|Pictures by Aranya Sen
Katayun Saklat is best known as a stained glass artist. Her current exhibition at K2 Gallery is her first solo show after a long interval. This exhibition reveals the inner workings of her mind with startling effect. Heres Saklat in conversation with t2...
These paintings expose your private thoughts...
Maybe because they are so personal that I avoided showing them. But Ganesh Haloi insisted. Otherwise I would have chickened out.
When did you first take up painting?
I have been drawing since I was four. I have been doing easel painting ever since I joined art college.
Did your parents encourage you?
My father never studied art but did quick and expressive drawings in black and white. My mother painted with oil colours on fabric before I was born — pretty flowers and birds.
Who were your classmates in art college?
Panchu Narayan Gupta, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Maya Danda. Veena Bhargava was not in my class. Arun Bose was my favourite teacher. I was hooked on western art — the Impressionists. Later, Rembrandt, Vermeer…the Dutch School. When I was very young I did not enjoy Indian miniatures; I thought they were more like folk art. Much later, I enjoyed them so much that I thought they were an advanced form of painting. I used to dislike Chughtai.
Among the Bengali artists, I love Nirode Mazumdar. There was a certain twist in his work.
Were you ever trained in painting as a child?
Years ago, when I was 10, my father put an ad in the newspaper. An artist named Deb Mukherjee responded and he gave us lessons for a year. He was into Jamini Roy. All I can recall were the flat colours and simple designs. That started me off. The sense of design helped me a lot. I wonder, why is design so important to me? Maybe because of Deb Mukherjee. I saw him again in 2008. He died thereafter.
So you have always painted since?
I never stopped drawing or sketching. I had once asked Patrick Reyntiens, who taught me stained glass, what art was. He said, Art is a personal statement. My mother was a very good model. She wanted me to spend time with her. So it was always easy to draw her.
There is no indication that your paintings are by an Indian. How is that so?
We led a sheltered life. There was so much in the studio that I wanted to paint. I started in Grant Lane, where we lived, and then in a gallery that belonged to Mr Olpadvala (of Olpadvala Memorial Hall fame). It was a palatial building.
Some of the paintings are quite frightening...
People have said so, but I did not find them frightening. I was more interested in the contrast and the higgeldy-piggeldy stuff in the studio. This is mostly imaginary. A lot of the paintings look weird. I was just painting what happened in the lanes and bylanes of the place where we lived. We got to see life in a cosmopolitan area.
How did you paint these portraits of this old woman with Alzheimers?
I did this series because I was concentrating on one person who had Alzheimers. Parsis live to be very old and many get Alzheimers. If you concentrate on the Parsi community, as I did, you cant avoid showing old age and illness.