Creating art works from scratch

Unique record

At work: Apuraj Barooah

The latest feather in the artist’s cap is carving a name for himself in the Guinness Book of World Records for creating the longest ‘scratch art’ piece. Scratch art is an innovative way of etching figures and landscapes on bromide paper with the help of a shaving blade. Dibrugarh-born Barooah took 12 hours to carve the folk dance forms of 40 countries on a 20-metre-long bromide sheet.

The 42-year-old, who gave up a government job in Assam 13 years ago to dedicate himself to painting, began his marathon sketching on the bromide canvas laid on a table at the Indian YMCA in London on July 6. A couple of days later, an official from the Guinness World Records examined Barooah’s work and declared the record as established.

Barooah is the eldest among four siblings. The turning point in his life came in 1985, when he lost his father. As a tribute, he drew a portrait of his father, which caught the attention of family and friends. That strengthened Barooah’s resolve to turn his hobby into his profession.

Barooah’s scratch art was born in 1993, when he was trying to draw something with oil colours on bromide paper. It did not work, but while rubbing off the colours with a piece of cloth, he noticed three shades — red, yellow and white. That set Barooah thinking.
His first experimental work was a landscape, done with a pin, though the light-and-shade effect was not what he wanted. Barooah then used a blade instead of a pin to scratch the bromide. It worked, and he has since been successfully using this technique to create his art works.

The artist’s notable creations include ‘Jyotiprasad’, ‘The Apple’ and ‘The Journey’. He has so far ‘scratched’ more than 150 pieces of art which include the portraits of playwright Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, writers Bishnu Rabha and Homen Borgohain, Mother Teresa and singer Pratima Pandey Barua.

“Art, dance and music know no barrier. All the mediums bind people together and it is through my paintings that I appeal for peace,” says Barooah.

More than 200 dance forms, including the bardo chham of Arunachal Pradesh, bhangra from Punjab, rouf of Kashmir and ghumar of Rajasthan, have found place in Barooah’s paintings. He has held a number of exhibitions in Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Dhemaji, Guwahati and Mumbai and his paintings sell for anything between Rs 10,000 and Rs 30,000.

Barooah’s first bid to win recognition for his ‘scratch art’ resulted in his securing a place in the Limca Book of World Records last year. He wishes to exhibit his art form in Italy which, he says, is the art capital of the world.

It is not as an artist alone that Barooah is known. He is an accomplished stage artiste and a prolific script writer too. However, he could not make much headway in the world of films.

Barooah has also been sketching pencil portraits of visitors at exhibitions, literary festivals and book fairs to ‘finance’ the dream of taking his unique art form to the world stage. With a Guinness World Record under his belt, he hopes his dream will be realised quickly.

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