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Trains, platforms and people define the paintings of Bijay Biswal (52), a ticket collector-cum-artist. Taking cues from his observations while on duty, he says his paintings mirror the warmth he feels around stations. Bringing out the beauty of and cultural diversities on railway platforms in his work remains his ultimate aim. Which is why, if larger-than-life posters of Rajinikanth will don one of his canvases, Mahatma Gandhi walking on a wet platform will attract eyeballs in another.
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“While the railways and its surroundings remain an important element in my paintings, I also like to lend to them the spiritual or geographical beauty of the area. Which is why, a crowded Chennai station painting will showcase Rajinikanth while one showing Odisha’s beauty will show a train dropping commuters at Konark temple. I also want to show how trains act as an important mode of commute for dropping devotees at their spiritual termini,” he says.
Posted as a chief ticket inspector in Nagpur, his “wet platform paintings” are being showcased at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai till November 7. This self-taught artist’s paintings have been showcased at various key art galleries, exhibitions worldwide and praised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in one of his “Mann Ki Baat” episodes.
“That was like receiving the Oscars. Modi praised my ability to combine work with passion, a concept I have preached and practiced for years…,” he adds.
Capturing the many moods and activities of commuters with acrylic colors is what he looks out for. “For example, two women holding a heavily stuffed bag together, what commuters do while waiting for trains are some themes that add life to my work. I always like to maintain a cloudy atmosphere in my paintings as that remains the first memory with which I started to paint on a large-scale,” he says.
With eight more service years remaining, Biswal says he could retire early to devote more time to painting. “Whenever I see a beautiful railway station, I have to put it on canvas. I am fascinated with the architectural beauty of South Mumbai, especially at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and that surely would be my next piece of work. I want to create at least two-three paintings everyday, so painting full-time will be my priority,” he adds.