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Thursday, May 19, 2022

‘I see influences of some of the artists whose works I have framed in the past’: Murti Ahuja

One of India's most recognised framers, Murti Ahuja on experimenting with the paintbrush during the lockdown and framing for the art giants

Written by Vandana Kalra | New Delhi |
January 20, 2022 3:50:30 pm
Murti Ahuja, Murti Ahuja paintings, Murti Ahuja framer"I have been thinking of painting for years but never had the time," Murti Ahuja said. (Express photo: Gajendra Yadav)

The name Murti Ahuja might not be familiar to a lot of art connoisseurs but most of them are likely to be familiar with his skill. For numerous Delhi-based artists, it is Ahuja who takes a look at their works first — right when it is ready to leave their studios and before it is shared with the audience. Having framed lakhs of works in the last five decades, known to be one of the most well-established framers in India, Ahuja is now experimenting with the brush and the palette himself.

At his multi-storey enterprise in Okhla, Ahuja Framers Private Limited, between the works of masters such as SH Raza, Arpita Singh and Krishen Khanna, is his own gauche — a landscape in muted shades of green. “I have been thinking of painting for years but never had the time. During the lockdown last year, with everyone at home, I decided to finally give it a try,” says Ahuja, 62.

Murti Ahuja, Murti Ahuja paintings, Murti Ahuja framer Murthy Ahuja ,Express Photo by Gajendra Yadav,051121

Dominating the depictions are myriad landscapes inspired by memories of the numerous hill towns Ahuja has visited in the past. “We would go to a hill station every year. I would find it very calming and that stillness reflects in the works,” says Ahuja. Among others are the deep forest greens in one frame, the orange sun in the horizon in another, the rugged mountains and a picturesque beach. “I see influences of some of the artists whose works I have framed in the past. Some of the works, for instance, are inspired by Paramjit Singh’s style. I remember, years ago, he had shown me how to use the colour… I also used to share my works with Paresh Maity when I was painting. He, too, has been giving his feedback,” says Ahuja.

The entrepreneur was still in his teens when he began assisting his father Dina Nath Ahuja at their store in Paharganj in the ’70s. While the shop framed paintings of mythological deities earlier, it was soon frequented by young artists who were still years away from receiving commercial success, given the art industry in India. “Later, Manjit Bawa told me how many artists had little money and got the framing done on credit basis,” says Ahuja.

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Murti Ahuja, Murti Ahuja paintings, Murti Ahuja framer “The frame, to me, comes to mind instinctively while painting,” says Ahuja. (Express Photo by Gajendra Yadav)

While his clients now boast several big names in art, from artists such as Manu Parekh, Subodh Gupta, Dayanita Singh, Raghu Rai and A Ramachandran to institutions such as the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and DAG, Ahuja notes that he makes an effort to keep up with the international market.

“We try to use the latest technology. My son, who has joined the business, is also a graduate in art and my nephew specialises in designing. The artists we work with are showing at museums across the world and know the international trends,” says Ahuja, adding how in the past he has worked with specific requirements of artists — from delicate frames for Singh to experimenting for artists such as Rameshwar Broota. “Most artists are very particular about the frame and sit with me for hours to decide,” adds the entrepreneur who is also planning a book on framing.

With his own works too, each frame has been carefully designed — if a gray-blue mountain landscape goes in a thick gray frame with a single mount, the torrid beach waters seem to be creating ripples within multiple mounts. “The frame, to me, comes to mind instinctively while painting,” says Ahuja.

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