The paintings will evoke a sense of serenity as you look into them. Credit Antara Chatterjee
The paintings will evoke a sense of serenity as you look into them. Credit Antara Chatterjee

I Paint Everyday For 8 Hours And Have Done So For The Past Twenty-Five Years

Artist Shruti Goenka talks about what inspires her paintings and how she has not gone even a day without painting

As I near the counter in front of Open Palm Court, a flustered woman, hands laden with bulky garlands, greets me. From her humble demeanour, I didn&rsquot realize she was the artist I was supposed to interview. &ldquoPlease sit,&rdquo she kept up in her insistent voice until I obliged. Antarman- A Journey Within. That&rsquos the name of the exhibit, full of gold and amber palettes adorning the perimeter of the gallery&rsquos wall. I was early just so I could get a minute in to speak to her so I walked around the Open Palm Court Gallery at India Habitat Centre where her showcase was while she settled the room for her guests. The paintings will evoke a sense of serenity as you look into them and such was the power of her brushstrokes that I spent nearly an hour in the quietude of the room just admiring her art. When we finally got to talking, she told me how she has not stopped painting even for a day for the past two decades of her life. 

How many days have you gone without painting

&ldquoI paint everyday. It&rsquos been 25 years and I have never gone a day without painting.&rdquo As an afterthought, she added that only a couple of days, if on vacation, she might take breaks. 

Tell me about your showcase

My show&rsquos called Antarman-which means a journey of exploration within yourself. Following that theme each and every artwork has an element of spirituality and all of them are inspired by my travels to different places of the world. Wherever I travel, wherever I see something that evokes a thoughtful feeling in me, I try to capture that and put it on canvas.

So did you plan your travel to all of these places with the purpose of painting Was all of it at a stretch

No, no it wasn&rsquot like that. I have extensively travelled to a lot of places like Varanasi and Tibet, and for a number of reasons at different times. Like for work, with family, or just a random vacation. None of this was planned for the purpose of creating art, inspiration happened and here we are.

So tell me about your process&ndash do you draw from photographs or from just memory

So a few of my works are replications of photographs that I have taken. If I love something I usually capture it on my camera and then paint it. But then some of the paintings that you see here have come from within me without any photographs or images to take from.

How do you structure your day between painting and finding a balance in your personal life

I have two kids so the day starts early and I sit at my painting station around 9 o&rsquoclock and I work till usually 2 pm then I take art classes in the evening from 4 pm to 730 pm. My kids vary from age six to fifty years and then again after my classes and the day&rsquos chores are done, I pick up my brush again at night before bed.

Do you also organise workshops

Yes, I have done a number of workshops in the past. I organised a workshop for a Russian group of ladies. One of my solo exhibitions was held at Mumbai&rsquos Nehru Centre which they saw and were very impressed with, so their art teacher approached me and asked if I could conduct a masterclass. I agreed and through their office I have conducted multiple workshops for different groups of people in Mumbai. 

How do you know if you are finished with a piece

See, art is a process, and I think no artist will ever feel like they are done with a piece. Like today also, when I&rsquom looking at some of my works I still get this urge to do something, a stroke here or a line there, that could be improved upon. But yes, I have to step away from the canvas at some point, so the point when I feel like a hint of satisfaction is there, I step away.

Does your creativity ever get a block An artist&rsquos block, shall we say

Yes, absolutely If you can see to your right&ndash Tamso Ma Jyotirgamaya (she pointed at one of the most vivid pieces of the exhibit- a 36&rdquo x 46&rdquo oil on canvas of a Tibetan monk reading scripture on the stairs, surrounded by candles) I absolutely got stuck. The candles that are there, I had to achieve that burned amber glow which I could not, for the life of me, paint. I was stuck for the longest time and this is painted from a life life photograph of a monk that I captured. But my husband was the one who motivated me to keep at it he helped me a lot and then after a while, I managed to finish this. 

What is your favourite destination to travel to for inspiration

I am very much inspired and awed by Buddhism. So anywhere with monasteries and Buddhist temples I really love to go to. Tibet and Ladakh are definitely my favourite places to travel to. I have taken all of my inspiration from everywhere I have travelled to so far and that will continue.

Are you working on anything new right now

Yes, I am working on a new Mudra series&ndash you can see some of the pieces here from the new series but it isn&rsquot finished yet. I have put in an application at the Jehangir Art gallery and am just waiting to hear back now for the dates. I have completed five or six paintings but it is still a long way to be called finished. 

Shruti Goenka's art exhibit can be viewed at the Open Palm Court of India Habitat Centre. The exhibition has been up since the 24th of November and will end on the 30th of November. You can see it between 11am and 7pm.

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