Vibha Pankaj was born in India, and moved to Scotland twenty years ago, bringing with her all the vivid memories from childhood. This collection of enchanting, lush landscapes is aptly entitled Amaranthine, (amaranth, an imagined, undying flower), reflecting the timeless beauty of the natural world.
The sights and sounds of growing up in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, remain etched in Vibha’s mind, its wilderness of rivers, waterfalls and even tigers lurking in jungle! Today, she enjoys walks around the Pentland Hills near her Edinburgh home.
During lockdown, children loved to cycle through the woodland here as captured in Boundless Bounty, with a glimpse of a kid on a bike in the shadowy distance. Bathed in a shimmering blue and golden light with an amazing painterly pattern of spots, the roots and branches of the tree at the fork of two paths, create a mystical, magical scene. Think: the dark forest in The Wizard of Oz (lions and tigers and bears, oh my!).
The merging of two worlds, India and Scotland, is very much at the heart of these imaginative landscapes, combining sketches and photographs from real life, embroidered with colourful images and memories. The glimmering glow of sunlight through the trees in Home with Sparrows is another such tranquil, dreamlike landscape of the mind.
Vibha is also fascinated by ancient legends and folklore. In the Border Ballad, Thomas the Rhymer sat beneath the Eildon Tree near Melrose, when a beautiful lady approached on a white horse, the Queen of Elfland: Thomas fell under her spell and followed her to the Eildon Hills and the fairy Otherworld. Sir Walter Scott was inspired by the tale of Thomas the Rhymer, and walked the Eildon Hills with the artist J M W Turner.
The setting of The Rhymer’s Eildon Tree is actually in the Pentlands but is reminiscent of the magical Fairy glen in the Eildon Hills. With the streak of sky and patchwork of green fields and woodland, this is a lovely perspective as the eye follows the two figures along the country track.
Vibha Pankaj is a most versatile artist, mastering different media and technique. Here too are several atmospheric land and seascapes with a finely textured surface, using plaster of Paris with acrylic, oil paint and pigments. Morning Mist at Flotterstone is a stunning collage to depict the detailed layering of stones, water, grassy hills and sky.
This study of geology is also creatively crafted in Shoreline, Land and Shifting Time, like a bird’s-eye view of the coastline along the Firth of Forth.
The palette of copper and rusty brown tones sums up a bleak, cold day, with a sprinkling of silver frost over the foliage in Carefree Abandon. The winter chill too in Missives from Nature, a wonderful white snow scene under a salmon-pink sky at sunset.
In these contrasting styles of landscapes, Vibha expresses her vivid imagination as an artist and a storyteller. Many of these scenes would be perfect illustrations for a children’s story book, with birds and squirrels playing in the woodland.
Take a visit to the Dundas Street Gallery to experience a magical, meditative journey to view the changing seasons through natural landscapes, both real and visionary. No booking necessary – six visitors maximum in the gallery.
With grateful thanks to Vivien Devlin for this review.