The following is from a recently held interview with Paresh Maity in Singapore.
Joyotee: When one thinks of Paresh Maity, in mind comes beautiful angular women in unique close crops which spell Maity in every paper and canvas they are painted upon? When and how did you stumble upon this unique branding which is now your style?
Paresh Maity: It was the winter of 1989. I had gone to Delhi for my first solo exhibition en route to Hyderabad, where I was supposed to enrol for my Masters. My first visit to Rajasthan happened at this time. It had a tremendous impact and shift in my creative process. For a Bengali, Rajasthan has a very romantic effect on the soul.
I was a lad used to the greenery and waters of Bengal. Even my art was about the sceneries I was used to seeing and I was a landscape artist up until that point. The images formed from seeing Steve Mccurry’s Afghan girl and various images of a desert were now all real life in front of me. Colourful turbans of the men and attire of the women were now introduced to my work. For the first time my work started having figures in them. Then the movement towards the faces and through that came about the entire Encounter series.
I was also primarily a water colour artist and incidentally the exhibition in Delhi was all sold out. Gallery Ganesha was very happy with these and even convinced me to stay back and do my Masters in Delhi. I did stay back but used to travel back and forth from Kolkata as I used to get home sick. This period also saw 9 solo exhibitions for me. I made my first investment in property in Chittaranjan Park.
J: Those water colour boats that you left behind on paper, are they a certain link to your past?
PM: You know any other vehicle when stationary does not move. Yet the boat when anchored still has its rhythmic movement to the waves. It’s almost like it has its own existence separate from the direction of the boat man.
I was born and raised in Tamluk, with water bodies all around me. I am a “joler pokka” (an insect of the water). Water colours were cheaper and easy to afford. Hence that became an automatic mode of expression, in my early career. I was 18, when we first got electricity in our village. We used to study and paint to the lights of the hurricane. You find that although my work is now very colourful, there are these elements from my past like the hurricane that, make their presence felt time and again on my canvas. These memories remain and form a part of who you are or your process. I can’t paint after 5 p.m. I paint all day but after 5, I go for my evening walk. I dislike the dark and hence don’t like the dreary winters of Europe or the U.S. and run away as fast as possible from those scenarios.
J: So to relate back to my earlier question.....your installations seem to have a movement and yet when it comes to your paintings be it water or oil, one sees you have frozen on to this style that is recognisably yours.....so what can one expect to see different in this coming exhibition?
(Excited and Bubbly at this question he starts....)
PM: You know once we were having dinner in Mumbai with a lot of us artists and none other than F.N. Souza saw my “work” (kaaj, is the term that the Bengali artist uses refer to their artwork) and wanted to meet this Bengali boy who painted so differently. He was pleasantly surprised to see colourful work from a Kolkata art college boy. So happy was he that he made a portrait of me.
This is the fourth year that I am coming back with my installations and if you remember that the first year was the Procession of the ants done with 50 motor bikes. I had gone with my local friend in Delhi, to help me with the purchase of these bullet motor bikes. The Sardar owner thought that I was crazy, which I am, but he could not for the life understand why I would need 50 bikes. I then explained I was going to dismantle them and create them into one body of work. I converted them into ants...In Tamluk we had mud houses when it rained the ants were all around us and such an integral part of lives....that same joler pokaa element he laughs and explains.
The next year it was the boats and the hurricanes both an important part of growing up for me and an integral part of my psyche (as established in the earlier question). Last year, on public demand, I brought my water colour work but in large scale. They were huge water colours.
This year I have brought the travelling element to my installation. The trunks which were an important element of travel as well as storage in our water laden lives, have been coloured with my unique memories and presented to you in “Story of Our Lives”. Recently I used this same style of work for 100 years of Indian cinema depicting those most popular moments, in Indian cinema from Raja Harishchandra to the current Bollywood blockbusters. This was presented in Nehru Centre in November.
One can see my Canvases in my signature style in “Metamorphosis of Colours” at the Arts House. (Check end for details on exhibition).
J: Your beret, your Fendi scarf they speak of not just a style which is Paresh Maity but also of an opulent India......do you identify with this new India? Shed some light on where you think India is going from here?
PM: India has always been in the lead be it in art, movies, culture, food and it is only recently with the technology developments the focus is back on her and she is in the limelight. India has been an expert in all the fields and I am proud of the attention she is receiving now. Along with India I move too...I am part of this parade of people, the society and changing times and the culture. It is like Dali’s, “The Persistence of Memory”, parallel psyches.
J: Jayashree your wife is also a successful artist. Do you two actually discuss creative processes or mind blocks?
PM: We do discuss a lot about our work and process....I give my opinion only when she asks for it. However my opinion is more in the form of a question. Like why did she chose a certain colour etc. She respects my opinion due to my strong and long formative years of academic training as well.
In any creative process knowing when to stop is the key issue. You have to leave room for imagination.
We travel and paint together. Our studios in Delhi are in different places far from each other but in Bangalore, where we do spend some months, our studios are in the same house.
J: While I was looking, I found a particular gallery carrying some of your photography prints. Is this something that you see as developing and that you will continue to pursue?
PM: Photography has always been a hobby of mine. I still use film. I take lots of pictures and I still keep it at a hobby scale. My son who is a fashion photographer gets his passion from me. In fact when I go back from Singapore I will buy back my stock of film.
J: In this journey from Tamluk to here, how have you changed and what would you say is your biggest achievement and what has been your biggest loss along the way?
PM: My biggest achievement comes when people love and appreciate my work and derive joy from it. I have no loss as I am still the same Paresh inside, as I was years ago. When I go back to Tamluk people always keep telling me how all this name and fame has not changed who I really am. I am like a child, happy to be in nature. I have no vices and my only addictions are my work, yoga and my evening walks. I have to work every day – that is my insanity.
One of the world’s most collected artists, Paresh Maity, is going to have his second exhibition in Singapore – Metamorphosis of Colours at The Arts House.
Preview on, the 13 January 2014, 6:30 to 9 p.m. by invitation only.
On view, on the 14th January 2014, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
At the Art Stage from 16th to the 19th January 2014.
Paresh is being presented by Gallery Sumukha, Bangalore, India.