For New Delhi-based painter Paresh Maity, it’s difficult to respond to questions about how long he takes to finish a painting. “You see, every single stroke is a sum of my entire life’s journey, so logically I can say that it took me 40-50 years to paint that work, but it is difficult for the other person to understand," says Maity.
The latest reflections of his “life’s journey" will be showcased in his exhibition, Yatra, starting Thursday at the Capital’s Art Alive Gallery. The show will feature five oil paintings, each 7ft-high, and two sculptures, created over the last year and a half.
Edited excerpts from an interview:
Your exhibition, ‘Yatra’, is inspired by Jatra, the folk theatre practised in West Bengal.
I was born in Tamluk, a suburban town near the Bay of Bengal. As a child, I remember being fascinated by the colourful imagery, sounds and scenes of Yatra or Jatra being performed in the villages. It is about celebrating daily life and the joys and sorrows that encompass it, and how it all comes into a full circle in the end. Actually, there is no end or beginning in my works, just people and thoughts moving, sometimes merging into each other and sometimes spinning together. And as we know, India is full of strong colours; it is its identity, and therefore you see a lot of bright colours in my works. Our country is all about celebrating the journey of life in numerous colours.
These paintings reflect your inward journey with people and relationships, and your transition from nature to figures and abstracts.
Yes. It has been a huge transition. Growing up I was surrounded by green fields, open skies, ever-changing clouds, stars and water, and that explains why nature and skies are such an important part of my work. I even learnt the art of communicating with them. As I travelled to Rajasthan and other parts of the country, I started interacting with the entire surroundings, and that’s when figurative started featuring in my works. You see, I am always moving. Like the sea, my imagination is flowing continuously, and that reflects in my art. I can’t even stick to one medium for too long. I don’t have a single favourite medium of art. I love them all.
So how has your relationship with human beings and nature changed over the years?
Over the years, I have tried painting people and surroundings in a more simple way. When I travel, I talk to people; I react to their surroundings, and pick up on the simplest expressions and situations. But as I said, people and their emotions change every single second. That’s why my paintings in this exhibition are in a circular form. We are used to seeing art and things around us in the rectangular form but that’s not how life works. There are no clear corners. Life is a bindu, a circle.
What about the omnipresent eye in your works?
I believe Indian eyes are the most beautiful in the world. Also, eyes are the most expressive part of the human body, and you can read anyone through their eyes. Now if you want to see it as my eye or my subjects’, it is up to you.
Do the works reflect how you have been inspired by Rabindranath Tagore’s poems and Pablo Picasso?
Yes, in a big way. Picasso’s life and works changed every day, till the last day of his life. Something that can be said about my works as well. Of course there is a common identity in my works, but as I said, sometimes the form will be different, sometimes the medium will change. It is spontaneous. I am doing a lot of sculpture and bronze presently. I also believe that Rabindranath Tagore was India’s first and foremost modern artist and his art is timeless and suited to any definition or category of India’s modern art. I am also inspired by folk art and the miniature paintings of India.
You have always believed that public art should be monumental. No wonder these paintings are huge.
Larger works are challenging because things can go out of proportion. It is even more difficult when they are in a circular form. Personally, I like viewing and working with huge canvases and it makes me feel like I am part of something much bigger and beautiful.
Your works have always been happy and positive. At a time when the world is seeing so much violence and freedom of expression has become a topic of debate, do you think art can be a solution?
Art should always give you happiness and (convey the) glory of life. That is the fundamental point of any art.
Yatra will be on view from 29 January-15 February, 11am-7pm, at Art Alive Gallery, S-221, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi . Prices of works range from ₹ 40-60 lakh.
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