Journey

Period - 2 : 1966 to 1981Works

I came back in April of 1966 from US after traveling through European countries for four months primarily to look at art in museums and galleries. Such abundant exposure made me dumbfounded because I saw that everything conceivable had been painted over the centuries with great excellence. At that point in my career, I realized that I did not want to do what has been done already. I had to find my own way. Thus the question of my identity became crucial for me. The ongoing concern of what to paint and how became secondary. I was not interested to become an entertainer, documenter, messenger or illustrator, but to strive for creating something new and unique. Therefore, I had to distil out all that which could interfere with my objective even at the cost of sacrificing good ideas and achievements which would look convincing and attractive otherwise. It lead me to hit the idea of fixing pieces of wood after cutting them in different forms, on board and in a playful manner which dealt with creation of space. That put me back on track. I painted 21 such collages, most of which were sold one by one and therefore, I could not exhibit them.

In 1967, Ajit Mukerjee's book 'Tantra Art' was published by Kumar Gallery. It created worldwide ripples and a few Indian artists including me were labeled as Tantric Artists. While it vindicated my use of geometrical forms. It bothered me to the extent that I said in an interview for the Lalit Kala Contemporary issue of April - September 1971:

" I am no Tantric and I am not interested in reviving or simulating Tantra Art, I could not even if I wanted to. What ever our understanding of the Tantric thought based on recent important research, it can at best be of an indirect kind in the present context. More than this, it was the Tantric philosophy of self-realization and the magnificent concept of discipline in everything and on the highest plane which could influence and inspire me."

Besides my contacts with other spiritual gurus, I met Swami Muktananda when he came to Delhi in February 1969 from his Ashram in Ganeshpuri near Mumbai. We clicked instantly and our friendly relationship and off n' on discourse continued in India and US until his death. I found him to be extremely intelligent, humane and affectionate. We debated mostly on the meaning and place of spirituality in the context of creativity, which was then becoming a big concern for my painting concepts.

I set up a large studio for me to paint at the Architecture School where I was teaching a brilliant group of young students. I thoroughly enjoyed working with them and we did several innovative projects. In spite of ongoing family and full time teaching responsibilities, I signed according to my records 266 works from 1966 up to 1980. They were exhibited annually up to 1970 at Kumar Gallery, New Delhi, with unexpected success. One of them titled "Bhairav" got the National Award of Lalit Kala Akademi from the then Honorable President of India.

The seventies began on a high point of creativity for me which also brought public and media adulation, despite response to visual arts in India being eclectic and indifferent. The new innovation in technique included working with wood, shaped canvases, using water colours again after loosing most of them twenty years ago and small format works painted in Acrylics.

My belief of the late sixties that creativity starts when all kinds of narrative and illustrative content with the use of known and familiar objects were completely avoided, was retained by me in the seventies. But my exposure to nature again by periodically living in the mountains, gave me the insight that everything I was creating through geometry was also available in nature, if one looks concretely. However, when elements of nature came back in my works again in a selective measure, it was not for copying nature but to recreate it, from and towards its core. My works became internalised. Their deceptive simplicity apart, it was formidable task for me to distil from the attractive external visual experiences and to integrate them with my internal chemistry before transferring them to unknown territories with mystical overtones derived from realms of symbolism and not allowing the life's realities to spoil my subject matter. It is not easy to paint a mountain which is not there. I got real pleasure in realizing the non-existent.

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