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Following the light

Paresh Maity’s magnum opus retrospective covers 32 years of the artist’s work and displays his ceramic art for the first time.
Last Updated : 20 January 2023, 09:19 IST
Last Updated : 20 January 2023, 09:19 IST

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'The Peak' (watercolour on paper)
'The Peak' (watercolour on paper)
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Paresh Maity
Paresh Maity

One of Paresh Maity’s earliest memories of Delhi is to do with Bikaner House, the location of his solo exhibition Infinite Light which opened late last year. It was 32 years ago that the artist arrived here to catch a bus to Rajasthan. The winding wooden staircase in one of its halls had caught his attention and so, when Maity started planning his exhibition of works, the staircase was one of the areas that he decided to highlight with an art installation. “The installation is my dedication to the stairway from which many artists have begun their journey,” he says simply.

One of the largest solo exhibitions by an artist in India, Infinite Light is being showcased in four cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru over a span of five months.

The retrospective covers 32 years of the artist’s works including paintings, drawings, sculptures, film and installations. For the very first time in his artistic journey, Maity is also displaying his ceramics.

An exhibition of such mammoth proportions must have been a long time in the making. Maity admits that he has been accumulating a lot of his works spread across different mediums just to showcase them at an exhibition of this scale. “None of the 450 works on display at this show have been exhibited elsewhere, with the earliest work going back to 1990,” he tells us.

Inspired by nature

Observing artisans making Durga idols in his hometown Tamluk in West Bengal and mesmerised by their skill, Maity discovered his true calling at the tender age of seven. Starting with clay modelling and sculptures — which provided him with the foundation for when he decided to take up ceramics — the artist kept exploring different mediums to express his creativity. Maity made himself adept even at watercolours, known to be one of the most difficult mediums in the world. “There is no scope for rectification in this medium. At this exhibition, you will find watercolour paintings as small as three inches to gigantic sizes of over 40 ft,” he shares.

His inspiration has always been nature. “Aristotle said that art is an imitation of nature. Our miniature arts, folk art and tribal art which is so strong and contemporary, have also inspired me a lot,” he adds.

Along with the vast repertoire of his artworks, there are also framed photographs of the artist at work at various locations across the world including Kochi, Venice, London, Orissa and the Himalayas among others. Maity’s love for the outdoors is pretty evident. “There is a direct transformation of what I am looking at onto the canvas. That’s when it becomes alive. When you are capturing the light, you feel it — whether it is a summer sun or winter sun, monsoon light or rain — you feel the atmosphere,” he says, adding that he realised early on that light is the most essential part in any form of visual art.

“Without light, there is no life; there is nothing. You will see a wonderful play of light in my works. I like working during the day to capture the exact colour of the light because the colours are different depending on the time of the day. I don’t create art post-sunset,” he reveals.

For Maity, art is for art’s sake. “My life and art cannot be separated. Every moment of my life circles around art. Art is what enlightens people; it is what brings joy,” he says. No wonder then, that the artist is a big supporter of public art. One of his most popular artworks is the approximately 850-long mural at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi.

Maity wants his art to reach the far corners of the country and for now, he is occupied with taking it to the four metros. There’s an exhibition on Mahatma Gandhi that the artist has been quietly working on for the past decade and when the time is right, he will showcase those works as well. “I am like a tortoise. I like taking my time and space,” he signs off with a smile.

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Published 07 January 2023, 20:18 IST

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