Silent echoes

Written by Garima Pant | Updated: Mar 27 2011, 08:18am hrs
Walking through the corridors of artist Satish Gujrals residence is a treat for the senses. The walls are adorned with works more than five-decades-old, every nook and corner of his house vindicates his passion for art. And meeting one of the pioneers of modern Indian art is therapeutic as he bowls you over with his infectious enthusiasm and zest for life, despite having lived with a hearing disability since he was eight-years-old.

Known for his ability to work in various mediums, show after show, Gujral once again has decided to experiment with his style in his upcoming show Ascending Energy, Merging Forms in the capital. This exposition comes after a self-imposed hiatus of four years. His works depict a confluence of formshuman, animal and mechanical.

And it is this change that has been a constant in Gujrals career, be it as an architect, a painter or a sculptor. I keep changing. And that is the only thing in my life that hasnt changed, says Gujral. He elaborates, Normally, an artist works in any mood, to create an individual style and approach. And if he is lucky, he gets recognised and it is this very recognition that becomes a cage. He is afraid to change even when he knows that his style has become dead wood. But he will not change because he is afraid of the problems the new one will bring. My only achievement in life has been that I am not scared of the change. Every time I found that I have reached a styles plateau and what I may now create will be a repetition, I drop it. I search for something new. The 60 years of my life, which I have put in my work, is a proof of that, says the veteran artist. Undeterred by losing his ardent admirers, Gujral sticks to his beliefs. I dont work for others, but for myself, he says.

And those 60 years have been filled with honours of every rank and order. The Belgian Government honoured Gujral with the Order of the Crown for designing the Belgian Embassy, the only non-Belgian architect ever to win this distinction. The same building was selected by an international jury among 1,000 most outstanding buildings built in the 20th century around the world.

Before I created a building, nobody thought architecture was art. But I thought what makes art is the vision of the artist not the medium. Candle stands of yester-years have become museum pieces today. But not every candle stand is a work of art. It is the intensity of feeling you fuse in an expression that makes it art. When I took to ceramics, people made fun and when I took to architecture the same happened. But I was not working for them. I remained in architecture for 20 years. However, I am no longer in it for the last 15 years because I reached a plateau, says Gujral.

Its this fierce determination and the will to fight against all odds that makes him stand apart. And he minces no words when he disregards the entire Progressive Art group. Nothing like a Progressive group ever happened. Those artists who claim to be a part of the Progressive group are very merited artists and I pay homage to their merit. But why this fiction It is said that this group introduced modern European art in India. But modern European art was brought to India by Rabindranath Tagore in Santiniketan in 1920. So modern European art came to be known in India long ago. How can the group claim credit for it asks the veteran artist.

As an artist, who has seen modern Indian art grow from scratch, Gujral believes that the real revolution in Indian art came in the last 15 years. Never in my life have I seen so many new artists coming up and being appreciated. That is admirable, he adds. An ardent admirer of Urdu poetry, Gujral read Ghalib, Faiz and Iqbal when he was just 12. And his deep knowledge of poetry at times translates into his works, as he acknowledges the significant role his other interests play in inspiring him as an artist. And it is this easygoing style combined with an aura of mystery and charm that draws buyers to his works. A collector can relate and easily recognise Gujrals style, making him a favourite among serious buyers, says Ajay Seth, chief mentor, Copal Art, an art advisory firm.

With his wife as his inspiration and his bridge to life, and art as his reason to live, it is the never dying spirit that makes this veteran artist a name that defines modern Indian art.

His show Ascending Energy, Merging Forms at Delhis Lalit Kala Akademi will be on from April 7.