‘Ageing’

‘Ajay Sharma’ art works

Artists create visual statements in that way they understand the world around. Contemporary artists believe in expressing a meaningful art than beautiful art and in a direct way. Every artist finds one’s own way of expression. Ajay Sharma expresses through the examples about his personal life but the explanations travel beyond the objective world. Ajay Sharma lives in Baroda-a conversation with him.

All your paintings look like oil paintings. You paint in oil most I think.

No. The paintings what you see are all done in water colors. They are opaque.

I must say you have very good drawing skills. Paintings look real. All the works are meaningful.

You are seeing my studio is filled with works. I keep working. [smiles–]as much one practices so much technique becomes handy for the artists.

Why did you paint peacock feathers for a crow?

People in the towns feel great to display their money and status. People forget their roots, attachments and relations back home after reaching the cities. They start showing different colours. Just got a cranky idea—if crow forgets its existence and starts sporting peacock’s feathers…how does it look?

This painting was done when I was thinking about the food chain of this nature. [He pointed at another painting] Caterpillar and butterfly rotate the cycle of their life. Caterpillar is eerie looking, butterfly has beautiful looks. Similarly the food we consume and the crops we grow, there is a cycle connecting in between, …goes on in this nature. This life is a mixture of many such good and bad relations.

Is this a collage work, there are many leaves and flowers pictures on the sides, is she your mother in the middle picture?

Yes. This is ‘Props for a family Drama”. I combined many of our family incidents and painted as a drama scene. There are many incidents of life, we cannot share with others. Even if we share we cannot make them understand certain things. When my daughter was sitting in my mother’s lap I was very happy to see both of them. I clicked a photograph and wanted to make a painting out of it. But when I started making a painting many other incidents started coming to my mind. That was the time we had many issues in our family. One important issue was health of my parents. I felt a similarity between leaves and plants eaten by moths and the ageing human bodies. I painted such eaten leaves and flowers to symbolize the ageing lives. The shawl my mother was covering had a different design. I made the design of my mother’ shawl of those flowers what the Vangogh’s painting had. I also showed moths crawling on the carpet where her chair is. Insects catch the carpet and furniture and eat them like sickness of the body without our notice.

What is the painting technique of this family drama composition?

I made it in cyanotype method. Negative of the photograph is taken out in the dark room, we put the required objects over the negative and expose the film in Sun. As per the light exposure, colors change on the film. Then I did some more experiments. I dipped them in tea water. That turned brown and earthy tones bringing the feeling of dry leaves.

You portrayed Vincent Vangogh in this painting, why, because he is a great artist?

He is a great artist. He expressed himself very sensitively. When he was in a mental asylum he painted certain wonderful paintings. As a metaphor I redrew his portrait and added his starry night and Iris flowers paintings in my compositions.

My father was working in IIT Kharagpur. After retirement he could not sit idle. He had taken up another job at Jamshedpur. He was travelling alone there. Slowly he dropped into depression. I could not see that agony when I went home. I imagined what could have been the status of that great artist Vangogh when he was dropped into depression.

Did you enjoy painting right from your childhood? Are there any incidents that you fondly remember?

I started painting right from the age of 5 or 6. My family encouraged that as a hobby but did not approve the idea of joining the fine arts curriculum, asked me to go for engineering. I never understood mathematics and science subjects. I practiced painting with one art teacher. He studied in Calcutta art college and I too wanted to go there. But I studied in Baroda, BFA in 1995 and MFA in 1997 in print making. I did 3 solo exhibitions, more than 25 group exhibitions, exhibited in Singapore. I stayed in London for 6 months, in 2004, exhibited prints and paintings in central London. Those experiences taught me a lot.    

Interviewed by Dr.M.Balamani

[Original article of this English translation is published in Sopathi, Sunday Magazine, Navatelangana Telugu News papers, on 5th May 2019.]

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