Vijit Pillai re-invents himself with his new art series ‘Maharaja and the Last Supper’
The creative style of Vijit Pillai is one that doesn’t fit into a box. There isn’t a signature style or recurring motif that one easily associates with this artist. His technique and approach to art have evolved over the years, as he felt the need to express himself differently and challenge himself. And his subjects have always been varied. Consider his new series, now on view at Radisson Blu Plaza, Hyderabad. He pays an ode to Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ in his own way, paints a Maharaja (with reference to Duleep Singh, the last emperor of the Sikhs), there’s a somewhat abstract rendition of Kajuraho sculptures, a depiction of solitude, a Buddha, and a group of women caught in a swirl during the ghoomar, among other paintings.
Vijit Pillai likes that his art cannot be slotted into a category. He feels that this quality stemmed from being in the advertising industry for more than 25 years, where change is the only constant. “If you want to be noticed in advertising, you should be different. I’ve tried doing that by being subtle, than making my work garish,” he says.
It’s been seven years since he exhibited his work in Hyderabad, but art has been his mainstay in recent years. He’s worked on customised series for corporate clientèle — forts and palaces of India, folk and tribal dances of India, among others. In fact, the ghoomar is an extension of a painting he had done for the folk dance series. “This is the third version of ghoomar and the largest,” he points out.
The current series is a departure from his previous ones in digital art. Nine of the paintings on display have been hand painted, with several layers and textures adding intrigue to the artworks. In the Kajuraho work, the layers work in a manner to resemble cracks on the ground or the peeling away of paint on the wall, lending an abstract quality. ‘Solitude’ came about when he was going through a rough phase and seeking answers.
For this series, Vijit Pillai used his technical know-how of digital art occasionally to conceptualise the framing and colour tones. Then, the long process of hand painting took over. “I’ve used technology as a tool. It doesn’t amount to taking a short-cut to hand painting. I’d say it’s similar to the situation where we began using filters on traditional film cameras,” he explains.
Though he’s been depicting a variety of subjects and his technique has been evolving, he feels he hasn’t reached a happy space as an artist: “Too much of what I paint is for selling. I feel I am not being experimental enough or breaking boundaries. The colours and themes are what would appeal to the buyer to display the paintings in drawing rooms or board rooms. By doing this, I am not being completely true to myself. Perhaps someday I’d be able to express my darker side through art.”
The fluidity and rhythm that one senses in his paintings is a reflection of his love for music. Hugely inspired by jazz of the late 50s and 60s that he grew up listening to, Vijit says music is the cornerstone of his art. “I am aware of all the sounds around me, and when I paint, it feels as though I am listening to music that I love,” he sums up.
‘Maharaja and The Last Supper’ is on view at Radisson Blu Plaza, Banjara Hills, till February 12.