T here have been several turning points in my life. However, I consider two of these extremely significant because they deeply affected my understanding of life. The first was the loss of my father on December 2, 1998 and the second was the birth of my son on February 24, 2005.
In spite of our humble, middle-class background, my father never questioned my decision to become an artist. He stood by me though he realised that the life I had chosen could be one of very minimal means. Fortunately, he lived to see my first two solo shows, P.T. and Apostrophe, but passed away just two days after the opening of the second one.
I had shifted my studio a week before he passed away but didn’t have the time to set it up because I was so engrossed in my show. It was my father who set it up for me — from arranging my many sketches (which I always strew around), to stacking my paints and canvases, and even buying new letter pads and stationary. So, one of the most difficult things to come to terms with after his death was to start using a space in which everything had been last touched by him.
A bird perhaps doesn’t realise what it has been flying with till its wings have been clipped. I still feel my father’s presence in my work. In fact, Epilogue, a multi-part photographic work which I created in 2010 — more than a decade after his death — was inspired by his life. This piece, which I am currently re-installing, will be shown next month at the Art Unlimited exhibition in Basel, Switzerland.
The other life-changing moment was the birth of my son. While the loss of one’s parent is like the disappearance of a protective canopy from over one’s head, there is a sudden transformation when one becomes a father. You find that you’ve become that canopy to someone else. Both these moments altered my sense of self and changed the way I felt about my place in the world — the loss of a parent and the becoming of one myself.
(As told to Shreya Shukla)