BANGALORE: Sometime last month, artist Milind Nayak was admitted in a hospital for blood infection and dangerously high creatinine levels. “I almost reached the pearly gates but the doctors pulled me back,” he says. Milind went through dialysis and was not even conscious of all the medical procedures done to bring him back from the brink of death. “It was all a blur, but when I gained consciousness, I became urgently aware of all the unfinished business in my life and was busy making a bucket list in the ICU. The experience was a wake up call, because it brought me face to face with my mortality,” he says.
Portentously, just before he fell dangerously ill, Milind was feeling the urge to pull out old, unfinished canvasses and complete them. He shares, “Sometimes a canvas doesn’t feel right, but when you go back to it, you see potential. That is what I was doing when I crashed...finishing some pieces.”
He completes 41 years of his artistic journey this year and has been primarily self-taught, except for the inspiration and grooming he received from legendary artist G S Shenoy. He recalls, “I was in school in 1967 when I first saw his work and instantly felt a pull. I worked for 17 years in a bank. And then one day, I just walked out because I dared to ask myself the question, ‘what am I doing here?’”
He then opened Bangalore’s first colour photo-copier shop and ran it for eight years. “I sold off the business and became a full-time artist,” says Milind. He has, from that moment in time, travelled the world with his art and mounted numerous shows. His work is avidly collected by individual enthusiasts and galleries.
“It has been quite a journey,” he says and adds, “I also learnt photography and every kind of printing from offset to screen just to gauge the behaviour of forms and colours. The colours developing in the dark taught me how to work with different tints. I worked with oils and multimedia and did a series on bamboos in 2005-2006, but then pastels caught my attention during an art camp in Pondicherry. Not just because they are the brightest medium, but because they are the purest form of colour in your hands. I finished almost 100 works in two years and it satisfied my soul. Once that satisfaction becomes habitual, you hear nothing but the calling of the soul.”
Art, he says, has taught him to divide his life in three parts – “the highlights, the mid tones and the deep shadows.” And Milind hopes to navigate each phase with a pastel in hand and a blank sheet before him. Says he, “I will take a break for one month to recover fully and then I will paint again. Because now, I am aware more than ever before, of the undone vast in my existence. It is time to do it all.”