Artist Paresh Maity teases our aesthetics and plays with our perspectives, taking us on a journey of colour and chaos
Looking at a Paresh Maity canvas is like watching a spirited and resolute rainbow that is not afraid of crossing the lines separating its seven colours and uniting them in artistic bliss.
Maity was recently in Australia at the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair showcasing Eyes of the Soul – an exhibition of his works presented by New Delhi-based Art Alive Gallery and Westpac. His work is driven by the “logic of colours and not that of the brain”, with a palette full of vermillion streaks, swarthy greens, blobs of ochre and bursts of blue. “Colour is life; it is the universe. Without colour and the play of light and shade, life will cease,” he told Indian Link.
About the artist’s explosive use of colour, Rosa Maria Falvo, a specialist in Asian contemporary art, notes, “There is a fine line between poetry and painting. At their best, both seek to bypass logic and enter that sensory realm where free associations are vividly perceived but remain unspoken… Maity seems to experiment with this possibility especially through his use of colour; infusing and encouraging feelings, rather than thoughts, which feed off preceding, primeval memories and sensations.” His undaunted celebration of colours brings out the different hues and shades of India, contrasting and complementary, all at once.
These colours have entered his soul during his travels across the country. A romantic at heart and an owner of a buoyant mind, he shuns stagnancy and is always on the move. He borrows the colours from his sojourns – the vitality in his vermillions from the ghats of Benares, the crimson red sunsets and chrome-ochre sand dunes from the desert of Rajasthan, and the blue and green fluid landscapes with floating dinghies from Tamluk, where he was born.
Tamluk, believed to be the site of the ancient city of Tamralipta, was the point from where Mauryan trade ships sailed out for adventures in distant lands. Situated at the banks of the Rupnarayan River, the town’s watery vistas and its verdant green fields amid its many ponds and lakes found their way into Maity’s early expressions. Painting water with water (colours) on canvases of 8-10 feet became his soul food, a medium most difficult as it allows no scope for retouching or rectification.
However, like a true practitioner of art, Maity could not limit himself to painting. Sculpting and casting came naturally to him, especially through his encounters with clay models and terracotta idols of divinities made for local festivities in his hometown. His genius as an art maker and the magnanimity of his scale was established when his 144x72x102 inches ‘Sound of Silence’, made of 8,000 copper-alloy bells and ironically named, made quite a noise and ruffled the poise of many onlookers at the Sydney Contemporary Art Fair.
An artist who uses colours so gallantly, can he be far behind when it comes to experimenting with forms and shapes? His paintings hide several portraits in a single face, perhaps alluding to the several masks we wear. The influence of Pablo Picasso is visible in these paintings with cubist angles and lines and in his sense of symmetry and balance, while that of J.M.W Turner finds resonance in his earlier landscapes. Indian folk art also has a strong hold on Maity and it is depicted in his bronze statues and massive installations.
For his Australian audience at the Art Fair, the artist had conjured a 72×102 inches canvas of Sydney with the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge in the backdrop of the New Year’s Eve fireworks. This was a move away from the chaste and pristine Sydney that we know through her blue waters and sandy beaches. Maity’s Sydney was a sultry siren, a femme fatale, bathed in fiery reds and cobalt-bluey mysticism.
Also featured were paintings in circular frames, such as the ‘Wedding Bell’ and ‘Life’s Melody’, which captured the circularity and continuity of life and its uncensored conversations and raw emotions unlike the ubiquitous rectangular frames that are more suited to landscapes. Another recurrent motif in his contemporary paintings is the omnipresent eye. For Maity, the eyes are the window to the soul and “the most expressive part of the human body”.
On being asked about the importance of understanding the technique of art, Maity says he does not consider them necessary to appreciate art since the purpose of good art is instant upliftment. However, for those who want to take up art as a vocation, he recommends a very high dose of dogged determination and an acute knowledge of the grammar of art.
Maity, who has done his share of realist paintings and landscapes, has now shifted his focus to blending the real with the imaginary, “rejecting a candid imitation of the reality”, and invites his viewers to use their sensory perceptions and not the “logic of their brains” while connecting with his creations.
Maity’s art does not just seek attention from art aficionados or mere onlookers but demands it because of its aesthetics, daring and scale. His paintings and sculptures tease the onlooker’s perspectives and sensibilities, encouraging them to “look beyond”.
In the hearts of an art student, he stirs up deep-set emotions; in an art collector’s mind, he creates longing; in an art critic’s psyche, he puts forward new questions and perspectives; and in the eyes of passive onlookers, he recreates life.