Known for a visual vocabulary that spans multiple mediums, in a career of over four decades, artist Paresh Maity, 58, has addressed numerous themes and brought to life cities from across the globe. In his biggest exhibition that travels across four cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru) over five months, he is showing over 450 works that combine paintings, large scale installations, sculptures and soundscapes. The Delhi-based artist on experimenting with mediums and what it is like to belong to a family of painters.
What drives you to constantly experiment with new mediums?
The universe, I feel, is empty, without any shape. Nature is spontaneous and that is something that defines my work. When I begin, I let the form emerge itself. Each medium has its own texture, suitability. While I find watercolors extremely beautiful, oil offers a range of colors. Although I have worked on a huge scale with
both, there is still some limitation to the size. That obsession with size is fulfilled with sculptures. There are certain forms that appear in my dreams that can only be expressed in sculpture. I am not looking for a subject or object, they are looking for me. I have worked with motorcycle parts, bells, metal cages, the possibilities are endless. I’ve also made two short films — The Magic of Monsoons: Montage, Moments, Memories (2011) and The Mystic Melody: A Day in the Golden Desert (2010).
In this exhibition, I have worked with textiles for the first time. Made with khadi, the work Time Present and Time Past is painted with vegetable dyes to showcase the journey to heaven. On the other hand, Urbanscape is one of the largest bronze sculptures of India. It is 26-feet long and weighs 7,000 kg. The giant jackfruit examines the dense nature of the urban landscape.
You are exhibiting ceramics for the first time too.
I still remember, as an MFA student, I had visited the Picasso Museum in Paris where I saw his ceramics and was completely mesmerized. I have been quietly working in the medium for over a decade and finally decided to exhibit them, as I felt I now had a collection that I wanted to share. Unlike my paintings, here I have worked
monochromes. Also, with ceramics one has to consider that you can never be sure of the color after it is baked or even how many pieces will come back intact from the kiln — it’s also a revelation for the artist.
Water and light are two elements that have always been important in your work.
In Tamluk (a town in West Bengal), I grew up surrounded by lakes, ponds and rivers. Since then, I have always been attracted to water. I love any place that has water. The first painting I made had a boat. Water is life itself. Likewise, light is also a source of life. As an artist I feel understanding light is important to analyze the numerous shades. I only paint during the day and twilight is my favorite time of the day, be it
in Venice or Varanasi.
As a teenager you ran from home to Delhi to pursue art. Are your parents happy with your choice of profession now? How is it to be part of a family of artists?
When you are young, so many people offer career advice. My father’s colleagues insisted that I gave the Joint Entrance Examination for medicine and engineering, but I wanted to study art. So, I ran away to Delhi for a few weeks, until my family finally agreed to let me take admission into Government College of Art and Craft,
Kolkata. For six years, I traveled for four hours and 200 km each way to reach my college from Tamluk, since I did not have the money to stay in Kolkata. But when I look back, those were exciting times. I then came to Delhi for my post-graduation.
My parents were, of course, later happy, after they saw how my career shaped. My father is no more but my mother is keen to know about me exhibitions. Now we also have so many artists within the family, my wife (Jayasri), son (Reed), Sakti da (Sakti Burman, uncle), his wife (Maite Delteil), their daughter Maya. We often discuss art,
but all of us have a distinct artistic vocabulary and don’t really influence each other.