"I am always in the role of a painter. I have a filter and see objects as lines and structure", says Pune-based artist Raju Sutar who has experimented with a spectrum of mediums from oils to acrylic, water colours, tempera, dry pastels, charcoals, pencil and ink over the past 35 years. Recalling his love for drawing since childhood, Raju says he would mimic numbers and alphabets even before he was two years old, an attribute that had his father enrol him in an English school where he was admitted to Class I right away for his awareness of the alphabet!
Formal Education and Beyond
A chance meeting with an art school teacher who saw Raju's paintings on ply boards at his father's carpentry unit, had the teacher invite him to the school where he was fascinated by art and the pursuit of learning art. Yet, much before he enrolled in a G. D. Art (Drawing and Painting), Abhinav Kala Mahavidyala, Pune, in 1987, he worked on posters, screen-printed cards, decorations of Ganesh pandals, and 3-D drawings for his father.
At art school even as he learnt formal drawing and painting, Raju spent hours in the library studying artworks and reading on art history, great masters and modernists. He was particularly inspired by the spontaneous work, in an abstract expressionist style, of American artist Jackson Pollock. And keen to develop his expression, he travelled to Mumbai to meet with artists and had enriching interactions with them specially M.F. Husain, Prabhakar Barwe and Akbar Padamsee.
A Mirror of Oneself
Bringing his love and learning to the canvas Raju says painting is about developing a dialogue with the canvas. "As I start to paint, a few imaginary lines appear on the canvas. As I bring one to life, others seem to appear. One stroke leads to another. There is no need for a pre-determined concept or research. It is simply you and your space. The process of painting is a very intimate experience and journey". Having studied both European and Indian art (classical and tribal), Raju brings an Indian perspective into his work. "My work appears more like modern abstract whereas the approach is Indian".
Yet over the years he has simplified his expression, "removing unwanted lines and unwanted spaces, and enjoying the journey as one situation transforms into another". Raju believes there are two vital aspects to a painting- its structure and its line. "The structure is the skeleton and soul of an art work. It holds the work. Once it is complete, each line can be added organically to drape it. Every dot and line should develop a work, complement and be connected to the others in the work".
As Raju paints, line, colour, texture, form and space engage him, and they slowly assemble to create a work. He believes colour is paramount in creating a mood in a work, and painstakingly works layer upon layer in his oil paintings till he is satisfied with the colour saturation that suffuses the works with a glow. In recent years he has been drawn to a circular format for painting as he finds it challenging and exciting to work within a circle; he has created several works akin contemporary style ganjifas (traditional Indian playing cards). And as viewers may have different interpretations of his works, he believes an artist's work is infact a scanned image of himself. "Everything shows in your canvas, even if you are trying to hide something it shows. In a true work of art there is no pretence".