In Michelle Poonawalla’s work lies an insistent thread of hope. It snakes through cages, loops through nostalgia, dots the painted canvas in a riot of colour as it takes the form of butterflies. With their carefully crafted paper wings they soar across a variety of technique, from landscapes painted in acrylic to the digitally painted images harking back to Michelle’s childhood, to the vibrant graffiti discovered during her later travels.
In these canvases, we see a magical world: fantasy intertwined with possibility and promise. “I’m a dreamer,” Michelle says; and this dreamer’s world is an explosion of positivity – not only in its intent, but also in form, as the butterflies that dominate the canvases often seem to burst out of the canvas – in twists and turns and infinity loops. The acrylic-painted backgrounds form landscapes in the viewer’s imagination – a glen, a snowy meadow, both equally filled with colour and movement of butterflies. The digitally painted images are filled with a serene wonder, as if spilling out of the pages of a fairy tale. The graffiti-based canvases on the other hand, speaks to a bolder, ambitious note, almost vying for attention alongside the butterflies that surround it. These canvases reveal the many facets of Michelle Poonawalla.
Michelle’s passion for art comes from her grandfather, the architect Jehangir Vazifdar, who became known for his interest in art and his specialist oil-painting method. He passed on the method to her as she was already showing an artistic potential. His thoughts and writings on art helped create in Michelle a deep understanding of art. An incidental drawing for her children led to a collaborative book, where Michelle illustrated a story written by her daughter. Since then a lot of Michelle’s artistic abilities have benefited numerous causes and charities.
Michelle says her grandfather believed in his art he was a free man. In her work, Michelle finds that same freedom and joy, and the viewer will find spirit and strength, wonder and excitement, and a window into a world of beauty and possibility.