Q. There has been a strong figurative element in your work. But over the years, the figure has started becoming smaller and fainter
In the earlier years my works were based totally on reality. So every single detail was captured on canvas. Everything was painted after being observed in their natural surroundings. Now the need to capture images totally in their natural surroundings no longer exist. My purpose is to hide some parts, because if you show the entire figure the interest in details is totally lost. Earlier the desire to show reality was greater. Now, in some parts, there is a certain distancing from reality. Earlier, I would draw even in a crowd. Now, I need to work in solitude. I can't draw if there are guests or relatives in the house. I sense a vibration that is distracting. There is a certain power in the stillness of an object. Stillness is a form of speed while not in force. It is stillness that can create greater tension in a work of art. Life is a mystery and it is inexplicable. A given situation can only be explained. In such circumstances, there is tension that may be apparent, but for me, that is what is real. It is this factor that prompts me to conceive a magical situation which is akin to magic realism. (artist Jogen Chowdhury)
Art for me, is the ultimate Annanda (bliss). Art can provide you with the metaphysical answers you have been looking for even whilst you are involved in its creation. They call it drawing. I really have no name for it. It's a compulsion, an itch. The more I scratch, the more I want to continue. It is enjoyable but it can also hurt when nothing emerges but an incomprehensible mess. Was I taught to draw? Silly question really. How can one manipulate a compulsive itch? Try and stop it and see what happens. Bad temper, depression and a sickness of spirit. Emptiness. It follows that my subject matter is of importance to me and is not fortuitous. Dependent on this choice are the means that will reveal it. Nor is it ever certain that every venture will be successful. What is certain, and this gives me some comfort, is that a moment of my life was spent in such absorption that bypassed Time. If at the end of it, what I make I made finds acceptance with someone, it confirms to me that I'm not alone. The drawing becomes a ground for sharing an experience.
My gaze is independent of my pencil holding hand. I think I could shut my eyes without ceasing to scribble. Sustained scribbling achieves only a small inroad that may dislodge an image. Sounds dramatic doesn't it? It isn't always so. I could not repeat the contours of a subject I've tackled before, which is not to say that I would not go back to the same subject in the hope of discovering another dimension. I used to do abstracts earlier and I have now moved on to human forms. I thought that the person or the individual is being neglected – the person in a particular situation who is influenced by the conditions around. I want to now emphasise the human beings caught up in their particular condition. (artist Krishen Khanna)
"Well, it is symbolism in a way, but it is more a concentration on the significance of vital forms. You see, only symbolism or philosophy is not enough. Buddhi to hriday ki dasi hain [the mind is slave to the heart], said Mahatma Gandhi. Einstein has also said that the emotion is extremely important. You have to go beyond imagination. Kala ja akal ke aage ke noor, chirage rah hain manzil nahin [move beyond the mind and intelligence, it is only a path, not a destination], you have to go beyond intelligence. Now, you see, this has to be done and I have a feeling that only being an Indian or having an Indian passport is not enough. You have to 'know' - mano ke Shankar, na mano to kankar - if you believe in a symbol like the shivling [a sculpted representation of Shankar or Shiva in stone], it can be godly; if you do not believe, it is no more than a pebble. A stone can represent divine power, and it can also be just the visual representation of a stone! So the question of finding the immense power of symbolism in Indian culture is one thing. To be dedicated to it in a romantic way, is entirely a different thing. Now it depends who the artists are that are working in this direction, and what they are trying to show."
The artist calls his recent work a "result of two parallel enquiries". Firstly, it is aimed at a "pure plastic order" and secondly, it concerns the theme of nature. Both converge into a single point and become inseparable - the "Bindu" (the dot or the epicentre). "The Bindu symbolizes the seed, bearing the potential of all life" (Artist S H Raza)