Angry, intense and to an extent grotesque - the secret lives of Aghori babas when depicted on a life-size canvas could be very provocative; and, that's what the artist Bharat Thakur was aiming at when he presented his solo show "Prayag - The Inner Journey" at the Visual Art Gallery in New Delhi recently. The artist showcased portraits of Naga babas, sculptures and self-portraits that were inspired by the spiritual lineage of Aghora and Tantra.
In the series of paintings, Bharat tried to showcase the inner and deeper side of humanity, and with his kinetic sculptures, he told the story of turbulent times. Speaking about his latest works, the artist mentions, "In this exhibition, I am showing my figurative works which include the series on the Naga Sadhus and also my own portraits called the 'dark works'. We are also exhibiting a new experiential sculpture that interacts with the onlookers. I have touched upon the science of Aghora because I am not painting the subject as an outsider but someone who witnessed it first hand. These depictions of the babas and the dark images are essentially not speculative; I have tried to capture the essence of the babas while being true to their form. Aghora is a knowledge that can be understood by practice. On the other hand, it can be explained to others through the medium of art because art has the power to depict the essence."
As an artist, Bharat does not have a formal degree in art as he is more famous as a Yoga guru, but he mentions that he has lived and studied with artists all over the world. He mentions, "We have Yoga companies in many countries of Asia and Europe, so during my travels, I have always made it a point to spend time with the street painters of these countries. In our training in Tantra, we do a lot of work with the eye, visualization, and concentration. Art is similar as it portrays the interaction between mind and matter. A lot of inspiration comes from my visit to the Louvre, other galleries, museums etc. But I would also give credit to my times in the mountains as a child when I was four to around seventeen years. I remember making forms in the snow with my fingers, using soil and moss for colouring. Those were my first works inspired by the raw elements of nature."
Speaking about the style and techniques used in the series, the artist mentions that every part of the artwork is a process, which is sort of holographic rather than symbolic. He says, "Every stroke, every texture, colour, contains somewhere the essence of the whole painting. In one segment of this exhibition, I have explored the evolution of the colour red and black trying to evoke the response of fear danger and angst. In my opinion, an artist is concerned with the truth but more as an on-going exploration, a very personal exploration because art is a passion that consumes you. There is no room in the art for anything else. Any genuine work of art will heal and transform society. We feel healing is what art can contribute at any time and anywhere, and my art is the exploration into the science of healing."