Wednesday, August 18, 2010

'I had made 300 sketches of her'

On a visit to Pune, acclaimed artist Laxman Shreshtha talks about how he wooed his wife, his passion for art and the Himalayas as an inspiration

"I am a maverick and an artist. I never follow any rules," says Laxman Shreshtha, who was in Pune to meet some city-based artists. Shreshtha who hails from Nepal, was born in an aristocratic family and pursued his passion--art. He had to move base to Mumbai, as in those days, being an artist was not a respected profession.

Elaborating on his artistic journey, the 71-year-old artist says, "I had written a letter to the then principal of JJ School of Arts, JD Gondhalekar, that I would be coming to visit him. But when I actually landed in front of him, it left him amazed." He says that he was a rebel in the JJ School of Arts too. "In the class, I would follow whatever my teachers used to say, but when I returned to my room, I would change whatever I had drawn and try something new," he recalls.

Shreshtha also remembers meeting his wife Sunita at the art school. "She was my junior and was very attractive. She used to model for paintings and I had made 300 sketches of her, which I would carry with me always," he says. He was very shy to let her know this, but when his classmate did the honours for him, Sunita came to see the sketches and fell in love with Shreshtha. "We have been inseparable since then. When I got a scholarship to go to Paris, I asked her to accompany me. We had to get married as her parents wouldn't allow her to join me otherwise," he smiles.

Shreshtha started painting abstracts in 1964. "I won a gold medal in portrait paintings, but I decided to go ahead with abstract as it is more fulfilling," says Shreshtha, who was born in Siraha in Nepal. He says that he comes from a land of boundaries and he visits the Himalayas once in a year, which inspires the artist in him. "As an abstract painter, you don't have to depend on any subject, as you can just paint what comes to your mind," he says, adding that artists such as V Gaitonde have influenced him.

Shreshtha is pleased to have some serious collectors of his paintings across the globe. "Kumarmangalam Birla is one of my serious collectors," he says. He reveals that most of the collectors who collect paintings as an investment, do not really understand art. "Few collectors take the effort of talking to artists and collecting information," he says.

Talking about new and upcoming artists, he says that they want to break free from all the rules that have been set. "I would walk 10 miles in search of a good painting and encourage the artist. There have been times, when young students would visit me and we would chat about art over a cuppa."
"MF Hussain would call me El Greco after seeing my portraits," he says.

He adds that when you listen to good music or taste the food you like the most, you get involved with it cent percent. Similarly for an artist, the search of the ultimate and trying to find known from the unknown, is fulfilling.

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