What took 70-year-old painter Shobha Patki 30 years to achieve, turned into ashes in a few minutes in front of her eyes on Tuesday. As many as 30 artworks of the artist were destroyed in a fire caused by a short circuit at the art studio housed in her two-storey residential bungalow.
Recalling the incident, Patki said, “My art studio is on the ground floor where I have kept my paintings on display for visitors. On Tuesday, around 11.30 am, I was on the upper floor working on a series of paintings for an upcoming art exhibition when I smelt something burning. Thinking that someone must be burning garbage, I did not pay much attention. When the smell became stronger, I came downstairs and saw huge flames arising out my studio. My neighbours were standing outside the compound calling me out in shock.”
Patki said a few workers who were constructing a road nearby came and doused the fire with the help of waterpipe and buckets provided by neighbours.
She said the collection comprised all her favourite paintings, some of which she was planning to showcase at an art exhibition at Jehangir Art Gallery scheduled from September 8 to 14. Made with different mediums and on various themes, every painting had a story to well.
Spread around 250 sq ft, the studio had sliding arrangement for display of each painting on a wooden rack, which was completely damaged. Even paintings hung on the wall turned into ashes.
“Half of the studio was made with fibre glass sheet, which caught fire instantly,” she said. As far as the financial loss is concerned, the artist claimed that each painting would have fetched her something between Rs 25,000 and Rs 40,000. “While I was planning to sell half of them, I wanted to keep the rest for my personal collection. I really wish I had come down the moment I got the smell first. It would have saved at least some of them,” said Patki, a resident of Kothrud.
Among all the paintings that were destroyed, Patki regrets losing the one titled ‘Pride of Maharashtra’ that she had made two years ago to mark the 50th anniversary of Maharashtra. “Since it was related to Maharashtra, I had incorporated various elements such as Indian flag, Maharashtra map and warli painting that highlighted how people from all castes reside in the state. Made in paithan style, on one side the painting had a woman going out with a child in her arms, which depicted a thought that the people of the state are finding new horizons. On the other side, it depicted many warriors of the state. I was planning to display the painting at my upcoming exhibition,” said Patki, who has held exhibitions across the globe since 1979. She has won awards from many prestigious art institutes such as Hyderabad Art Society, Bombay Art Society, Lalit Kala Academy, Nasik Kala Niketan and so on.
However, despite the loss, her undying spirit has inspired her to make the best out of the worst. On Wednesday, when her domestic help was about to throw the pieces of the burnt paintings, she stopped him. “Using this material, I will make another painting and display it at the exhibition,” said Patki, adding she also plans to take printouts of her lost paintings on canvas and showcase at the show.