For Paris-based artist Sujata Bajaj, the elephant God, Ganapati poses as an inexhaustible and endless source of creativity. Sujata has explored and experimented with the subject since the onset of her career but never with the same passion. Almost 30 years ago, she recalls taking solace in obsessively and intuitively drawing the image of Ganapati when she was confined to bed due to an injured foot. The process ultimately took shape as a lifelong preoccupation for her, transforming and maturing over the years.
The exhibition titled Ganapati at Art Alive Gallery by Sujata is on the forms of Ganapati — a genre apart from what she is majorly known for. Celebrated as an abstract colourist, this exhibition brings into light her lesser-known side in which Ganapati has been a constant companion. Ganapati is not a new chapter or a turning point in Sujata’s oeuvre. It has been a lifelong preoccupation for her but even though he is not part of her mainstream work, he is like a constant refrain underlying her journey as an artist. She has painted, etched and sculpted him for decades, yielding an artistic abundance that is happily contra distinct with her early life.
In her first solo show after a gap of four years, Sujata captures the essence of Ganapati using a diverse set of techniques as well as variety of materials. The collection on display includes sculpture, mixed media and etching-collages. Throughout her career, she has endeavoured to experiment with different materials. For current Ganapati series, she has brought out a treasure of materials that was collected over a period of time. Somewhere in the shadows of her works, one finds omnipresent pieces of old original Ganapati miniature, gold foil, newspaper clippings, musical notes or fragments of texts, lending each piece with its unique texture and quality.
As regards the inspiration for her works, she says, “To me, Ganapati is endless. I feel a sense of complete freedom and liberty in abstracting his image. No other form lends itself as vividly to the abstract as Ganapati. When I paint him or sculpt him, I am certainly not painting or sculpting a god. I am, in fact, through the process, experiencing my own artistic freedom, and the immense joy intrinsic to that freedom.”
Deeply embedded in Indian culture and present in many ways in myriad households, Ganapati has been the subject for artists and craftsmen for a very long time. But it’s hard to find an artist who embraced the figure the way Sujata has done. The inexhaustible character of the form explains why she took more than 30 years for this project. For any artistic project, an incubation of this length is something quite out of the ordinary. It all started in an unusual of fashion when, confined to a bed for a long period due to an injured foot, Sujata began to draw. She did this obsessively — almost as if guided by a power beyond her own. In each new drawing some variation was employed but all points at the form of Ganapati. At later stages, new techniques and materials were called upon, giving the project a depth and variety rarely seen in Indian art. It was also intensely personal, something the artist did not feel like sharing with the world – till now. Perhaps it is Ganapati himself who is now guiding and giving shape to her unique vision.
Having pursued an active and focused career as an abstract colourist in India and internationally, this extremely personal exhibition – a departure in Sujata’s career – marks a seminal moment.
Consisting of a wide body of work spread over three decades, Sujata has used the occasion to create an extensive body of fiberglass sculptures which cross-pollinate her earlier drawings, etchings and collages. Coming together, they present a formidable and personal collection for the audience.