July 26, 2015 is a date Bijay Biswaal is unlikely to forget. It is when Prime Minister Narendra Modi commended the artwork of the Nagpur division Railway Train Ticket Examiner on his radio show Mann Ki Baat. Modi called him a “Karma Yogi”, who was addressing different issues concerning the railways with his paint brush. While the mention took Biswaal by surprise, it also generated a sudden interest in his work; several of them going viral within hours. “It was an honour. I felt I had won a huge award,” says the artist, who has been exhibiting his works for decades at national and international exhibitions.
Almost a year after the broadcast, Biswaal, 52, is part of the group show “Lands Within” at Egg Art Studio in Delhi. Dedicated to landscapes, real and imagined, among the 18 artists, Biswaal makes an impression with his works that represent his varied engagements — from the acrylic on canvas railway platforms to the translucent watercolours depicting village life in Odisha, complete with hutments and the greens.
Born in Pallahara in Angul district in Odisha, as a child Biswaal remembers doodling with charcoal scooped from his mother’s chullah. The chalk from his classroom soon became his tool for sketching pictures, followed by colour pencils and sketch pens. With time, the portrayals changed. Reportedly inspired by Bollywood superstars such as Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan during his students days, Biswaal turned to his train journeys for inspiration. His picturesque watercolours often have railway platforms drenched in rain and passengers marching with luggage. The government job provides him the financial stability his family sought for him and also allows him to explore places across the country that he can depict in his frames. “I get to travel, observe people around, which helps me in my art,” says the post graduate in Political Science.
Amrita Varma, co-founder, The Egg Art Studio says, “He is not just a gifted artist but someone who constantly paints what he sees around. The way he tightens the watercolours and loosens them at places is brilliant. People know him for his railway works, but his village depictions, a man cycling through the field, is what India is. He is a traveller and you see those travels in his work,” says Varma.
The exhibition is at The Egg Art Studio, The Atrium, Narain Manzil, 23, Barakhamba Road, till September 17