Artist Arijoy Bhattacharya: 'The Artwork Is The By-product Of My Sadhana'

Artist Arijoy Bhattacharya: 'The Artwork Is The By-product Of My Sadhana'

The otherwise introvert is full of life while talking about his inward journey that prompted him to paint his current offerings

Shruti PanditUpdated: Sunday, December 24, 2023, 01:21 PM IST
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The world of Aghori parampara has enticed and intrigued many artists of India. We have had some painters like Prabhakar Barwe actually interact with the aghoris and learn more about the ascetic and tantric rituals in order to paint better. Arijoy Bhattacharya, son of the veteran painter Sanjay Bhattacharya, says that he didn’t find it necessary to spend time with the aghoris or to learn the rituals to paint his current series that resonates with tantric art.

“I didn’t find the need to go and spend time with the sadhus of aghori panth to understand their mind set,” he says. “I know the rituals, but I don’t need to be a part of that to be able to paint. My research is based on a book by Swami Laxmanji which talks about tantra and Kali as non-iconic identity. I had translated that book.”

The word ‘Aghora’ usually brings up the image of kumbha mela and scantily dressed sadhus covered with ash. However, it is a known fact that they are just one representation of the cult. Primary principle of Aghor remains — free of Bhay, Lajja and Grhinaa (fear, shame and repugnance). “The word Aghora is shared by the traditionally known aghoris, the naths and the Kashmiri Shaivites. It is not restricted to the aghori sadhus,” Arijoy accentuates. “A-ghor means one that is not terrifying, free of fear. Therefore, it can be interpreted in varied ways.”

Arijoy’s earlier works were, probably, inspired by MF Husain. His horses definitely indicate so. That might be my shot in the dark, but it is quite obvious that his work is different from his father’s works — right from the choice of medium. Was it a conscious decision? “Not at all. It was not a conscious decision, says Arijoy. “I admire my father a lot. When I started, I did paint semi-realistic like he does and did very detailed drawings. But slowly I deviated from that. Over the years I became more minimal and with this series it is absolute geometric and bare and sparse,” he says.

The current works are ink drawings on paper. More of a geometric representation of gods, goddesses and their cult. They appear to be inspired by the tantric yantras. “Yes. They are,” he admits quite candidly. “I have been exposed to tantric yantras for quite some time now. But what I have created are artistic interpretations of the yantras. They are not sacred objects per say,” he adds. “Yantras, the real yantras, are geometric representations of mantras and very sacred. They cannot be sold. They belong to a personal domain.”

Arijoy’s images of Shiva, Shakti, the Kali’s eyes are very expressive despite their geometrical and minimalistic composition. Are these images a result of his sadhana (deep meditation)? “The artwork is the by-product of my sadhana. Some images did flash during the sadhana...” says the artist who meditates regularly.

The use of colours is littlest as he has used only white, black, red and blue. “White represents purity, while red is dynamic and the black is inertia playing it out. Blue is the colour of valour…”

As you have rightfully mentioned earlier, ‘a-ghor’ means free of fear, do you think your fearlessness has come from your sadhana? “It is very relative. You become fearless only once you have experienced fear. And, you might overcome that fear, but the fear of unknown remains… so I can’t really say that I am completely devoid of any fear.”

What prompted you to pay tribute to the aghoras? “It is not really a tribute… for me, like I said, the word signifies ‘non-terrifying’ or ‘fearless’ to me,” Arijoy tells. “I have been to the headquarters of Aghoris in Varanasi. It was a moving experience. It was quite contrary to the notion we have about them; they are quite sattvik. They are trained to go beyond the concept of purity and non-purity and for that they pray at the cremation grounds, eat whatever is offered to them… They serve leprosy patients selflessly without any disgust and abhorrence.”

It is quite obvious from the conversation that the basic principles of Aghor and his visit to the center in Varanasi and the book that he translated motivated Arijoy to paint the current series. Most of the paintings are non-iconic representations of Kali and Shiv that force viewers to go within.

(Exhibition starts from December 25 at Jehangir Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai)

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