A Surrealist Spectacle: Folklore and dreams woven into magic on canvas

It was while painting one day that artist Suraj Kumar Kashi felt the characters on his canvas come alive

author_img Noor Anand Chawla Published :  10th January 2022 11:09 PM   |   Published :   |  10th January 2022 11:09 PM
Suraj Kumar Kashi

Suraj Kumar Kashi

It was while painting one day that artist Suraj Kumar Kashi felt the characters on his canvas come alive. “They started to fly and dance right in front of my eyes! It was a thrilling moment for me to witness that my own creation wasn’t even in my control,” he says. This isn’t magic. It is the abstract art form known to the world as surrealism, of which this artist from Bihar is a prominent exponent.

Not many Indian artists choose this genre, but Kashi feels it is a natural choice for him. “As Indians, we have grown with surrealism around us. We see the elephant-headed Lord Ganesha, Lord Hanuman in monkey form, gods and goddesses with multiple faces and arms. Surrealism also shines through in the stories we listen to, with animals that talk and humans who fly. It is everywhere—in our homes, folklore, and even in our dreams. I grew up listening to these stories and they reflect on my canvas,” he says.

His latest exhibition, titled To Be or Not To Be on display at Delhi’s Arushi Arts Gallery, is a collection of 18 of his oil and acrylic on canvas paintings. Each one was painted when the pandemic locked him indoors at home in Noida. The paintings have a Dali-esque vivacity of colour and form, presented in a distinctly Indian mould. Kashi places the many-limbed and multi-faceted revered beings from the ancient mythology in modern roles and lifestyles. His women are adorned like goddesses as they perform mundane daily activities, and his backdrops are generous with their use of bright colours, striking patterns, flowers, and other elements of nature. The effect is a positive and hopeful spin on life in a concrete jungle.

Kashi’s small-town upbringing and big city dreams shine through his work. He is equally influenced by myths as by India’s mall culture and metropolitan lifestyle. As he prepares for his next exhibit, which will consist exclusively of installations and interactive artwork, he says, “I start painting with a central figure and everything else keeps adding up to make my artworks a visual story. My symbols and motifs contain their own stories.” His lively paintings are indeed a testament to that.