Shapes of the elephant god appear in the form of sculptures, mixed media, and collage in artist Sujata Bajaj’s ongoing exhibition
“I am a person of colours and lines. I feel like I can convince anyone through them,” says Sujata Bajaj. The overpowering hue of red, geometric contours in sculptures, and line drawings in the Paris-based Indian artist’s works struck me almost instantly as I walk around Park Hyatt.
Evidently, the Ganapati series by Sujata, comprising different forms — from line drawings and etched collages to sculptures — is visually buttressed by Sujata’s preoccupation with lines and colours.
In the city for her solo show and the launch of Sujata Bajaj: Ganapati, the coffee table book that consolidates her works spanning 30 years, Sujata recalls her first ever experience in Madras. “I had a solo show in ‘85 or ‘86 and it was in Sarala’s Art Centre. It was inaugurated by the late MS Subbalakshmi. Such a surreal experience!” she says, adding that she was surprised to know that a lot of Chennai homes housed her works right from then. The exhibition has two aspects this time: the first covers her abstract works — a genre that she specialises in — and the second constitutes her Ganapati series.
“The form of Ganesha is special to me. It has nothing to do with religion, I rather look at it as a creative form; which is powerful, I feel,” she says, adding, “You can see that many artists, craftsmen, from different genres: figurative, abstract, decorative, all have played with this form. And each time something different comes out. You can present it in two or 100 lines.”
Sujata was about 15 or 16 years old when the form of Ganesha made its first appearance in her imagination. “My father and I were going from Gopuri to Pavnar Ashram in Maharashtra on a scooter. We met with an accident and I was very badly hurt. The doctor’s advice was to not move for six weeks straight; I cried in self-pity,” she recalls.
Confined to a hospital bed, she asked for a few papers and a pen. “I still remember the paper quality. It was typed on one side; and blank on the other. The first drawing that I had done was Ganesha’s, and the last one too. In those six weeks, I ended up with a couple of 100 Ganeshas,” she laughs.
But does the fact that her subject signifies a religious symbol, draw any criticism? Sujata is quick to assert that the form to her, is only artistic and not religious in any sense. “I am essentially an abstract artist and Ganesha is only a part of my passion. I haven’t tried to use it in a religious or provocative way,” she says. This series is the most figurative she has ever gotten to, as an artist.
Sujata has played around various media, for the Ganesha series — line drawings being the most powerful, according to her. Scraps of musical notes, old miniatures, envelopes and maps, which Sujata has collected over a long period of time, factor into her etched collage set, which invites multiple interpretations. An overpowering presence of red cannot be avoided. The sculptures, on the other hand, are made in clay and moulded on fiberglass.
Love for abstract
Sujata says that abstract art has a stronger language. “It doesn’t tell a story immediately, but lets you travel through it. It grows on you and doesn’t limit interpretations,” says the artist as she whips out her phone to show me the biggest vertical work she has ever worked on. Aptly titled Ascension, the 24×7 foot work replete with strong hues and horizontal lines that grow upwards, is connotative of growth and elevation. She later says that it took her four months to complete the piece for a Dubai-based architect. Her mixed media works featuring Ganesha, border on her abstract vocabulary — with line drawings and strong colours. “I think red is a beautiful colour. I think it denotes all aspects of human life,” says Sujata who also uses a lot of black. The artist believes that the black offsets the red and gives it a greater vitality. In fact, Jean Claude Carriere, the acclaimed French novelist, in his foreword to the coffee table book, writes, “This colour springs from her as if by surprise. When I look upon some of her works, I feel she invented the colour red. Or even, shades of red.”
Sujata’s works will be on display at the Park Hyatt, Guindy till the end of February.