The first thing Maite Delteil does, over our long-distance call, is to excuse herself for her English pronunciation. The subsequent conversation is laden with requests for repeating statements on either side, but even with the language gap making its presence felt, it’s clear that Delteil considers herself blessed with a happy life, and that this reflects in her art. Her works are colourful and vivid, with an appealing child-like simplicity that draws you to stare just a moment longer, and quite likely even let out a nostalgic sigh.
Nostalgia because the works seem to be laden with old-world charm as they talk of a simpler time, a more beautiful time when nature was as bountiful as her rounded trees exploding with colours, fruits and flowers. “I like my art to reflect the good part of life,” says the 79 year-old French artist whose current exhibition is entitled Enchanted. “Altogether, life is good. So, why make things dull? It does not mean that I am forcing myself to be happy, but it’s just that I like to be at peace.” Maybe that’s why the humans in her works are usually peacefully mingling with each other and nature, without an expression of overt joy or pathos. The barren trees are usually relegated to the background, even as bursts of colour hold you in a trance. “When I paint, I am in a dream-like state.
I am not too conscious of what I do and why I do it. It just happens that my trees are round. Sometimes, I have to think about what I did and why I did it, after someone points it out to me and asks me about its purpose or context,” she says. It’s then up to the viewer to interpret why even when the serene landscape, usually bursting with colours that spring brings, is still reasonably vivid and full of life even as snow envelopes the ground and the rolling hills in the distance. The lifelike birds are still crowding around the trees in this painting titled ‘Winter’. A couple of trees are barren but the ones we immediately see are still full of colours, only with a softer palette this time around.
Delteil — who often travels to Japan to showcase her body of work — is exhibiting in Mumbai after a gap of six years. She often comes down to India with her husband, celebrated artist Sakti Burman. This exhibition will also see a release of a coffee table book that chronicles her works spanning her entire career, along with rare photographs of the artist with her family as well as in-depth writings by eminent writers. “These kinds of books help people understand the artist better. It tells the readers where I come from, and how my art has developed through the years,” she says. “Life and work, after all, are more inter-connected than we realise.”