VIRJI VIRENDER SUMBLY
|Giving visual expressions to one's innermost feelings and agonies by an artist may be just a feast for our eyes but it is an outpouring of deeply-felt emotions for someone who had to run for his life and leave his home and hearth in the middle of the night in terror-torn Kashmir, simply because as an artist he had decorated the vehicle in which the dead body of the first great Kashmiri Pandit martyr, Pt. Tikalal Tapiloo, was carried from Sheetalnath premises to Karan Nagar crematorium.
Read candid frank interview with this artist below:
EVENING AT REFUGEE CAMP-2002
size: 36-40 cms, Medium: Oil on convass
|Interview with the Artist…
1. : Veerji, for how many years have you been engaged in painting and what made you choose this specific art?
I joined Institute of Fine Arts, Srinagar in 1979 and since then I have been engaged in this field. During my studies at the institute, I took sculpture as my area of specialization and did well for years. I made many sculptures and some of them were even appreciated by the late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah during exhibitions at our institute. I even made sculptures of Plaster of Paris, which are housed in different temples in Srinagar. I attempted wood also but soon realized that my basic moorings are not fully manifested in this medium. I then chose painting instead. There could also be several other known and unknown reasons, motivations or inspirations responsible for this. Among other factors, I cannot and should not deny the inspiration and impression of my elder brother Dr. Agnishekhar who from his college days created a niche for himself as a budding Hindi writer. He wanted to become a painter and became a writer. When I passed my matriculation, he inspired me to join fine arts institutes and I started discovering myself playing with colors.
2.: How would you categorize your painting style?
I think that it is for the art critics to categorize my style .When I paint I don’t know which style or school I belong to.
3. : What is it that inspires you to paint and what you like to paint?
I am deeply rooted in subtleties of my ethos and its socio-metaphysical dimensions, its symbols, etc. I find painting divine essence as a highly arresting experience, particularly in the framework of traditional Shaivite doctrine. As an artist, when I look at our traditional Kashmiri Pandit ritual structure, our beliefs, marriages and thread ceremonies, customs from birth to the completion of death anniversary, I find huge potential, rather raw material for shaping my expression.
In addition to this, I restlessly paint the pangs of exile. I cannot afford to shut my eyes to the plight of my people who have been uprooted and thrown into exile. I had done some paintings on this issue. I wish that I could paint the whole saga of my suffering community, their wounds and hurts, their struggle for survival.
4. : Has any famous artists influenced your work and who is your role model as far as painting is concerned?
I am fond of keenly watching classics of the masters in the field. Their vision, their treatment and their choice of colors fascinate me. I regret, that I don’t know as to whose influence I must be carrying on my mind as a painter. But I admire the works of great artists of our state, Pt.Trilok Koul, Gokel Dembi, Bhushan Koul and Rajinder Tickoo. So far as, my role model is concerned, I want to be myself. Yet, I wish to carry the tradition and style of Gulam Rasool Santosh with newer dimensions and interpretations.
5. : Has exodus from kashmir influenced your art and have you sketched and expressed this pain in your paintings?
It is a cultural shock for me. I was running a commercial art shop at Kaka Road, Srinagar, near Sheetal Nath mandir. I had to leave every thing there and run for my life. Terrorists wanted to kill me because I had decorated the vehicle in which Pt.Tikalal Taploo’s dead body was carried from Sheetal Nath premises to Karan Nagar crematorium on 14th September 1989. It changed my whole perception, priorities, my art and my creative process to sustain my family. I did all types of manual labor from working as help, proof reader, compositor at Nagpur and in Jammu. I worked hard at glass factories and did designing and art work on ceramic, opened my own art shop but could not commercially gain. While struggling for day to day life, I painted the agony of my fellow exiles.
6. : You specialize in 'art on glass'. What is it and how is it different from regular paintings?
Art work on glass, which is produced by deep etching with chemicals and tools essentially is a commercial art for interior decoration. It is a very expensive art form. Since I specialized in this art, I gave it a try too, opened a workshop but could not pull on commercially for long.
Frankly telling you, I love all my works at first sight. But the paintings that I like most are “Evening at refugee camp” and “Advent of Goddess Khir Bawani”. First painting expresses the shock and stunning silence of living in a refugee camp and the second one depicts the mythology of Goddess Khir Bawani being brought to Kashmir from Sri Lanka on the back of Lord Hanuman. This painting has geometric forms, symbolizing the holy spring of Tulamulla where the divine mother was seated. It has many more mythical dimensions of divine essence.
8. : As an artist, what is your source of income? To be frank please let us know have you sold your paintings and can an artist from Kashmiri Hindu community survive economically with this art?
I am a displaced Kashmiri Hindu, cursed to sustain my family on meager cash relief of rupees four thousand (now raised to rs.5000/) per month from the government. Except for one work I have not sold my paintings though I have been doing murals and wall paintings here and there. I believe that some of my works deserve greater appreciation and market but the inability to market myself and the lack of marketing support from government prevent such success. It is very difficult to survive as an artist that too in exile.
|*Engineer by training and an entrepreneur by profession, Deepak Ganju is the Managing Editor of the Monthly Shehjar magazine,
One of the past Presidents of KOA, Deepak is the founding member of Kashmir Hindu Foundation, Inc. & International Kashmir Federation. Being forced to leave his home and hearth in the wake of terrorist onslaught from across the border, Deepak has undergone the traumatic experience of being a refugee from Kashmir. His focus has always been to highlight the plight of Kashmiri Hindu refugees through the medium of documentary movies, rallies and magazines.
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Thank u deepak ji. The word thanks is very small to explain my feelings towards u. The way of explaining paintings in video is marvelous.Lesiv Mahara,ORZU.
Added By Virender Sumbly