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Suhas Shilker

Suhas Shilker’s paintings are populated by scrawls and wiggles and strange images. This 53-year-old veteran abstract artist has been steadily working on his ‘mark making’ ever since he graduated from the Goa College of Art in 1982. Thirty years of practising abstract art, doctor a genre that refuses to depict the physical world in traditional ‘figurative’ ways, viagra 40mg have given Shilker a distinct visual style and language. His images throb with emotion. Violent reds flare in one work, while a horde of gray despairing lines rush into a black abyss in another. The scribbles and doodling on yet another work seem to be made by a child with a chalk. And yet they grab you, pulling you into their world, forcing you to make meaning of your own. Streets Editor José Lourenço probed deeper into the artist’s mind.

JL: How often do you paint?

SS: Almost every day. It has become a compulsion for me to paint. It’s like smoking – it doesn’t always give pleasure, but you feel restless if you don’t do it.

JL: How did it all start?

SS: Abstraction was never a shock to me. I took an immediate liking for it. I got to see copies of Span magazine when I was in school, and I saw the paintings of Joan Miro and sculptures of Alexander Calder, and I knew, this is what I want to do. I had actually majored in portraiture, and though I did some drawings for my own study, these were never used in my paintings which were totally abstract.

JL: When you paint abstract work, do you expect the viewer to make some meaning out the work?

SS: Abstract work does not have a literal meaning. What is presented itself is the meaning of the painting. The form and the process itself is the subject of the painting. The viewer is free to interpret it according to his background or his temperament. So incidental meanings are derived from your emotional and subjective response to it. Meaning is subjective in the sense that a person feeling something cannot expect another person to feel exactly the same about a work.

JL: What does a particular work represent or constitute in itself?

SS: It is a statement of that particular period of the artist. Sometimes the triggers are emotional. Sometimes it is purely sensual. I may be impressed by certain textures and scribbles somewhere, and that acts as a trigger. In my case, I precipitate a crisis on the canvas and then I resolve it.

JL: For a layperson, what would that conflict and its resolution mean?

SS: To be frank, there is no way for any person other than the artist who can come close to the process of the artist’s painting. Even the artist himself, if some time has passed, even he may not be able to tell you what exactly happened at that time. Unless you create a crisis, it goes in a predictable way, I don’t like that, it then becomes a mere piece of design.

JL: The patterns on a curtain or on a tile are abstract designs, aren’t they? What is the difference between those abstract designs that we see in our everyday life and your paintings?

SS: When something becomes reproducible and predictable, it becomes a design. It should not be merely a design, merely a harmonious arrangement of forms…that is skill, anybody can achieve it. An abstract artist must go beyond design, to bring that living moment. It is not about beauty, but about intensity.

There are different fields of abstraction, some work with geometric abstraction, called hard edge. They work with very subtle balances of colour and form, others deal with raw emotion on the canvas, yet others with the intellectual study of how textures interact with each other. So each abstractionist has his own vision that has emerged from his own thought process.

Initially people are shocked by abstract art, but after viewing it for a long time, you develop your own taste. You will develop the subtlety to see the many nuances in abstract art. There is no compulsion for any viewer to like all artists’ works, or all genres. Tastes may change over time too.

JL: Figurative artists may yield to the demands of patrons. But an abstract artist has no client in mind,no one’s expectations to cater to, right?

SS: That is the ideal position. But what happens is someone may like red colour and red coloured paintings may sell better, so there may be a tendency to work in red. Falling prey to catering to certain tastes can happen in any genre. One’s honesty and commitment to oneself is important.

JL: Have you felt at any time, that you are not happy with a particular work? What differentiates between that joy or discontent over a work?

SS: Most of the time I am unhappy. My own aesthetic that has developed over the years stands as a judge. I may do a painting and may immediately like it, but by evening I may find it boring and predictable, and reject it. So what I do is I see if the image stays on in my mind. If I find I like it for two to three months I keep it, otherwise I discard it. It cannot be a momentary pleasure. Also, to know when to stop a painting is very difficult, it gets harder as years go by.

JL: Where do the images come from?

SS: Images seen by the artist are transformed by his aesthetic sensibility. Images evolve, but they all come from what we see around us. Making marks on a surface has many poetic possibilities. If you dip a stick in colour and apply it to a canvas, or use a brush, or use your hand, each mark made has a different sensibility, sensitivity or emotion. I like to explore how these characters interact with each other and create dialogue.

JL: You sometimes scribble some words in your paintings.

SS: The scribble is just a scribble, just a form. When I saw the graffiti in European cities, it stayed in my mind. In India I saw the way we scribble on the walls of our toilets. I liked the informality, the unstudied, casual look.It is not contrived or practiced. After practising art for so many years, whether you can go back to that childlike spontaneity, keeping your aesthetic sensibility alive, is a tough call and hence worth trying.

JL: It is said that abstract art lies in a continuum in terms of depicting reality. There can be partial abstraction in a painting or it can be extremely abstract. Where does your work lie?

SS: It lies somewhere in between. Art is not in the extremes. At the extreme end of pure abstraction you would have to keep a blank canvas. Pure realism would need a photograph, or the object itself. So you choose a particular frequency and temperament and explore in that range.

JL: You also run a business of hardware trade in Panjim city. How would you have coped if you had to survive on abstract art alone?

SS: I realised early on that if I were to depend on art alone, I may have had to yield to the demands and tastes of art buyers. So I made a conscious decision to have a separate means of subsistence, so that I could practise my art the way I wanted to.