Ten years ago, when Gurgaon was little more than “a jungle of bushes”, Satish Gupta decided to move his art studio from his family’s home—“a little nest” in Connaught Place—for the space and absolute silence to explore his art.
Since then, he’s been building, adding, changing and working in the meditative retreat he created called Zazen.
Gupta has been painting since the age of four. His work explores the Zen philosophy, the unity of spirituality and man’s struggle toward transformation, in complex colours and repetitive forms. He recently sold his latest sculpture, Kalyanasundara Shiva, for Rs1.5 crore.
He first found inspiration for his half-studio, half-second home while working on his desert series in Rajasthan. While there, beautiful old havelis (mansions) were being torn down for “cement blocks to go up in their place”.
He would beg the owners in vain to not level the buildings. Finally, he bought one such haveli so its intricate woodwork would not be destroyed, had it dismantled and shipped the pieces to his plot of land in Gurgaon.
He conceived the red stucco, circular home as a modern haveli, facing inwards on a central garden, with the old haveli’s woodwork and doors integrated throughout. “I wanted a play of opposites: the old haveli and the new, nebulous curves and stone front; water elements amid stone,” Gupta says. The water element repeats throughout the house, in subtle references, like the shells used as door handles or a staircase that spirals upwards like the inside of a conch shell.
Gupta divided the structure into two distinct spaces: his studio and art gallery and a living space for his family and friends. The main studio shoots up two stories, giving him the space to house even his largest works.
Small side rooms house unfinished projects. Many of Gupta’s works are parts of series he’s been working on for years. He says he likes to have them around him so that when he feels inspired to work on one series, he can go to that room, close himself in and work until he’s near collapse.
On the other side of the building, the living space, two bedrooms, the Jade Room and the Winter Room, hold court on the second floor. “Each room has its own chi. I start working on a central object and build the entire space around it.”
His wife, Amita, a textile designer, added fabrics from her collections to the rooms.
Gupta says that before they married, his palette was monochromatic. In his work and his home, he was attempting to strip away all things, colours and shapes. When he met his wife “suddenly there was colour, there was joie dé vivre”.
Now the rooms are saturated in greens, reds and oranges.
The two spaces, work and home, connect through Gupta’s “inner sanctum” of a study. A literal bridge, it hovers on the second floor over a verandah.
It is here, in a dark wood-panelled room, surrounded by cherished books, that Gupta spends his time, thinking over projects, meeting with friends and sleeping in a small bed tucked in a corner, if his family is not with him.
The study reflects all of Gupta’s main themes: a conch shell collection evoking water, religious elements in Buddha statues, a Tibetan robe, pillars from Gujarat “trying to be Ladakh”, and a fossil reflecting “time being timeless”.
On one door, Gupta painted a portion of a man’s body, inspired by a Christ statue that could only be seen in parts in a church in Florence. “That’s how it should be, though, you can never see the whole picture.”
The central object in the room is a large wooden desk covered with glass. Small spaces beneath the glass double as viewing boxes for shells, painted postcards and pictures of gods and goddesses. While still a youth, Gupta worked for his family in their publishing business. “I sat at a giant steel desk and would slip postcards and pictures under the glass to make it bearable. When I made this table, I used that same idea.”
Every room has a view of the central garden and the hallways are all outdoors around the garden. Here pieces of the original haveli work as art objects and a bar was built out of the doors. “We spend the most time here.”
The seating faces a large Banyan tree, beneath which sits Gupta’s Shiva, a stunning 12-ft high sculpture, until it is moved to its new owner’s house. “Ever since I planted the tree, I visualized a sculpture beneath it. Now it’s Shiva’s home for a while.”
Parts of the house are still incomplete. There is no dining room, no completed kitchen. Gupta will keep his family at their central Delhi home until his eight-year-old son completes school. “It’s growing, it’s evolving. I’m not really in any rush.”
For now, he’s content to work in the ever-changing home, using the rooms as he sees fit. “I believe in the multifunctionality of space. If you don’t put yourself in a rigid role, life is far more beautiful.”