Art, to Sai Priya, is not just mastery of technique and skill. It’s something that you can connect with, like a close friend.
For artist Sai Priya Mahajan, painting is not just a process of self-expression but also that of self-discovery. “The subjects I choose and the colours I use to paint them give me an insight into what am I strongly feeling for, at that point,” she says.
Ask her why she wanted to be an artist and she comes up with a rather unpredictable reply, “There isn’t really a why to it but a why not? It is something that I love doing.” Though she goes on to add that she wanted to be an artist ever since she was very little, is certain she drew inspiration from her mother who used to paint as a youngster and picked up the brush again after retirement.
Born and brought up in Chandigarh where her father is a dental surgeon and mother a retired government college principal, Sai went to IIT Bombay to complete her graduation as an electronics engineer, but drifted towards arts after completing her studies. But don’t think that she wasted the engineering learning by opting out of it. She didn’t. And she has an explanation for it. “Education is not a just degree for me. Engineering education helps me shape a structured and problem-solving approach which can be applied to anything — be it technology, business, art, even life. So it definitely hasn’t gone waste. Also, art cannot be produced in isolation; it comes from the experiences you’ve had in life.” That explains it all — her engineering education is the reason why her approach towards art is non-traditional!
Just finished with her exhibition, The Sound of Colour, at Kamalnayan Bajaj Hall & Art Gallery in Mumbai, this Bengaluru-based artist is all relaxed now. On show were over 40 pieces in water colours and acrylics through which she shared her impressions of people, their passions and emotions as also her interpretation of their love and enthusiasm for their craft. Most of the works were a mix of realism and impressionism in water colours.
The artist always had this fascination with “showing things as they really are” which is what realism stands for. “Making a life-like realistic portrait is something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. And achieving this with watercolors is very hard because there’s very little room for making mistakes. At the same time, impressionism, which relies heavily on the play of light vs dark and shapes, has a charm of its own. If you look at the work of contemporary artist Alvaro Castagnet, of whom I’m a huge fan, you will realize how he uses shapes and contrasts to convey the mood and depict movement,” she says.
Art, to Sai, is not just mastery of technique and skill. It’s something that you can connect with, like a close friend. “Every subject that I choose, every painting that I make comes from a place of personal expression. Reading a good book, listening to soulful music, watching a performance — all of these can sometimes serve as nothing short of a cathartic experience. So the idea of mixing the two styles, with a sliding scale between impressionism vs realism, is to convey the mood, feeling and experience, with as much accuracy as possible. It is an attempt to achieve exactly this quality of being able to move people and re-experience emotions without any inhibitions, and of taking them to a different world altogether where they can feel the entirety of their emotions and experiences,” she remarks.
Isn’t The Sound of Colour a very strange name to for an art show?
Because to me, artwork through colours doesn’t just convey a visual, it can speak to you sometimes, tell you a story, convey a feeling, thought or emotion, and when it does that, it can transcend the boundary of being just a visual medium and step into a space where it also attempts to create an illusion of adding touch and sound to the mix, making it a multi-sensory experience.” No wonder among her works are quite a lot of musicians and dancers! This is the second solo show by Sai who loves to sing and read books when she is not painting; her first one being Quaint Reflections in August 2014 in Chandigarh. “I wanted to start my art journey from the city I was born and brought up in. I have been a part of two prestigious international shows, one organised by the Northeastern Watercolor Society, NY and held at the Kent Art Association Gallery, the other was Art Revolution Tapie held in Taipei city in Taiwan.”
Are Indian artists accepted abroad?
“As long as the works and conduct is good, they are. This is also because for them you are, an international artist and, have a very different upbringing and approach towards art which reflects in your choice of subject, method, skill and technique,” she says.
Strangely and significantly, Sai has no ideals. She says she wants to keep her thought process independent of what the common and accepted knowledge is. However, she loves the artworks of Alvaro Castagnet, Joseph Zubick, Ananta Mandal, Samir Mondal and Milind Mulick.