Artist Paresh Maity's ongoing show Infinite Light throws light on his profound ties with Varanasi

Paresh Maity's ongoing exhibition Infinite Light captures the last 32 years of his artistic journey in the most illuminating way

Sharmistha Ghosal Published :  30th December 2022 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  30th December 2022 12:00 AM

Paresh Maity

The only natural agent that turns our life so interesting is perhaps light, which makes all things visible to us. And as a child of 7 dabbling in clay moulding, artist Paresh Maity realised the importance of light very early on in life. "I observed that light is the most important and essential part of any kind of visual art, be it paintings, sculptures, photographs or cinema. I loved watching the light in the morning, in the afternoon, evening and even at night. Though it's dark at night, there is a light surrounding us which makes things visible even in a dark room," says Paresh.

And his ongoing exhibition Infinite Light captures the last 32 years of his journey as an artist in the most illuminating way. It is predominantly an overview of and insight into Paresh Maity’s profound ties with Varanasi, his city of love. It is about the artist’s search for the inner truth of life and Varanasi emerges as his metaphorical protagonist. Displayed at four prominent galleries in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru for five months, this is the biggest solo exhibition of any Indian artist so far with about 450 artworks on display across the venues. 

Curated by Ranjit Hoskot, the exhibition at CIMA art gallery has a display of about 90 works including watercolours, oil paintings, sculptures, mixed media, ceramics, painting on textiles and films.

We talk to the prolific artist about the same. Excerpts:

Paresh Maity
Mahakali by Paresh Maity

This exhibition too showcases your love for nature and natural elements?

Yes, it is a culmination of years of quests, seeking to capture the essence of nature. The most important inspiration in my work is nature. It is nature that makes me want to paint. As an artist I observe, perceive and imagine – an image forms itself which I then express on canvas.

About  450 works of mine are being displayed across four metro cities and the artworks range from 3-6 inches to 45 feet that I have carefully selected and chosen over the years. Six films are also being shown of which two are playing at CIMA. One is Enduring Forms on making of sculptures and the other is In Search of Tranquillity which traces my journey to Varanasi over the last 37 years. It was in 1985 that I visited the old city as a Government College of Art student and since then I have been there at least over 100 times. Being born in a coastal region, I have a deep connection with water bodies. I have also visited Venice 27 times because to understand a place, its air,  weather, atmosphere and smell, one needs to revisit and absorb and feel it.

We loved the huge sculpture, The Pair, erected right outside the gallery...

The Pair constitutes two large sculptures weighing 400 kg in total. Made with bronze, they symbolize emotions, love, intimacy, closeness, joy and happiness experienced by a man and woman represented in geometric straight lines. The symbol hammer represents the powerful, strong man and the plier represents the woman who holds the whole universe together. 

There are also five more bronze sculptures inside besides a range of drawings on paper, mixed media in canvas and ceramic work.


You are very deeply influenced by water. What are the other elements that move you as an artist?

Being brought up near the coastal regions of Bengal I am deeply influenced by water. My art is very social in nature and a reflection of all the observations I make. Water is life and is multi-dimensional. It changes the colour of the sky and makes people soft in life. It's essential to our existence. Besides water, light and air and any element of nature inspires me.

I also draw inspiration from my dreams, what I feel, I see while travelling and all around. 

What kind of artworks has shaped you as an artist over the years?

During my early years of clay moulding, I loved Pata Chitra art and eventually was exposed to Jamini Roy. When I started doing landscapes with watercolours at the age of 13, our art teacher at school showed us a book from National Library which had a painting by JMW Turner. My formative years were dominated by landscapes in watercolours motivated by masters like John Constable and Turner.

Then my travel to Rajasthan exposed me to the incredible colour, and sharpness of features with my paintings slowly turning into figurative. In 1990s my stints in Paris and London and exposure to Picasso's cubism left a strong impression of cubism in my figurative paintings too. But even before that, the influences of miniature folk art, tribal art and Santhal art and the very basic very earthy rooted colours were all there in my work. There's also a lot of impressionism in my art.

Paresh Maity
Paresh Maity's oil painting

Your take on digital art?

Times are changing and the medium of communication is changing every moment too. Digital art is emerging fast but I don't know how they will be turned into something sustainable. At the end of the day, people still like proper, good work of art which they can communicate with.
For any form of art to sustain, one needs a medium to communicate with it.

What are the mediums you like using to create art?

I love all the mediums since every medium has its own charm and beauty. But I feel watercolour is the most difficult medium and very sensitive too and there is no scope for rectification, hence it's surely a  challenge. In oil, there's a lot of scope to make it bigger and better and change it into many things. Sculpting too is very tough and multi-dimensional.

What to expect from you in 2023?

I want to scale up my work and turn them into public art since art is for all and not for the drawing rooms of a privileged few. Otherwise, such monumental works of art like Ajanta Ellora and Konarak and other such beauties wouldn't have survived for centuries. Art should be everywhere and for everybody.

At CIMA till January 28.