(in search of) GREAT work


i started painting in 2006.

since 2012, I have been painting at my studio.

the work has changed, and the extent of change is unnerving.

when i started my works used to come from things i read, i felt, i was angry about.

the works were direct, the works spoke a language.

there was a force, the colours were dense, thick.

subjects were reflective of my life - the things that constrained me.

they were my push against life.

slowly the anger dissolved, it left my life - and my work.

when i quit my job, i remember - my first exhibition was staring at me.

it was there a month away and i had decided to make all 'new' work for it.

what i didn't know - was what kind of work i wanted to make.

for days i didn't do any work - just kept writing, reflecting : what is my art, my work.

for within - my first exhibition at Ravindra Natya Mandir in Mumbai, i did my first set of non-figurative works.

i gave titles, thought people may be able to relate to them better.

but the titles, though apt, were an afterthought. when i created the work it never started with the title.

after within, work couldn't start. I kept thinking what my work was.

my question was simple : why did i quit? what kind of work i want to make?

and so was the answer : i didn't quit to make money - i was anyways making money in my job.

i quit to make GREAT work, work that's the best in the world. nothing less.

who decides if it's great work : obviously, I do.

So to create great work, I needed to understand what great work is - to me.

i started looking at work. not just art, but sculptures, architecture, music, innovations, science, technology, poetry, medicine, roads - to find great work - the work that gave me goosebumps. why goosebumps? because goosebumps are unconscious. i could get swayed by the commentary, or influenced by trends : but i couldn't fake goosebumps to myself. I had to cut out every bad, mediocre, good, very good, excellent work to reach great work.

After about three months of seeing, reflecting, seeing I had ten works. Each of them gave me goosebumps. Not all from one creator. These were across fields : there was rothko chapel, rodin's work, monet's waterlillies in l'orangerie, salk institutes concrete garden, kumar's sunta hain guru gyaani, yoyo ma's bach - unaccompanied cello suite no.1 in G Major BMV 1007 : prelude, most of Nasreen's work, some work by Anish Kapoor, Dieter Rams design of the vinyl player and shaver, jobs' ipod, calder's works, a concrete road I saw in the mountains, few zen quotes. may be some more stuff.

this was the stuff that aroused me, clarified me, made me fly, gave me goosebumps.

i started to locate the thread that went through it, and found four words that explained each of these : swatantra, sampoorna, ekatattva, jivant. oh i found my formula.

and it didn't matter. i couldn't use the formula. because it explained what the works were. it didn't tell me how would I make work of that level, or beyond.

so a useless exercize, was it? i actually asked myself this question.

the time was gone. i was left with nothing concrete.

so after losing 3-4 months i went back to my canvas. and found something strange. all my old work had left me. what was coming out of me now, was very different. it demanded a different process, different tools, different place. it was a complete change. and i liked the work. I was making the work, though not great, but close to it.

i was making the work that had music, work that would stop me - sometimes, gives me goosebumps.

it's been three years, and even through these years, i got influenced, went far and close to certain type of works - but the work has been moving, going towards what i consider great. I have been trashing a lot of work - 3 pieces in four are trashed because they are normal. the colours have changed, the application has changed.

I also saw a lot of these works in actual - and realised that over the last three years, the way I perceive the work, has become finer. I notice my body reacting to great work beyond goosebumps. I feel it in my gut, my hands, my breathing. it's been a beautiful journey, of developing many new sensory organs.

it's been an amazing journey. and while i would never know where it would take me, it will continue to amaze me for sure.