Ever since I was a baby, I had been stubbornly clear about my favorite color, and it has consistently held the #1 position as the most enchanting color in the palette for the last 28 years now — blue! However, it was only recently that I discovered the name of the particular shade of blue that I had been most attracted to so far in my life.
I visited a celebrated art gallery yesterday with my two artist friends — National Gallery Of Modern Art in Bengaluru, India. The century-old white mansion, that had once been the vacation home of the Raja of Mysuru, now exhibited modern artworks of various artists — with the Old Wing exhibiting works of renowned artists of the 18th and 19th century like Raja Ravi Varma and Abanindranath Tagore. The bungalow is flanked by a glistening pool on one side, overlooking the in-house canteen and library, and a sprawling garden on the other side, where a collection of sculptures are a sight for the wandering mind.
The place had been on my go-to list for a few months now, but I guess the timing was perfect this time. The New Wing of the gallery was showcasing 60 years of selected works of the legend — Manu Parekh. Manu Parekh is a celebrated modern artist, whose works mostly include miniature paintings and abstract art.
The exhibition showcased over 150 works of the artist, from the time when he was still a student at the JJ School of Art in the early 1960s, to the paintings he had made as recently as 2017. From painting different versions of Lord Ganesha, to creating a visual drama of Flowers Falling From Heaven, and Man Made Blindness — perhaps the most eye-catching was his version of Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’, a collection of 13 heads that are said to belong to certain friends and actors.
However, the part which was the most captivating for me was his Benaras collection, in particular, a painting called Benaras in Blue. I stood in front of the painting for a few minutes, looking at all the shades of blue he had used on that canvas, and I distractedly mentioned to one of my friends, “I think this is the best out of the lot.” Naturally, I was attracted to the underlying shades of blue that made the base and most of the painting. “You know what shade of blue I like the most?” I pointed at a particular set of brush strokes that had been used to represent the waves of Ganges in the painting, and with a big smile on my face I said, “That one! I love it.”
I was immediately transported to the day when I had been fortunate enough to enjoy some of the most beautiful shades of blue that nature had to offer. I am naturally drawn towards the color whenever I see it in my surroundings — whether it is looking up and staring at the clear blue sky (I love it, I hate looking at a vast grey sky with no intermittent white clouds), or gazing at the crystal-clear water of the sea, trying to decipher the color palette, going from deep blue to aqua marine to seaweed green.
I got the best dose of clear blue skies when I was traveling through Slovenia by road with my friends. I still remember the moment when I was lying on my back on a wooden plank by Lake Zelenci (which was another beautiful shade of blue/emerald-green, but more on that later), surrounded by the Martuljek mountains and forest trees. I had never seen a clearer sky before in my life! I felt so at peace, just staring at the sky made me calm and happy.
The second time when I was mesmerized by the many shades of the color was on my 27th birthday, when I was ferrying from Split to Trogir and had a scuba diving-pit stop in Blue Lagoon in Krkjansi Bay. It was a sight to behold, and I felt blessed to be turning a year older with such a breathtaking view to savour.
They say the color blue is associated with depth and stability, and symbolizes trust, wisdom, confidence, truth, and heaven. My grocery bag rarely sees that color, but we are constantly surrounded by it, with the sky and the sea. Earth is said to be the most dynamic planet seen from the space, and it is mostly because of the most prevailing shade of blue — deep, royal blue — that reflects against the dark sky. Nobody knows how many shades of blue actually exist; some say the number is over 150, some arthouses validate 233 shades of blue, the Crayola color wheel sports 19 shades of blue. From what I know, it is infinite.
My friend could see the excitement on my face. Breaking my trance, he used his artistic knowledge and the power of Google, and showed me the name of the particular shade I was talking about. There it was — my favorite shade of blue shining brightly on his phone screen, with one word flashing on top of it — ULTRAMARINE.
Ultramarine is a pigment made by grinding lapis lazuli into a powder. Unknowingly, my friend had solved a 28-year-old mystery for me. I looked up all the different shades of blue, read several articles on it and checked out hundreds of images online, thanks to the second friend who was with me at the gallery yesterday, who constantly encourages me to follow my passion and explore my curiosity. I feel blessed to be able to enjoy the things I love in abundance. I feel more blessed to have such people in my life who push me to do my best. Thanks to such weekends, I finally discovered what my most favorite shade of blue is called.
(This is a repost of an old article I published under the title — The infinite shades of blue in our world, and the one I love)