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South Asian Art - In Memory Of Prashant Fadia


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Aniket Khupse

Aniket Khupse - a promising young artist in contemporary Indian art. Saffron Art labeled him ‘Artist of the Month’, and subsequently moved him to their ‘Collection of the Month’ section. His works are always sold out as soon as they are exhibited. He has a technical, almost scientific, approach to the process of creation which is quite contradictory to the dreamy expanses of his canvases which have an element of déjà vu in the twilight zone. Some might say that he has already ‘arrived’, yet this humble artist from the JJ School of Art feels that he has further milestones to achieve.

When did you first get interested in Art?

I think it would be in my 6th standard. We had a really wonderful art teacher who would encourage us. From him I learnt the rudiments of memory drawing, design…It was the one class I would always look forward to in school. He knew how to maintain a child’s interest. Besides him, my parents, especially my father, were very supportive. My father’s friend was a teacher at the Nagpur school of art so my parents were quite aware of what the career entailed. There was never any doubt in my mind that after completing my 10th I wanted to study art. Along with that I was determined to study art only at the J J school - for me that was the ultimate institution, a hallowed place for art in the city of Mumbai. 

How important according to you is the study of art to the development of an artist? Isn’t the ability to create great art work inborn?

Personally, I feel that a thorough study of art is extremely important. When I joined JJ, it was a 5 year course. Starting from the basics of drawing, rendering, anatomy, learning about the technical points of how to handle the mediums of water colour and oils etc (we were not taught acrylics then). Our teachers were excellent, knowing exactly what result would be derived by using different techniques.  We were lucky in that sense that our teachers were ‘working artists’ by that I mean that they were actually creating art while teaching themselves so their student’s confidence and respect in them was also high. It is essential to be a working artist, constantly experimenting with the medium to be able to teach. The teacher should be able to predict what the result will be even before the student executes something. I remember when I was in college our professor would give us an assignment and himself have three different renderings of the same assignment ready!

Yes, the ability to create art means that one does not just copy but then unless you learn to draw correctly how will you then experiment with distortions of the figure, of the medium. Many feel that abstraction is easy, but that abstraction has also been made possible by knowing what the actual drawing and shading was all about. If you don’t go through the process of technical perfection how will you do the distortion!

What is your process of working?

For me the ground or the field is most important. I start with that, and until I am completely satisfied with the colours and textures, I do not put in the forms. In fact, often when my friends have come over to my studio and seen my backgrounds ready they would suggest that I don’t do any further work on them, that they seemed complete abstract works in themselves. Also, once the ground is ready I will not paint the forms on it until I am convinced that I have the perfect story of that particular background. There are often many canvases ready with the field at my studio waiting for the right form to complete them.

I read the colours, plan the narration and then get to work. Also I only focus on one work at a time. I work only the mornings with sunlight. In the evening I don’t enter my studio, working under artificial light has become an anathema for me. However, the process of thought continues, I may sketch or experiment with the discovery of different forms and ambiguities in the evenings. I keep notes on experimentative techniques I have used in a medium that I may consider using again someday. Creativity is a journey where the experiences gained along the way are more important than the destination.

Describe your journey into art.

Well in my final year I chose to focus on drawing. I wanted that aspect of my work to be perfect because I feel that a good drawing is the basis for all great artwork. During my first and final year of MFA I was also preparing my paintings for my first solo show. I had booked Jehangir art gallery at Kala Ghoda and the show was to be just a few days after my final exam. It was very hectic, but my hard work and perseverance paid off as my first show was appreciated and most of the works were sold. These initial works were very drawing oriented with a flat tone. Then I had another solo show at Prithvi where I first experimented with the small format.

While most appreciate my water colours toady, I did not start using water colours as a medium for my mainstream art till 2006. Prior to that I would only do landscapes in water colours. As a medium water colours train an artist to be quick with his mind, hand and eye and greatly improve your perspective and drawing skills.

What do you convey through your works?

My works relate to the experiences people have within their day to day interactions in the cities. Often they will be memories of events I have witnessed. Initially I would give a geographical reference to the event I have portrayed by including some landmark in the background. Slowly I found myself doing away with this as the narration was universal and was not place specific. My own existence also comes through in my works in some form, but you would have to know me well to associate with it.

My works are always positive, even thoughts of depression and anger I find getting translated into happy colours as I work. Sometimes, a person may have irked me in life, instead of hitting out at them verbally; I convey my point through my works. The person whom the barb is aimed at will automatically know what I am hinting at. A case in point is a painting of a bald man leading three girls, titled “The Bald Leading The Blind” trust me, those people knew what I was talking about!

How would you like viewers to approach your works?

For me all my works should impact the viewer on three levels. The 1st impact makes him stop in his tracks. The 2nd impact makes him read the narration in the work. The 3rd impact is when the viewer starts to look for hidden nuances in the works. Though to be honest, I keep some secrets hidden in the canvas, it is like a game I like to play.

Your role models?

There are many artists I admire, like Abalal Rehman who was from the first batch of students at JJ, M F Pithawala, Walter Langhammer, A. A. Bhosle. Gustav Klint’s distortion of drawing to abstraction is pure genius. Amongst the contemporary Indian artists I like Atul Dodiya’s approach to art - he is so technically perfect and clear in his narration and use of form.

Your philosophy of life?

I have a very simple philosophy – no matter how many negative experiences you have in life, your thinking should always be positive! Some of my works have the form of a staircase; for me that staircase is always leading upwards.

On this positive note we bid adieu to this technically perfect artist whose journey into art will never end all because he truly enjoys the ride. We secretly hope that this tête-à-tête will someday find expression in one of his works; we’ll just have to look hard for it!

~ Razvin

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