A familiar form

Artist Sujata Bajaj's exhibition shows us the various ways she sees her muse, "the global phenomenon", Ganpati

For her first exhibition in four years, artist Sujata Bajaj went with Ganpati's formal, Sanskrit name — Ganapati. Not Bappa, or Ganu, or Vignaharta. That's because while she has an emotional connect with the god, she's chosen his form — "which is a universal, primal form. He's a global phenomenon!" and parred it down to minimal lines And abstract depictions using the crown, truck and ears of the elephant god.

That's the European part of her nurtured by her 28 years in Paris and marriage to a Norwegian husband. It could also be the Gandhian restraint of her upbringing. But the strong tones of red and orange are all of India. Especially, the specific orange she went looking to match the idol at Moti Doongar (near her hometown of Jaipur) she grew up seeing. "That moorti is not very intricate, but that orange colour is captivating; it's very 'bhavya'" says the 56-year-old who lives between Paris, Norway, India, New York and Dubai, where her husband has business interests.

Artist Sujata Bajaj at Gallery Art and Soul at Worli. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Artist Sujata Bajaj at Gallery Art and Soul at Worli. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Sujata grew up between Jaipur and Wardha, and studied Art in Pune under Shri MR Kelkar before leaving for Paris on an art scholarship. "I promised myself I would not be a tourist in my country and have been coming to India four times a year," she says.

She has been working on this exhibit for 10 years which includes 10 sculptures, 22 mixed media canvases and one etching collage set. For the mixed media canvases, she has used pieces of visual and spiritual importance to collected over the years — such as the wallpaper that was in her Paris home when she moved in, Marathi and French newspapers, Gold foil, papers collected in 1981 from the Triyuginarayana temple in the Himalayas with Ram written on them continuously by devotes as a wish-fulfilling exercise; bhojapatra or the bark of the Himalayan birch collected by her mother in 1948 when she went to disperse Mahatma Gandhi's ashes.

Along with exhibition, a book written by French novelist, script-writer and actor Jean-Claude Carriere [note: there is a graph over the first E which I cannot make on this software. Please to make in Word]. Carriere has collaborated with Peter Brook on the 9-hour stage adaptation of Mahabharata and was honoured by the Academy Awards in 2014.

Carriere, now 85, has known Sujata since 1988 and has documented her association with Ganesha in the book, taking the scribbles she made on recycled paper of her Gandhian household 30 years ago as she was rendered immobile by a motoring accident, juxtaposing it with the meditative, abstract lines of Ganesha she started making in a studio in Delhi, pictures of early woodcuts she experimented with in the Pune years, leading to the strong coloured canvases of the more recent times.

"He befriended me, and out of respect for my nationality — he understands India like few others — he always treated me with a different kind of respect and distance, like a friend of a father would," she says. Few years ago, he was approached to write a foreword for a book about Sujata's work and he refused — because he said he would write the book himself.In two years, he did.

Where: Jehangir Art Gallery, Fort
From: March 8 to March 14
Call: 22843989

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