Swirling circles of colour dominate 43-year-old artist Murlidhar Rai’s canvases. There seem to be no beginning and no end to these vibrant creations. Yet, one is drawn instantly to the vigorous stroke work in these oil on canvas paintings. No wonder then, the exhibition of his works that will be shown at Delhi’s Gallerie Ganesha starting September 26 is titled Circles of Life. Rai completed his Masters in fine arts from Benaras Hindu University before he became the recipient of several scholarships and awards including National Cultural Scholarship 1997, Government of India and the Garhi Scholarship of Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi. His work was first shown by Gallerie Ganesha in 2001 after which there has been no looking back for the Delhi-based artist.
“In my paintings, I meticulously try to compose time and space to achieve my own expression of happiness, positivity and hope,” says Rai. “They have symbolic representations and abstractions. The circle denotes the never-ending cycle of time and represents the circular earth. It is the point of meditation in life, the bindu, representing concentration and focus. The high contrast in colours is an expression of energy and rhythm of nature and life. They exhibit my journey from the ghats of Benaras to the streets of Delhi in search of an equilibrium and balance within and without. It is my story, cultivated with strength, force and vigour. I’m creating my own sphere of pleasure and ecstasy illuminated with light and reflections. While these works have a sense of gravity and a focus to the point of meditation on one hand, they are in some ways mere scribblings on the canvas of my life in my journey from the known to the unknown.”
Shobha Bhatia, director of Gallerie Ganesha, said, “Rai’s paintings are a visual representation of an expertise in abstraction. He is an artist who paints from his heart without succumbing to the pressures of the prevailing fads in the art industry. His works give us a sense of deep joy and allow us to introspect about our own life journeys.”
Rai, no doubt, creates magic on the canvas by painting light and air without a brush. Instead, he prefers a knife, spatula, even a toothbrush. “I have a special liking for the knife and spatula because they create better effects on the painting than the brush,” he says.
He has created figurative work and landscapes in the earlier part of his career. Later, abstract forms composed his pictorial language. “In Benaras, where I spent my student days, I studied old buildings. The movement of light on architectural elements like doors, windows and other structures fascinated me,” he says. The perfect sequential of layering, scraping, erasing, scrubbing and scratching can be seen in his paintings. His paintings portray the typical physicality of gestures, which have earned him widespread recognition.
His works can be found in the collections of National Gallery of Modern Art, Lalit Kala Akademi (Lucknow) and several other private collections.
(Poonam Goel is a freelance journalist who contributes articles on visual arts for unboxedwriters.com)