Sujata Bajaj: My roots are Indian, my creations global

Mukul Rai BahadurUpdated: Wednesday, May 29, 2019, 04:20 AM IST
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MUKUL RAI BAHADUR interviews Paris-based abstractionist Sujata Bajaj

Sujata Bajaj, artist extraordinaire, who flits between Paris, Dubai and Mumbai mesmerising patrons globally with works that inspire and over-awe with their beauty, has now been away from India for well over three decades. Excerpts from our conversation…”

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 fuelled by love for my country and love for freedom has dictated in a big way what I think and what I do.

What is the 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).

Does Ganpati define Sujata Bajaj?

To me, Ganpati 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 Ganpati. 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 Ganpati 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 Ganpatis so far. No two are the same.

Tell us about your doctoral thesis on tribal art.

I did my Bachelor’s, my Master’s 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 internalise how art native to this country originated, took shape and found an identity. It took my five years, but these were deeply fulfilling years.

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 Sa’ab 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 Sa’ab hired a cab that took us to Pune. After seeing my works Raza Sa’ab 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) Mukul Rai Bahadur is an art lover, collector and critic. He lives in Mumbai and works in a media company. He can be reached at mukulraibahadur@kailasham.com).

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