Journey

Period - 1: 1951 to 1965Works

I continued to live and mostly work in India which allowed me the freedom to do what I wanted to as an artist. That also inspired me to constantly derive from India's enormous wealth of visual ideas and magnificent artistic traditions.

In 1950's I did 150 paintings and many drawings and sketches. Out of which I gave 20 water colours executed in wash technique, typical of Bengal School, to someone for exhibition in Delhi. I neither saw that man nor the paintings again. I gave another 20 British School style landscapes, painted in water colours on locations in Delhi and its neighborhood to my teacher, who admired them and took them for an in house exhibition in the Art Department of Delhi Polytechnic. He gave them to its library for safe keeping, but they disappeared and were not seen again. Out of remaining 110 works which were sold, I have photo/transparencies of only a few paintings because the facility for colour photography was not available in those years in India.

I found that in 1950's only a few would appreciate and buy art. I may consider myself lucky to sell most of them which indeed was a great help and encouragement for me in my formative years. Other big problem was finding suitable art materials. Their import was banned by the Govt. of India as they were considered to be luxury items.

In 1953, 56, and 58, I traveled extensively in India, east, west and south, to study the magnificence of Indian Art through the ages in temples and caves and make hundreds of sketches, which completed the cycle of understanding the intricacies of Indian Classical Art. I continued to teach full time because, besides the consideration of fixed income, I was getting addicted to teaching.

I started playing Sitar in January of 1956 and got passionately interested in the theory and practice of North Indian Classical Music. I came in contact with eminent gurus including Pandit Ravi Shankar, who hepled me in identifying the traditional iconography of different ragas which inspired me to paint 25 Ragmala paintings in water colours.

I witnessed India getting her Independence in 1947 and suffer the immense tragedy of partition in which thousands of people were massacred for the creation of Pakistan, followed by war in Kashmir. Indians while celebrating their freedom from the colonial rule, also realized that it was not only the geographical partition of the sub-continent, but more significantly, the entire history of her culture which nourished unity through diversity, was also divided on the basis of religion. What a sad beginning for an impoverished country. Arts were therefore of least concern. Even then, Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, the visionary leader and the first prime Minister of India took the initiative to set up academies and institutions to promote arts and interaction among creative artists despite pressing calls of duty from other demanding matters of governance and planned development on a socialistic pattern. Under cultural agreements signed with most of the countries, several Indian artists went abroad. Reciprocally, artists and cultural programmes from abroad were regularly invited to make their presentations. Thus, Indian Arts and artists like me were exposed to contact and influence from all over the world.

I went to Kashmir in 1960 and again in 1969 for an artists camp, and in 1962 to Dalhousie which brought me closer to the beauty of nature in the gigantic Himalayas, I painted it in water colours and made many sketches there which were used to make several paintings. In January of 1961, I joined the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, to teach Art and Basic Design which enabled me to have contact with architecture.

In 1964, I went to U.S.A. after a successful exhibition at Kumar Gallery, New Delhi, a prominent and active place to show contemporary art in the sixties. Besides studying at Columbia University and Art Student's League for post graduate studies in Fine Art and Art history, I held three solo exhibitions. I also interacted with prominent artists including Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Jasper John, Phillip Guston, John Cage, Paul Jenkins and eminent scholars to look objectively at my own roots through Indian Culture and Philosophy. I continued my daily practice (riyaz) on Sitar and gave several concerts, including a few at Philharmonic Hall of Lincoln Centre, New York with American dancers.

I joined Columbia University, New York as a Fulbright scholar for Post-graduate studies in Art and Art History which included my research on well known artists who copied old masters. I took a course in Chinese calligraphy, under a Chinese master, to learn its special technique and painted about hundred small works on rice paper in Chinese ink. I thoroughly enjoyed its fluid spontaneity, but could not do more of them later because of the shift in my track. I also learnt graphics under a Japanese master to do Lithography, Etching and Wood-cut and Engraving. I painted 34 canvases in oils and acrylics in New York, which were exhibited in three solo exhibitions. I also made many Drawings in dry mediums from live models. Out of them 36 were exhibited after thirty years in 1995 at Aurobindo Gallery, New Delhi.

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