SANGEETA GUPTA – INDIA’S RARE MONOCHROME ABSTRACT ARTIST!
A passionate poet, writer, bureaucrat, documentary filmmaker and painter, you will be amazed to know the many hats the lady artist dons. From getting her first book published way back in 1988 to her first solo painting exhibition in 1995, from getting 20 books published to having known for her 35 solo painting exhibitions all across India and abroad, New Delhi-based Sangeeta Gupta is one of the finest monochrome abstract artists the country has ever produced. In a candid conversation, the very versatile Sangeeta talks about her transition from figurative to abstract art, monochromatic love, Prithvi Fine Art and Cultural Centre, recently completed 200 metre-long hand spun khaddar painted with dabu and much more. Excerpts from the interview….
Born to highly educated parents, Sangeeta was gifted with the best of education a child could ever think of. Post completing her masters in political science and LLB, she took to lecturership. Thereafter, she not only fulfilled her father’s dream of qualifying the civil services examination but served the nation as a sincere and dignified Indian revenue service officer in 1984 followed by retiring as a chief income tax commissioner in Delhi on June 1, 2018. It was amidst all this that a writer and painter was taking its form. “I never thought about becoming an artist. All along my service, I can remember that I would either write or paint or would do both. That really made me a better and a compassionate officer. To say, art and literature were always part of my life,” shared Sangeeta.
“Vincent Willem van Gogh, Oscar-Claude Monet and Vasudeo S. Gaitonde have inspired me as an artist.”
For someone who is not formally trained in fine arts and literature, a career into either seems quite daunting. Sangeeta’s reminiscence of her first art work takes her down the memory lane when she was quite an introvert, sensitive, fragile and a vulnerable child, who was extremely protected during her boarding school days. “Till class 8, I would rate my drawings as just close to ok. I still remember I did not score much in my art assignments. I was badly pampered by my sister who used to do almost all my art and home science holiday assignments. My favourite pass time used to be reading and I had read few classics by that time. It was only when my sister left the boarding school to join college, I came to realise my own potential. With no help and protective shield around me, I started drawing for botany and zoology and was utterly surprised to see that I did exceedingly well. It was then I started enjoying drawing and painting immensely to an extent that I could copy anything and paint easily on fabric too. I also started writing poems but did not share it with anyone,” mentioned the artist.
Informally, Sangeeta learnt the techniques from her guru Sanat Ray during her posting in Kolkata for almost five years i.e. from 1990 to 1995. After few months, Ray realised that art was something that the artist should give her attention to. Not just he made her realise her true calling, but got her to book her first solo exhibition at Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata in 1995 which was inaugurated by Mother Teresa. The sale proceeds from the exhibition were donated to CRY for building an education centre for deprived children in Kolkata.
Calling herself a monochrome artist, Sangeeta loves blue and its infinite hues for it represents sky and water, two basic elements of the cosmos. Initially, she did figurative drawings and landscapes mostly on paper, with lot of pen and ink works, but gradually, figures vanished and she was drawn to abstract art by some magnetic spiritual pull around the years 2000 to 2001.
“I have always tried to represent five elements in harmony to highlight the connectivity of all to the universe. That is the eternal subject of all my works. Pure abstract is all that I strive to paint. Without this I am nowhere.”
“I would love to do installations, more of three-dimensional conceptual work with poetry as an intrinsic part of it.“
Ever since the artist’s first solo show, there has been no looking back. One of her shows dedicated to Uttarakhand, inaugurated by the former President of India Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in August 2013, have led to raising funds through sale proceeds of her paintings for creating a fine art education grant for the students of Uttarakhand. 35 solo shows have been held all over India i.e. Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Chandigarh and abroad at London, Berlin, Munich, Lahore, Belfast, Thessaloniki, Toronto among others. She has participated in over 200 group shows in India and abroad, in national exhibitions of Lalit Kala Akademi, All India Fine Arts and Craft Society and Sahitya Kala Parishad and in several other art camps. Her paintings are in the permanent collection of Bharat Bhavan Museum, Bhopal and museums in Belgium and Thessaloniki. Her works have been represented in India Art Fairs, New Delhi many a times. She has also received 69th annual award for drawing in 1998 and 77th annual award for painting in 2005 by AIFACS, New Delhi.
Having spent decades into the field, Sangeeta feels, “Fake paintings are a big risk for the art investors. Proper authentication and provenance history can take care of this issue to a great extent.”
“We have to return to the basics if we want to survive in peace. Handmade fabric is environment-friendly. Natural colour and dye are chemical free and handmade too. My dream project is to promote sustainable living and natural indigo. My recent creation is a reflection of that. The idea is to encourage revival of indigo cultivation, a cash crop as a mass movement, so that it makes a commercially viable venture for farmers, dyers and craftsmen, to encourage print makers to apply contemporary art, merge it with traditional craft of block printing with natural dabu (mud resist) and organic indigo and to make it a highly sought after export product.”
Ask the artist her plans for the year 2020 and she mentioned, “I am waiting for life to be normal again, post lockdown, so that I can explore options for exhibiting my recently completed 200 metre-long painting on hand spun khaddar with natural indigo colour and dye.” With the power of brush in her hand and ideas to paint any canvas artistically blue, we wish her all the luck for her future endeavors!