‘Some people have a certain image of an artist for themselves. In their eyes, a painter drowns himself in alcohol and tirelessly draws their inspiration from it. This is so untrue. A good artist works relentlessly, is disciplined and very well-organised. Talking about myself, I am very strict with myself,” says artist Maya Burman, whose recent works are part of an ongoing exhibition titled Joie de vivre: Celebrating Life, at Gallerie Ganesha in Delhi.
While the artist is indeed working round the clock, but her creative powers are never restricted by the confines set by curators and gallery owners. She says, “I exist because of my art. It is the reason of my being. I paint continuously. Though I am committed to galleries, even if I were not, I just would not stop painting. I often ask myself, what if I won 100 million dollars? Would I stop painting?’ The answer comes out as a ‘No’.”
Burman, who lives in Paris, follows her daily routine in the studio religiously. “As soon as I enter the studio, I leave the garb of a housewife behind,” she says. “When I am working for six to eight hours daily, no one comes to disturb me. And I get completely engrossed in my work.”
When the artist detaches herself from her daily chores, she creates paintings depicting calm, meditative moods. The figures she paints are done in bright colours, and they appear as though swaying to some serene music. Art critics often relate Burman’s paintings to a tapestry-like effect of the French art-nouveau traditions (geometric and floral work), European medieval architecture, and miniature art that stems from her Indian ancestry.
“I was not formally trained by any institution or by my parents about paintings. It was just that when I used to sit in front of the canvasses made by my parents, I never saw lines, figures or colours but stories. Like literature, paintings used to talk to me.”
Her father is the acclaimed Indian artist Sakti Burman, and her mother the French painter Maite Delteil. Maya Burman didn’t choose to receive formal training in painting, but instead she studied architecture. “Architecture was useful. It trained my eye, taught me basic composition,” she says. But then she found herself gravitating towards paintings. “I was not formally trained by any institution or by my parents about paintings. It was just that when I used to sit in front of the canvasses made by my parents, I never saw lines, figures or colours but stories. Like literature, paintings used to talk to me. There was a lot happening on canvasses through intricate composition. I suddenly realised that I can create endless literature on the canvasses,” says Burman.
The artist takes a keen interest in literature. And she avoids news. “I believe we live in a world where any news will inadvertently find its way to us. Our time on this planet is limited, therefore I give a lot of my time to reading literature. I shift from genres to styles and if something finds a place in my subconscious, it eventually appears in my work in one way or the other.”
For her painting Summer Garden, the artist drew inspiration from a “dream catcher”—a popular object which is said to keep “negative energies” on bay. In the painting, two women appear guarding their children, from soldiers and wild animals. There are other figures helping the women to protect their children. The painting makes use of a rich floral imagery.
Burman says, “Dreamcatcher is thought to catch bad dreams. I saw it at some place and it just became the vehicle of my imagination.”
The artist, who has created 40 works for this exhibition, in watercolours and pen and ink, wants to now experiment in oil. . She believes that painting is a journey that teaches an artist how to be humble before their talent. “I believe that one should be modest in front of your work. Since it is a lifelong journey, this very act of creation, you cannot say after a point that you have achieved something. It is a never-ending process. And the limit of learning is boundless.”
Burman does not believe in heeding popular notions about art. “For some people what I do is not art. Many people have certain ideas on how an artwork should be. Like some people give certain names to artworks like ‘cutting-edge’. I don’t believe in all that,” she says.
For Burman, the most important thing as an artist is to be honest to oneself. She says, “I don’t want to belittle myself and make something for money. Maybe I would not say this if my paintings were not selling. I am lucky enough to sell. But I really don’t want to create something just because it is fashionable. I definitely know what I don’t want.”
The show is own view till 7 December at Delhi’s Gallerie Ganesha