In the year 2000, Bharat Tripathi was on a sabbatical from his job in the Civil Services — he had received a scholarship to study international taxation at Harvard University — when he met SH Raza. On a whim, Tripathi confessed to the late artist his love for art, and more specifically, painting, to which Raza asked, “Why don’t you paint, then?” Tripathi said that he couldn’t — with neither training nor experience, how could he create anything worthwhile? Raza laughed and said there could be nothing simpler. “Just pick up a canvas and paint,” he said.
This was the beginning of Tripathi’s rather late entrance into the world of art. His first show took place in 2008, when he was 41. Since then, he has participated in several group shows, both in India and abroad, and has had five solo shows in India. It helped that Tripathi has retired from his government job, which he held for 22 years. “You’re suppressed when you have a job,” he says. His current show, titled “Ramayana”, is on display at Gallery Beyond in Mumbai.
Raza’s influence is evident in Tripathi’s work. Once Tripathi moved back from the US to Mumbai, where he is now based, the senior artist visited his house a few times. “I was so inspired by Raza’s works,” he says, adding, “His works are bright and colourful. You can feel their positive energy when you see them hanging on a wall.” The same could be said about Tripathi’s work, which uses an abundance of yellows and reds. He mainly uses acrylic, because oil, says Tripathi, takes forever to dry in Mumbai’s climate.
But unlike Raza’s work, Tripathi’s paintings have always had an explicitly religious theme. His previous exhibitions were titled “Navdurga”, “Dashavatar”, “The Story of Shiva” and “Tirthankars”. In this show, important scenes from the Ramayana have been categorised according to the episode or kanda they belong to in the epic. He has included one or two paintings from every kanda, producing a total of twelve pieces. Beginning with Baal Kanda, which spans the birth of Ram to his marriage to Sita, the series ends with Uttara Kanda, which narrates the banishment of Sita and her being swallowed by the earth.
Months of research goes into every exhibition, as Tripathi breaks the stories into simpler forms. “I want every layman to understand my subjects,” says Tripathi. In the ongoing exhibition, for instance, the main characters in each kanda are deliberately placed in the background, while symbolic images are painted in front, making the visual experience even more uncomplicated. An example is his depiction of Ram and Sita’s union: their images are faded into the canvas, while the bright gold of the bow Ram breaks is in the foreground. He’s now working on paintings of Hanuman and Krishna. “I draw my inspiration from the epics themselves,” he says. “There is so much to learn from them.”
The exhibition is on at Gallery Beyond in Mumbai till March 16