Pictorial synthesis / Transformations

Art to me is essentially all about an inner search. It's about discovering your inner silence and finding ways and means of representing it. The irony is that the only place you can discover this silence is here-in this busy, noisy world. I started painting themes inspired by our day to day reality because I was fascinated by this world of ours. Initially, what captivated me the most was trying to feel the human presence sans the human being. I was forever in search for the lurking human presence, trying to discover it and capture it as a perceptive experience. If you see my early works-between 1979 and 1986 when I was doing oil on canvas-you will not find the human figure in any of my paintings (for instance, the Vision in Illusion series the Anticipation series or the Introspective Anticipation series ). My work, even today, is not about replicating the physical reality in its various manifestations but creating one; a reality that is dependent on one's day-to-day experiences. On places that we live, breathe in-our world. Our continuous perceptive involvement with these places actually transforms their real existence in our minds. And, through my work, I try to bring that transformed image back into the world in its transformed flavour.

I was in Japan, on a research fellowship, in 1994 when my family informed me that I had been offered an exhibition at the Triveni kala sangam and the dates were soon almost coinciding with the time I was expected to return. Since I was concentrating on research I had no material with me and I couldn't wait to get back to India to start work for the show as there was almost no time between my returning and the date of the exhibition. What I did have with me were a few old photographs (lying in my wife's house). These were pictures that had been with me since the last couple of years and had been shot several years earlier . I had been contemplate-ing about them for all those years-they had been brewing in my mind-and by now I could see them just the way I had perceived them to represent.The process of elimination and excenuation had already taken place in the mind . These were things that I wanted to try out for a very long time but I couldn't find the required material and resources in our country to be able to achieve it. Being 'trapped' in this situation actually helped me, as I set upon working on my first collection of experimental work on silver gelatine print, or mix media art as it is popularly known. I flew to the US to be with my brother, and to my surprise I found that the market is flooded with the material required to realise my vision. At his place, I spent day and night creating images that my mind could already see in those old photographic prints I had left behind. I came back to India ready with enough material for the exhibition, titled Within and Beyond, and it was a huge success. I never looked back.

My process of creating art is the reverse of traditional style of painting. Instead of starting from scratch and arriving at a beautiful image, I arrive at the beautiful image in my mind and then find its basis in our world and adjust that whole image to find the image in my mind. I look at a certain place, a locale… there is a certain way light falls, it creates a certain kind of an ambience, omits certain kinds of vibrations… I want to observe. I want to observe it today, observe it tomorrow, and keep on observing the 'scene' until it takes me to another plane. So that slowly the physicality of that place gets dissolved and a perceptive space gets created. A space that only I can see. I want my work to transport that image in my mind in front of me in the form of art.

But the scene that inspires one may not stay there forever. A certain light that fell on a certain staircase in a certain way may never fall like that again… I need to capture that moment-in a way that enables me to brew the image in my mind. That is where technology steps in. The camera-to save that precious image in my mind as a physical reality, I need technology in form of the camera. As a student, I had studied under Jyoti Bhatt and Nasreen Mohammedi and it is they who introduced the camera as a creative tool in my life. But the camera takes a picture in its entirety, it captures a physical whole and not what my mind only can see, what I want to create. So I click a black and white image to get the most basic set-up, and set upon it to create my mind's image. On a silver gelatine print, I paint. With the help of chemicals, I subtract from the image that I do not want and add to it-with paint, crayon, acrylic, spray paint, anything I feel will create the right effect-what I want to see. And I give shape to my perception.

For those who think mix media is 'easy' or look down upon it, I have no words. I don't need to prove to anyone that I have the skill needed to paint. I know I do, I have been there done that, and I have found my calling elsewhere. We need to move with the times and not get stuck in twisted ideas of pure and impure. Art is about sharing a realisation, and the way in which an artist shares it shouldn't matter. If technology helps me expressing my art, I will use it.

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