Laxman Shreshtha describesElaborations, his ongoing show at Mumbai’s Pundole Art Gallery, as a radical experiment. The 68-year-old artist is the darling of corporate India (Ratan Tata only buys Shreshtha’s paintings). This time the veteran, who is known mostly for his vivid colour abstracts, will show 26 black-and-white paintings on his favourite theme, landscapes.
Not just that, he has painted a canvas of record proportions—9ftx13ft—for the exhibition. Shreshtha is in Kathmandu, Nepal, till the end of March for a show of the digital version of these paintings. He spoke about his return to the art galleries after a four-year creative sabbatical.
Why did you opt for the purely black-and-white format?
I have done black-and-whites before, but this is my first one-man show on this scale, minus colours. Every artist must experiment and I thought to myself, why not obliterate all colours from my work. I took five months off to put this together. All creative work takes you towards spirituality and, if you limit yourself to black-and-white, then there is even greater discipline and purity involved.
We tend to associate landscapes with colours; didn’t you find black-and-white limiting?
I begin with the notion of a landscape and then move on to other things. I started with mountains because I was born amidst them, but then I put in my experiences, my emotions and struggles into the paintings.
What else makes Elaborations an off-beat show?
This is the first time I have done this large a canvas. I had been to Bali on a break and it was a tremendous experience. There were rainforests all around. These are really dense forests, where you can barely see sunlight and there was a huge population of monkeys. I just had to put all this down on canvas because I couldn’t find paper the size to fit my thoughts. I locked myself in for six days, refusing to deal with anyone, even my wife, and did the painting. When she finally saw it, she sat quiet for a minute and then quipped: “Wah. Only a Maithili could have done this.”
I am out of the country for almost all of April on a tour of London, New York and Paris. My collection for this trip includes black-and-white artwork. It is a totally new batch of paintings. I have taken a long enough break, so it is back to travelling and painting now.
‘Elaborations’, till March 31, 6:30pm-8:30pm, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai.
Laxman Shreshtha’s works are priced at around Rs1.5 lakh, and digital prints are around Rs1,000.