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  Life   More Features  04 Feb 2018  Flight of the butterflies

Flight of the butterflies

Published : Feb 4, 2018, 4:29 am IST
Updated : Feb 4, 2018, 4:29 am IST

Michelle is the granddaughter of famous Mumbai architect Jehangir Vazifdar who was well known for his buildings as well as his art.


Butterflies with paper wings soar across the canvas in Michelle Poonawalla’s 3D paintings that open a window to a world of wonder and excitement, beauty and possibility.

Michelle Poonawalla has art in her blood and a deep passion for it since childhood. She is the granddaughter of famous Mumbai architect Jehangir Vazifdar who was well known for his buildings as well as his art.

He passed on his special method of oil painting, which he called fake proof art,  to her as she showed artistic potential at a very early age. 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 benefitted numerous causes and charities. ‘What if you fly’ is an exhibition of her latest 3D paintings from her signature Butterfly series, being exhibited in the city.


With their carefully crafted paper wings the butterflies in her paintings soar across a variety of techniques, from landscapes painted in acrylic to digitally painted images to vibrant graffiti.

“This collection is not linked to my grandfather’s technique. That was oil painting with a ruler. This is acrylic painting with mixed media,” she explains. Elaborating on her art, she says, “The titles are important to each work and they share the essence of the particular painting. For example, ‘Circle of life’ or ‘Twilight’ or even ‘Dreamer’ are all magical and inspirational and leave people with a feel good factor. Art is always one’s mind’s creations.”


Michelle says her grandfather’s art reflected his free spirit. 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. “Once I started experimenting with butterflies, I found I could fly them in any direction — in a circle, off the canvas, to infinity and beyond. The possibilities were endless,” she says, adding, “I was taught a special oil painting technique. It can never be recreated exactly, or copied. Hence, my grandfather called it his ‘fake proof’ technique. Oil paint is thickly applied with a knife to create the intended image. While it is wet, the entire painting is blended into a black or grey canvas. And at one point you don’t see anything but one colour. Then a ruler is used to scrape off the paint. And an image appears like magic from below. If one doesn’t know the technique, one can never get an image, leave alone the complete detailed image.”

Michelle PoonawallaMichelle Poonawalla

On a conclusive note she says, “I’m very pleased with the exhibit that includes art, technology and sculpture. I think it’s been a great mix of technology and installation.”

Tags: butterflies, michelle poonawalla