Mumbai Turns Muse For Painter Tushar Manohar Shetty

Mumbai Turns Muse For Painter Tushar Manohar Shetty

Art and the love for the city come together rather colourfully in Tushar Manohar Shetty’s works

Yogesh PawarUpdated: Saturday, August 26, 2023, 09:48 PM IST
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City by the sea, India’s financial capital Mumbai has been a prodigious muse to many photographers, filmmakers, lyricists and more who have created works dedicated to her many moods. Painter Tushar Manohar Shetty who is showing at the Nehru Centre points out how this has to do with Mumbai’s signature vibe. “Whimsical and generous at once, this city –quite unlike any in the world — and the many Mumbai it carries within, has inspired and fulfilled dreams for several generations. No wonder I can never tire of her as a muse. A lifetime isn’t enough to explore the art you find everywhere.”

South Bombay’s majestic colonial architecture, the art-deco structures of young India, Central Mumbai’s building boom, dilapidated old structures, the dormitory suburbs of Mumbai and its people all find place of pride in Shetty’s paintings.

“Yet if you look carefully, I don’t want to simply recreate a vista. That would be akin to photography. My painting reprisals reflect an element, mood or feel that the place brings along,” he says while explaining why his works are at once familiar and different.

While he’s dabbled in graphite sketches and uses acrylic on occasion (he’s also used salt and coffee in some works), Shetty’s favourite is the rather difficult medium of water colours. “Unpredictability makes watercolour difficult to work with. Watery pigment is difficult to control. It is a slave to gravity. Furthermore, because watercolour is translucent and appears lighter once the pigment dries, it is difficult to correct mistakes which show through the layers,” admits the Borivali resident. “Yet, though I’ve experimented with various mediums like oil, dry pastels, and acrylics, water colours are my favourite because of this very challenge. The trick is to control the behaviour of water and tame it to paint. Though difficult for beginners, it becomes manageable when you understand the medium’s pulse and tricks and patiently keep at it. Once you’ve mastered fundamentals, water colours can become an endless ocean of joy to explore,” he adds.

This doesn’t mean there haven’t been errors. “I have learnt to take them like life with a pinch of salt. I would scrap every work where something didn’t turn out like I envisaged. Now, I often work with it and create a painting with that spill or wrong stroke and that has also ended up becoming unique. Ultimately, I must remember that it’s not me but a higher power up there manifesting through me to paint,” he says bowing his head to the Divine.

Though his family has roots in coastal Karnataka’s Ankola, Shetty was born and raised in Mumbai. “We lived in a multi-storeyed chawl in Grant Road with a corridor connecting rooms which faced a street. Because of its shared access, this corridor frequently became a place where the community bonded over household activities. The common toilet was usually located at one end, at the other. I see the working class of Girangaon as the worker ants who built and contributed to Mumbai’s glory. Like them, I’ve also moved to the suburbs but the nostalgia for one’s roots ensures this area keeps coming up in my work.”

This architecture student, who has also pursued Urban and Regional Planning at post-graduation, admits he is entirely self-taught. “This is not my ego speaking. In my formative years, I followed works of Chandrakant Mandre, Milind Mulick, and Aditya Chari and admired their style of bringing the charm of nature into their works. Their use of colours and textures captivated me, eventually leading me to adopt their aesthetic. I also learned a lot from other artists like Alvaro, Joseph, Vikrant Shitole, Praful Sawant, Vilas Kulkarni and Aniket Mahale among others. With time and practice, I was able to develop my own style.”

When asked about the purpose of his art he says it is all about celebrating life and being thankful for what we have. “Amid all the talk of gloom and doom we are so busy running our own rat races that we often forget that there is so much beauty all around. If my work is able to bring a smile to your face on recognising that I will have fulfilled what I set out to do.” 

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