Name: Sujith SN
Father’s Name: K Sundaran
Occupation: Former subedar in Indian Army
When he lost his father subedar, K. Sundaran, in an accident at the age of 15, Sujith S.N. thought he had no choice but to join the Indian military. Sujith, who lived in Pallassana, Palakkad district, in Kerala, had some assurance of getting into the army because of his father. A job would have soon been a necessity to look after his mother and three younger brothers.
Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
But soon, he began to realize that he wanted to be an artist. At 18, during the selection trials for the Indian Army, he was the only one desperate to get disqualified. “I knew I should not become a soldier even if my well-wishers forced me into it. It was a do-or-die situation.”
Sujith had two choices—become a disinterested soldier or at least try to be an average painter. With his mother’s approval, Sujith chose the second option. He convinced the officers to set him free before recruitment.
That was the first breakthrough.
At 31, Sujith is trying to infuse fresh energy into contemporary art by creating a distinctive art form with Sakshi Gallery in Mumbai. His first solo exhibition was in 2008, followed by a series of exhibitions and a chance to showcase at the Grosvenor Vadedhra Gallery in London.
Sujith never took painting seriously till he was in class VIII. By then, he began noticing how his village Pallassana treated and hosted exponents of Kathakali, Kanyarkali and Panchavadyam (traditional art and dance forms), which inspired him.
As a career, initially, Sujith studied to be a draughtsman and started working for construction companies. Often, when he would be expected to supervise labourers, he would instead be caught mixing colours and sketching them.
Sujith’s second breakthrough came when he saw an advertisement by painter Ajith Kadunthuruthy, who was giving painting lessons for free. Ajith opened a new world for Sujith—instilling confidence and exposing him to informative books on art. He motivated Sujith to get a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, and later, a master’s in finance from the University of Hyderabad.
Apart from a scholarship, Sujith won several professional awards as a student, which later landed him the association with Sakshi. “There is no prejudice,” he says of his work. “The grey shades between white and black interact with the outer world. It can be blurring, mysterious or even ambiguous. I am not coming in between.”
He does not want to live and die as a rich man by selling his works, even if his paintings have been well received. “I want my name in the history of Indian contemporary art, if somebody were to write it 20 years from now,” he says.
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