Her preoccupation with Lord Ganesha started while she was confined to bed due to an injured foot. Since then artist Sujata Bajaj has painted, etched and sculpted him for three decades, a passion that ran parallel to her career as an abstract colourist.
The exhibition, “Ganapati”, brings to light her lesser-known side in a culmination of work that has been 30 years in the making.
Sujata uses a variety of techniques and materials that she has been collecting over time like gold foil, newspaper clippings, musical notes or fragments of texts and miniature paintings — all of which bring about a unique feel to every canvas or sculpture, setting the body of work apart from that by other artists who too are fascinated by Lord Ganesha.
Sharing the story of how it all started, Sujata said she started making drawings of the Elephant God while nursing her foot. Soon, she started doing it obsessively, with each new drawing building on the previous with a slight variation, but always pointing at the form of Lord Ganapati. She later added new techniques and materials. However, Sujata kept the project under wraps as it was deeply personal and she did not feel like sharing it with the world.
Talking about her muse, Sujata said: “For me, Ganapati is endless. I feel a sense of complete freedom and liberty in abstracting his image. No other form lends itself as vividly to the abstract as Ganapati. When I paint him or sculpt him, I am certainly not painting or sculpting a God. I am, in fact, through the process, experiencing my own artistic freedom, and the immense joy intrinsic to that freedom.”
She added that although her works may be abstract for the viewer, to her each and every work is so clear that the word abstract comes as a surprise to her. She has incorporated ancient texts in her work so that they connect the past with the present and reveal the formidable strength of our cultural roots. Inspired by the works of Henri Matisse for over 25 years, she has incorporated his paper cut technique into her etching collage series, made using different colours of paper and an old envelope. She has also used horoscopes, pages from ledgers and account books, her own handmade paper, clippings from Marathi newspapers printed during the Ganapati festival, miniature paintings and other found items that connect to the subject.
As a part of the show, an illustrated coffee table book published by Art Alive Gallery, New Delhi; Gallery Art & Soul, Mumbai; Galerie Patrice Trigano, Paris, and India Media Group was also released. The book contains a lead essay by Jean-Claude Carrière, a French writer-actor who was recently awarded an Oscar for lifetime achievement and who has been following Sujata’s career for over 25 years. The book also features an in-depth interview of the artist by well-known New Delhi-based art critic Kishore Singh.
The show is on at Art Alive Gallery, S-221, Panchsheel Park till Thursday.