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Evocative of many moods

In Sujata Bajaj's canvases, the sliding planes held together by colour are a collage of freely floating fragments woven together by line, colour, texture and beautifully combined text from the Sanskrit scriptures.


THE EXHIBITION of paintings by Sujata Bajaj on at the Apparao Galleries till November 2, is a preview of a major show slated for Delhi later in the month. An internationally commended contemporary Indian artist, Sujata, who has her roots in Pune, has studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris, and presently resides in Norway.

Part of the prominent Indian diaspora, her inspirations are firmly entrenched in the Indian culture like that of her friend and mentor, that doyen of modern Indian art, S. H. Raza. However, India is not her only source of inspiration as is apparent from her work, which shows her having imbibed much from the other cultures to which she has been exposed.

Employing an interesting use of mixed media, each work of art is layered using an assortment of handmade paper, cloth and string, which are brought together using different techniques to create a cohesive entity. She uses variations and modifications of the monotype technique of printmaking studied under the tutelage of Claude Viseux in Paris, along with painting and collage.

The beauty of the imprecise edges of layered colour is compounded by the spontaneous lines that gently traverse the space, and yet the soft flow is enthused by rhythm, energy and vigour suffusing the whole with boldness. The numerous surfaces, the sliding planes held together by colour are indeed a collage of freely floating fragments woven together by the elements of line, colour, texture and beautifully combined text from the Sanskrit scriptures.

The paintings are evocative of myriad moods with their brilliant, bright and earthy colours with the textural element seeming to connote the complacency of age. Exuding an almost ethereal presence, the works are inspiring with a meditative quality that prompts the viewer to be drawn within. The abstraction of form to the elements of line and colour is controlled yet spontaneous. There are no distinct images and yet subtle translucent forms materialise to the mind. The intensely soul stirring and soothing character touches the spirit within, transcendent in its poignant richness. Clearly demarcated lines negotiate hazy colours and absorb fragments of Devanagiri script, which become the signs of Sujata's personal language of expression. This language resounds with the rhythmic cadence of the past being reminiscent of the lilting chant of sacred hymns in partially preserved texts that permeate her paintings.

"The scriptural writing from Sanskrit manuscripts constitutes an integral part of my works, for they represent Indian philosophy in all its richness. I add an artistic interpretation to them. My work reflects the experiences of life and denotes vitality, energy and strength. In fact, my paintings are quite literally memories and life's experiences transformed into signs and symbols."

Remains of yantra diagrams float unencumbered within the space while scriptural text teases the eye, sometimes hiding sometimes emerging, always adding to the dynamism of the work. The calligraphic forms of the Sanskrit manuscripts seem to symbolise her Indian ancestry where her ties are still strong, mingling effortlessly with the varied strands that have made her existence. Her paintings serve as imprints from the cultures her life has traversed thus documenting her journey. There are influences of both India and the West for while the fields of flat colour have nuances of Modern international abstraction, her works also possess the distinctive `rasas', characteristic of Indian aesthetics.

The distinct melding of imagery in the marriage of the Western treatment of colour with the intricate handling of Eastern calligraphic form informs of global content. The process of creating art is in itself a global affair for Sujata for she makes the handmade paper in India, then goes to her studio in Paris for the graphics and finally puts the finishing touches to the paintings in Norway. Her works possess lyrical serenity and yet are full of energetic feeling, speaking fervently of her unique identity and placing her firmly among the great names in contemporary art.

SWAPNA SATHISH

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