The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, January 21, 2001

The return of an artist
By Priya Pandey

SUJATA BAJAJ has come a long way. Born in Jaipur and trained in Pune, the painter moved to Paris in 1988, got married to a Norwegian and settled down in Stavenger. Over the past 11 years she has exhibited in most world capitals and is now back in India with her collection, Energy.

The exhibition has created a major sensation in Indian art circles. After a long time, critics have hit upon an emerging talent with potential and are applauding Sujata for the "new direction" she has brought about in the Indian art movement.

"Sujata excludes strength and light," said a reviewer who has been following her works for close to a decade. "She has blossomed at her own rhythm, slowly, obstinately. She has been liberated. And here she is, radiant, transformed by her young maturity."


Sujata works with what is known as the ‘monotype’ technique in multi-media printmaking. It involves inking a metal plate, working on the reverse, placing a leaf underneath and setting the press in action. This process of printing is attributed to the French master Claude Viseux.

By tracing the metal surface with chalk or using scriptural writing from ancient manuscripts and the impression of ropes for added effect, she manages to create a new dimension to standard monotypes. Her paintings are distinguished by the use of fiery reds, flaming orange, earthy browns and ebony blacks.

"I make the hand paper in India, then go to Paris for the graphics and finally complete my paintings in Norway," informs the artist. "The scriptural writing from Sanskrit manuscripts constitutes an integral part of my works."

But why the scriptural writings?

"They represent Indian philosophy in all its richness," she explains. "I add an artistic interpretation to them. My work reflects the experiences of life and denotes vitality, energy and strength. In fact, my paintings are quite literally memories and life’s experiences transformed into signs and symbols."

Sujata Bajaj: “The myth of the poor artist is dying a natural death”.Born in a family of philanthropists, Sujata found her artistic calling at an early age in the folk styles of Rajasthan. After schooling in Jaipur, she moves to Pune to earn her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Art and Painting.

But tribal art and its lore tugged at her ever-searching spirit, exposing to her the treasures of a country whose beauty had escaped public view. Her pursuit of those hidden facets of art led her to complete her doctoral thesis on tribal painting styles.

In 1988, Sujata went to Paris on a French government scholarship and was attached to the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts. "I spent the first three months travelling through Paris on foot, absorbing the glorious atmosphere," recalls Sujata.

She also met two people who were to change her life forever. One was the legendary Claude Visuex who was to introduce her to the monotype technique of printmaking. The other was a Norwegian academic, Rune Jul Larsen, she fell in love with and married.

Today, they have a five-year-old daughter, Helena. "She speaks French, Norwegian, English and Hindi,"says the proud mother. "We don’t know in which country we’ll be from one day to the next. My daughter usually accompanies me wherever I go."

Last year, she had several successful shows including one at the Galarie Claude Lemand in Paris and at the Atlantic Gallery in New York. As she points out: "People in the West have a tradition of spending Sundays and other holidays with their families visiting art galleries.

"It is not a rare sight to see fathers with their children on their shoulders, threading their way through the halls of the Louvre. That way, children too have an exposure to art from an early age. We do not have kind of upbringing in India.

There is a hint of sadness in her voice, when she continues: " We have immense talent in this country, easily on par with anything the West can offer. But artists have turned overtly commercial. Fortunately times are changing and the myth of the poor artist is dying a natural death."

Apart from the colourful world of paint and prints, Sujata has one ‘magnificent obsession’. She excels in cooking and is now writing a cookbook, which will be published in the Norwegian language. Her classes on Indian cooking are runaway hits in Norway.

Home Top