‘My roots are Indian, my creations global’

Mukul Rai BahadurUpdated: Wednesday, May 29, 2019, 04:27 AM IST
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Picture courtesy: The Kailasham Trust; Mukul Rai Bahadur & Sujata Bajaj |

The Lady from Eiffel is everything I think she is not. Traditionally attired, accoutered in black, embellished with silver jewelry and speaking her mother- tongue as if she has never been away … Sujata Bajaj, artist extraordinaire, who flits between Paris, Dubai and Mumbai mesmerizing patrons globally with works that inspire and over-awe with their beauty, has now been away from India for well over three decades.

1. How would you describe Sujata Bajaj the artist?

Global, yet Indian. Vibrant yet minimalist. My artistic vocabulary is colours, my language of expression is textures. My roots are Indian. My aspirations, my dreams, my creations are global. Actually infinite. My upbringing in an environment fueled by love for my country and love for freedom has dictated in a big way what I think and what I do.

2. What is this famous Bajaj-Gandhi connection that gives Sujata a unique identity?

Let us not go into that realm. Yes there is a strong family connect to the Bajaj family (the two-wheeler one, and also all the philanthropic institutions) and the historic connection between the Bajajs and the Father of the Nation, and the freedom movement is well-known. (Her parents Radhakrishnaji and Anasuyadevi Bajaj were from Wardha and are known to have strongly influenced her thinking and her way of life).

Picture courtesy: The Kailasham Trust; Mukul Rai Bahadur & Sujata Bajaj

3. The Ganapati defines Sujata Bajaj?

To me, Ganapati is endless. I feel a sense of complete freedom and liberty in abstracting his image. No other form lends itself as vividly to the abstract as Lord Ganapati. When I paint him or sculpt him, I am certainly not painting or sculpting a god. I am, in fact, through the process, experiencing my own artistic freedom, and the immense joy intrinsic to that freedom. I am spiritual, I am not religious. My 30-years of journey with Ganapati has taught me one essential lesson : Ganapati is what you make of Him. You can express him in a 1000-lines or create him with just one stroke. I have made over 500 Ganapatis so far. No two are the same.

4. Artists are born, or can they be made?

Both are relevant as some are born with more talent and some are born with less. But there is a higher possibility of success and fame if you are born with it. Your passion and devotion is what eventually drives you to achieve and excel. Finally it is the path you choose. My parents were my guiding light. They helped me choose right.

Picture courtesy: The Kailasham Trust; Mukul Rai Bahadur & Sujata Bajaj

5. Tell us about your doctoral thesis on tribal art.

I did my bachelors, my masters and finally my PhD from SNDT, right here in Mumbai. My PhD thesis was on Special features of Indian tribal art and its influence on contemporary trends in art. I toured the deep interiors of the country to understand, imbibe and internalize how art native to this country originated, took shape and found an identity. It took my five years, but these were deeply fulfilling years.

6. How did your art journey to Paris start ?

(Laughs) Every successful journey of life starts with a right first step. When I was doing my PhD dissertation, I interviewed eminent artists like MF Hussain, KH Ara, KK Hebbar. Finally, there was SH Raza left on my list. I met him at his show at Jehangir. We had breakfast at café Samovar. He invited me for lunch at the Taj the next day. We discussed my PhD and Raza Saab got very excited with the coverage of my study. He was keen to see my paintings which I told him were in Pune. Without giving it a second thought Raza Saab hired a cab that took us to Pune. After seeing my works Raza Saab suggested that I come to Paris and learn more about art. I applied for a French Government scholarship and got selected. I went to Paris in 1988 and have never really looked back.

Sujata Bajaj is participating this week in Breaking Barriers, a fundraising exhibition conceptualised by Tarana Khubchandani of Gallery Art and Soul where 50 life-sized horse’s heads will be on show, each painted on by a renowned artist, for a good cause, including Paresh Maity, Seema Kohli, Brinda Miller, Jayasri Barman, and the veteran artist couple Manu and Madhvi Parekh. The show stopper is Sujata Bajaj’s creation. The celebrated Paris based artist flew into Bombay to work on an eight-foot horse sculpture over a period of one week. Sujata was joined on this project by her daughter, Helena Bajaj Larsen, right off the ramps of New York Fashion Week. Helena and Sujata have never worked together so this occasion was indeed special and the resultant artwork is exquisite; powerful, vibrant and stunning as the mother daughter duo breathed life into it.

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