant who painted on pictures, turning normal-looking people appear clownish with his ham-handed strokes.

The talentless assistant had no choice in the matter because his employer was attempting to develop a new style of photographs that would make the subjects look better than they actually were. Facing rejection at the hands of customers, the duo gave up the idea long before this writer ambled out of her childhood.

This memory of a long lost time was triggered by something similar but definitely more striking. These were Bonny Hazuria's painted photographs, which are such exquisite works of art that they only elicit a 'wow'. These painted pictures are on display in an exhibition, Between Heaven and Earth, that gets underway at the India Habitat Centre on February 23.

The exhibition has five sections -- painted photographs of well-known personalities such as actor Sushma Seth, murdered model Jessica Lall's sister Sabrina and fashion designer Malini Ramani, cityscapes of Prague, the Czech capital, monks of Dharamsala, people of Indonesia and bare bodies.

Hazuria, 44, who has also painted as a hobby, says her fashion photographer father, Kitty Hazuria, introduced her to the tools of the art, opening up the endless possibilities in the field. "We used to develop negatives for pictures and soon digital technology took over," she says. "I wasn't much into computers, but I found experiments with the technology fascinating."

Somewhere down the line, Hazuria started painting on her pictures. She held a 'small show' of her painted pictures in 2009 at Epicentre, Gurgaon, but the forthcoming exhibition will be big enough to showcase her entire repertoire.

Hazuria's technique involves taking a picture, painting on it digitally, and then painting on the print of this worked-upon especially the portraits, and over a period of time, I have experimented and settled on a style and technique of my own," says Hazuria, adding with a laugh that she realised much later that many painters used this technique and had made quite a name for themselves with such paintings.

The artist adds that these pictures are largely a matter of chance, so one has to be ready to grab it. "You never know when you would come across a vista that will lend itself admirably to a picture and a painting as well," Hazuria explains.

She employs Nikon D200 and D700 cameras, and uses acrylics and oils to paint her pictures. Of all her painted pictures, Hazuria finds portraits to be the most challenging. "Portraits are not just about the individual in the picture but also the artist's perception of that person," she says. "Even the subjects have their own perceptions of what they want to look like."

The portraits get all the attention, but the painted pictures of Prague are no less enchanting. The red rooftops of the old buildings capped by a clear blue sky seem to belong to another age lost in the mist of advancing time. Hazuria has unveiled a new visual language that is open to infinite experimentation.

-- The exhibition is on at the Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, from February 23 to 28; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Feb 18, 2011
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