From All, One; And From One, All
by Manish Pushkale
“But total concentration is necessary. Wherein past, present, future unite, where the genetic memory, the radical unconscious, your training and your learning, your life of everyday all come together in a very strange, indescribable manner and you are able to say the essence of what you have to say, be in painting or in poetry. I always come back to the main theme that has obsessed me: nature”
My first concern is whether I have been able to bring a harmonious coordination among the elements which I am suing in a specific painting. My first consideration is not others, the public, the reaction of the people; it is as to how I have used the different forms. How I have interrelated them? Have they come to the coordination that I had imagined which in the course of development of the painting undergoes transmutation? Once again as Ustad Dagar said, “I cannot see the face of Raga as yet”. It is extraordinary: the face of a Raga must appear before you proceed. It is the same in my painting.
It was one afternoon of 1988, when for the first time I dared to bunk my school and rushed to Madhya Pradesh Kala Parishad, (which is a state art academy and one of the many academies established by Ashok Vajpeyi in Bhopal during 70's ) where I saw Raza for the first time in my life. I remember, one of his catalogues, of his first exhibition in Madhya Pradesh organised by state- academy in 1978, was available on the sale counter of academy. Somehow, I successfully managed to buy this catalogue of ten rupees by convincing one of my childhood friends with me and was one of the forces behind this daring of bunking school for the first time. I remember my first glace of Raza as thin and tall, humble and gentle, western and Indian, observer and absorber, in the crowd but alone, talkative and silent, restless but not careless.
I remember the moment I got this catalogue, I rushed back to home with my first purchase out of the first time borrowed money, with the desire to see it as soon as possible. I saw some pictures of his paintings from 60's to 75's in this catalogue with the essays by Mrinal Pandey, Dileep Padgaonkar, Ashok Vajpeyi and Rudy Wielden. I was clueless with the paintings as well as with complicated text.
That day, many things happened for the first time including the first curiosity about the painting and first confusion about its writing in the form of those published essays.
By then Raza calmly crystallised and compelled me in call of conscience, in the centre of curiosity, confusion, complication, charisma, colour, composition and creative chaos.
It was another afternoon in 1998 during his to India when I met him in Delhi in Vadehra Art Gallery, where I showed him my few paintings. He saw them with his folded knees and full attention, with absolute patience and intense silence. I was clueless once again. After awhile, he helped me in packing back my works, hugged me with warmth and said, work hard. Try to go beyond your capacity, think about your language. He said we all live with one language for the world which exist outside to communicate with rest but in art we search and create a language for the finer world of inside, to communicate with our ownself restlessly. Now I was comparatively less clueless and got his points of suggestions in a better way, as he was talking to me in a very simple and modest manner. I was deeply impressed by his precise and sharp articulation and deadly mannerism. He was passionately taking about interiority, subjectivity, temperament and instinctiveness. An exclusive talk on search within. He said “a rigorous thought process precedes art expression, it is indispensible for anyone involved in fundamental research to undergo a long formative period of discipline, survey and inquiry. It is necessary to live, see, hear, feel and think. With growing awareness, the interaction of the exterior and inner world starts. In this complex process of 'becoming' the dictates of the mindlogic and reasoning, one gradually replaced by 'intuition'. The essence of life experience, eclectic knowledge, understanding of form elements, become valuable guidelines. But they are only the means and the goal. An inner quest for self discovery must be pursued ceaselessly. The 'search within' is primordial and reach the 'still center' where truth lies and original perception is achieved.”
He came back to India in 1999 and I didn't dare to show him my works. I was working and struggling with my own self. He enquired with my friends, of my where-about. I kept myself away from his sight. He was worried. Here for the first time I realised his caresses and I called him up on phone on his last eve in India, he said, i am coming next year and will see you.
It was 2000, this time he landed directly to Delhi from Paris and stayed in studio apartment of IIC. I got his first message, come and see me. I rushed to his apartment, he showed me his new catalogues and other images of his recent works and few drawings, and then he asked me how is your work going on? After a bit of silence, I said I am working, but am not confident enough to show them to you. Next morning I turned up in his apartment in India International Centre with few works on canvas and drawings. He immediately appreciated my drawings and said that “the line is an essential life element in drawing. In the beginning, it is point, a point in movement, charged with energy, capable of infinite variety of manifestations. Straight or curved, relaxed or tensioned, the line, a living entity, moves in total freedom, generates lines, multiplies itself in space, developing territories of forms and shapes. It is a life-death spectacle, which follows its own laws, its own will, its own inherent character, akin to the phenomenon in naturewhere human life conditioned by precise prerequisites, subsists and grows by the flow of blood through the veins or the vitality of a plant is regenerated by the rising sun.”
After this with great energy and excitement he helped me in unrolling my canvases.
Without a wink and inquisitively he looked at my paintings. He smiled, and said “baat ban gayi”. For next few days, he kept my works in his apartment and showed them to anyone and everyone who so ever came to see him. I remember next fine day he said: painting is not a profession. It is a vocation, which demands total involvement, persistent research and hard work. Only a long thought processes followed by practical work can lead to a personal vision and an understanding of the vital elements which constitute the life of form.
An easel with painting in process, Brushes scattered all around, dune of used and unused colour tube lying on carpet which is almost covered by colour drips and now it is no longer in its proper rectangular shape as some dealer came, cut and bought it in pieces on his own accord, there are some finished canvases in a row against the wall, a shaligram at one corner, dozens of book in shelf and all around on traditional and contemporary art which he has acquired from different places, sketch books, pen, Pencils, autobiography of Gandhi, copy of Geeta, quotes by Rilke and Vinoba Bhave on wall, soil from Mandala, Santiniketan and Rajghat packed in small specimen bottles on table etc etc are all in a room, where he spends his most of his day time and he call it his studio. He says “my studio is a place for meditation, it is a space where silence prevails. The walls seem to protect me and help me to attain the state of grace congenial for my work. There are books, objects and images in an orderly disorder. It is here that I find a climate suitable for my work as nowhere else. When I'm working, I retain what is essential, based on instinct and direct perception which goes beyond eclectic knowledge. What remains at this stage is intuition; according to Indian thought it is by intuition that a painting is brought into being; the divine helps the painter”.
A prayer of Shri Ramkrishna Paramhans on one of the wall in his studio:
“I prayed to her, taking a flower in my hands; “mother, here is thy knowledge and here is thy ignorance. Take them both, mother and give me only pure love. Here is thy holiness and here is thy unholiness. Take them both, mother and give me pure love. Here is thy righteousness and here is thy unrighteousness. Take them both, mother and give me pure love.”
He added: I spoke of all these, but I could not say: “mother, here is thy truth and here is thy falsehood. Take them both.”
I give up everything at her feet but could not bring myself to give up the truth.
A saying of Buddha on his window:
“Be a lamp to yourself. Be your own confidence. Hold to the truth within yourself, as to the only truth.”