“No, there is no story to my art. My work is not even titled.”
“But you call it rockscapes, and I have heard you at times refer to them as mindscapes?”
Vinod Sharma laughs out aloud, and with a twinkle in his eye explains how his professor at Delhi College of Art coined the terms, albeit in passing.
“I just paint for the sheer joy of it. There is no other reason behind my delineations. There are no moral lessons. No deep revelations from my side. It is only personal joy.”
Sharma, originally from Delhi, has been painting his monumental monochromatic canvases—sophisticated in execution and mystical in content—for over two decades now. What started off as landscapes framed by windows later gave way to sceneries swathed in trees and people, and finally morphed into the present skeletal forms of the earth’s surface where Sharma got rid of all trappings and borders, for keeps.
The very absence of a story from his side could well be construed as being the raison d’être for the depth in his paintings. There are no boundaries, whether it be in composition or reading and, hence, are open to a multitude of inferences as varied as each one of us. The visual experience is subjective, taking on the mantle of the subconscious and consciousness of the viewer.
For one person it could be evocative of barrenness, almost moon-like in its close-up textures. Yet another may see the light and shade streaming through the protrusions akin to a journey of discovery; the granular textures and powdery white mist reminiscent of unknown mysteries waiting for the veil to lift from. A third may see poetry in its minimalism.
Each of the self-coloured pieces, in an earth palette dominated by black, blue, burgundy and ochre, are the result of 15-20 days of painstaking labour. Sharma’s unique forms, tracing themselves back to the mountains up north and his printmaking days in college, are intimately tied to their creation process.
It all starts with a random splash of oil paint laden with turpentine across a canvas which Sharma uses as the basis for his composition. A slight manual tilt leads the colour to further seep into the canvas, whilst the turpentine trickles ahead and forms rivulets across its expanse. Once armed with the framework of his ‘story’, multiple layers of paint, repetitively applied and scratched out with a blade transform the canvas to its maturity and inherent spirituality.
A graduate in painting from Delhi College of Art, followed by a Masters in Fine Arts, M.S. University, Baroda, Sharma has held scores of solo and group exhibitions, both in India and internationally over the past four decades and been a recipient of numerous awards including the Sahitya Kala Parishad.
Whilst his journey in Contemporary Indian Art has been on one hand constant in style, it has on another been a continuous process of creation and recreation in form. Sharma’s penchant for borderlessness, hence, is seen to find its voice in his method as well.
“I often want to go back to my work, to paint another layer, scratch out a part. I don’t think I am ever completely happy with them. I could also, for this reason, never recreate any of my paintings,” Sharma muses as he looks at his canvases. “It is a process, an endless mental and physical process, without a beginning or an end, some which I carry out, some which call out to me to complete further and I turn my back on.”
It is synonymous, perhaps, to the way a viewer sees them too. Every time one visits his canvases the process of understanding continues and new meanings transpire. A story is created by us in our minds wherein a rockscape morphs into a mindscape in our imaginations, or the artist’s mindscape alters into a rockscape in our eyes.
– – –
Vinod Sharma’s solo exhibition of paintings is on display at the Jehangir Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai, 11-16 November, 2015, from 11 am to 7 pm.
[All images courtesy Vinod Sharma]