A Salute to Creativity

Masks or Faces

I would like to think that I inherit my interest and desire for art from my dad. My dad has been painting on and off for a few decades and I had been meaning to create a new space for his art on this blog, especially since no one has ever laid eyes on all his works and taken time to see or study them.

I found the opportunity  to capture all his work when I got the time to spend a few weeks with my parents early this year – February to March, to be precise. My mom had undergone a knee-replacement surgery and since my brother and sister-in-law were returning from their visit, with a) my desire, b) my brother’s yo-you-must-go nod, c) my husband’s unblinking support, and d) my mom’s earnest wish to see me, I packed my bags and set out to cover the 17-hour journey across 13,000 kilometers to spend a few weeks helping out my parents.

Labor Troubles

Staying in a remote place with very little to do, I gladly ended up doing household chores such as bringing groceries, goading my mom to get positive and eat healthy, and observing my dad take on household responsibilities, since my mom had taken a back seat. I also found enough motivation to get most of his paintings, stacked in an an unreachable place in the garage, out in the sun, and photograph them. When I got back, I edited and found time to post them here. (The intention is to write the inspiration behind each of his works, since some text helps appreciate them better.)

Artifacts from the Past

My dad has preserved about 40 of his paintings, some of which he began during mid 1970s, pursuing it chiefly as a hobby to occupy his spare time in a enjoyable and productive way. Before his foray into painting, my dad was naturally inclined to draw cartoons, especially being inspired by the works of R. K Laxman. His interest in painting piqued when he saw a torn, blank canvas in a department warehouse in MSK textile mills, Gulburga, Karnataka, where he was then the Production Manager. He had the canvas cleaned up and reframed and set to work in a huge room in his house. The room later became my dad’s studio where he spent many evenings painting, and as he likes to put it – typically with a glass of beer. Most of the paintings are abstract in acrylic over canvas. The paintings are an expression of my dad’s experiences -both good and bad – and capture his moods and impressions when he created the work. Some have a political theme, some related to his job, few on his dreams and interests, and some about everyday sights and sounds.

We had goaded him for years to exhibit his work in a private gallery. My dad recently mentioned to me that he had apparently shown his paintings to a professor in Chitrakala Parishad, Bangalore, who told him in not so favorable terms that his paintings were “too bold and flashy”. The remarks demotivated him and resulted in him keeping his work private.

Farm House

Before I had the chance to personally take the pictures, I had entrusted the task to my dad, but he had been unable to send me anything but one. He also sent a little story of how post-retirement, painting proved therapeutic to him. My dad mentions how painting helped him conquer feelings of isolation, frustration, and everyday anxieties after retiring. Talking about post-retirement angst, he said,“The most affected are perhaps men who held high posts and got many perks with friends who sent gifts on every occasion and fruits during all seasons….Everything disappears and when still they are capable to work with certain conditions but they do not get the jobs that they were experts at successfully…”

To ensure he kept himself challenged and busy, my dad took to painting. Writing about the process, he says, “these paintings are painted, repainted, repaired, color changes made repeatedly, used all types of brushes including a tooth brush…waxed, scrubbed, few lumps of color which had dried was hammered on to the canvas, counted as to how many colors were there but could not count.”…”I spent several months enjoying these things and was so immersed with the work daily that my boredom took backseat…I also took up playing electric guitar left by my son, learned how to blog, how to take videos and post them to YouTube and so on”. He has even written an article called Many Paintings in One, in which he has laid out his rules for painting and how it helps de-stress and detox the mind.

Being his daughter, though I knew his issues, I was clueless as to what practical steps he took to face the challenge. Only in the last few months did I even being to fathom how difficult it is for an older person to face life in the September of their years, while facing isolation without the opportunity to do anything engaging and interesting. I honestly think, therefore, that a hobby is something worth pursuing despite being in a full-time job.

Viewing these paintings not only brings me great happiness at my dad’s accomplishment, but also provides me a great source of inspiration. According to him, he took up painting because it didn’t require him to get educated as he felt he could do it without any kind of formal training. The paintings display not only amazing originality, but the abstract symbolic representations, for me, showcase a high degree of innate talent and creativity. My dad’s capacity for creativity in the absence of any formal training or schooling, to me, reinforces the remark made by Winston Churchill that “My education was interrupted only by my schooling”. To me, more than that, the paintings drive home the point that peace of mind is an achievement that comes through determined and focused effort in doing what moves one and in what one believes. With the right attitude, enjoying one’s work helps create unity not just one’s own mind, but the world around. As my friend once put it, ” it is not about having, but it is about being.”