Many Forms of the Elephant God

Sujata Bajaj’s Ganapatis in bright hues combine lyricism with spiritualism.

Written by Vandana Kalra | Mumbai | Updated: March 7, 2016 12:15 am
Sujata Bajaj with her Art work on Ganesha in New Delhi. EXPRESS PHOTO BY PRAVEEN KHANNA 04 03 2016. Sujata Bajaj with her Art work on Ganesha in New Delhi. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

The elephant god, here, has shed his rotund form to adopt a sleeker image and geometric structure. Painted in gold, he wears numerous texts, from Sanskrit shlokas to newspaper clippings and musical notes dancing in the frame. This is Sujata Bajaj’s Ganapati, expressing how the Paris-based artist visualises him. The figurative form becomes the canvas where she fills her abstract patterns. “To me, Ganapati is endless. I feel a sense of complete freedom and liberty in abstracting his image. No other form lends itself as vividly to the abstract as Ganapati. When I paint him or sculpt him, I am certainly not painting or sculpting a god. I am, in fact, through the process, experiencing my own artistic freedom, and the immense joy intrinsic to that freedom,”
says Bajaj.

The exhibition, titled “Ganapati”, at Art Alive Gallery in Delhi, reveals Bajaj’s engagement with the deity over 30 years, since she first started sketching him while bedridden after an accident. “I had made Ganapati drawings even earlier, but never with such intense commitment,” says the artist, who shuttles between France and India.

With the exhibition, the abstract colourist, known for vibrant hues and characteristic lines, also brings together some of the multiple mediums she has worked with over the years, using variations and modifications of printmaking, painting and collage. The surface ranges from handmade paper to cloth, etchings and fibreglass, and she borrows from ancient Sanskrit scriptures, Bhagavad Gita, and miniature paintings. Ashtavinayak is an assemblage of etchings and collages, Jagadadhara has a Ganapati painted in miniature format, encircled with a whirlpool and Gajakarna wears a gold leaf. Clippings from Marathi newspapers from Pune, printed during the time of the Ganapati festival, also feature in some works. “When I try and unify these different sources of inspiration by using them in my works, I am, perhaps, trying to unify my own life,” says Bajaj, a post-graduate in art from SNDT college, Pune.

Born in Jaipur into a close-knit Marwari family with a strong commitment to Gandhian ideology, Bajaj might have learnt the technicalities of art in India — including exploring Indian tribal arts in her PhD — but she developed her oeuvre only in France, where she studied at Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts, Paris, on a French Government scholarship. “I found my artistic vocabulary and language in Paris, where I truly started my work. At the time, I realised I did have something special when it came to lines,” says Bajaj. The following years saw exhibitions across the world, from the UK to France, Norway and the US. “I look at the work and try and understand how to move it further. Sometimes, a dream may reveal the finished work to me. But when I sit there looking at it, I am not quite sure how to proceed, but it always does.” says Bajaj.

The exhibition is on till March 31 at Art Alive Gallery, S-221, Panchsheel Park, Delhi. Another set of her works featuring Ganapati will be exhibited at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, from March 8 to 14.

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