CHENNAI: A mechanical engineer-turned-calligraphy artist Rajeev Kumar creates art on canvas with words through jumbled letters. Conveying more than what one reads, his paintings are ideas of philosophy that reflect the actual meaning and story behind a particular word.
For instance, let us take his work on Shivam with Chinese ink on canvas, the artist here has conveyed lyrically that Shivam means virtue, all which is good, valuable and most precious in you. “I always wanted my art to figure among the mainstream contemporary art. For this, I moved from small paper sheets to large format while maintaining the subtlety of calligraphy art. This has helped me break the ceiling and reach a domain where mainstream art market lies,” he says.
Rajeev’s interest in calligraphy began at an early age as he had better handwriting than most of his peers. “I was asked to write notes and cards. That initiated my interest in the art and my engagement with writing beautifully began. It was my indulgence while studying engineering,” says the full time calligraphy artist who was once working in the oil industry.
Relying on his instincts, he says he allows his mind to create the images. “I work instinctively. When I look at the subject (word of a thought), I allow my mind to create an image based on instincts. Rest is simple — giving it shape and colour.”
“Back in the 90s, there weren’t any calligraphy centres and I learnt it all by myself. But I would have loved to grasp the technical aspects,” shares the self-taught artist. A lover of the Indian transcripts, he says he follows the works of John Stevens and Julian Waters in Western calligraphy.
He uses calligraphy as a means to convey deeper meanings through Vedas and sacred texts. Ask him what is different about calligraphy, he says, “It provides an ideal medium to share a thought as the rendition makes it ‘less to read’, ‘more to feel’ and ‘pleasing to look at’. It’s a great introduction to the ‘larger’ thought. Often I see people going on to read about the thought in bigger details after they have seen it as calligraphy.”
Predominantly working on large strokes of about six to seven feet, Rajeev is one artist who customises his tools, including paint and the pens. “As I mostly work on vertical panels, the paint has to be of the right consistency. Thus for every piece, the paints have to be prepared fresh,” he shares. With no ready tools for large formats available in the market, he typically uses hard rubber, wood and felt to make his own. “Most of my writing tools vary from four inches and more depending on the need. Every piece needs newly made tools,” he adds.
The mind behind two initiatives that promote the art, Gems of Indian Thought and the Indian Calligraphy Society, Rajeev says the scene is better than it was before. “The art scene has improved quite a lot which is a good news. Now I see many youngsters taking to the art which wasn’t happening before.”
His next solo painting exhibition is called Maya the Illusion which will be on display this winter. He also works on private assignments where he makes custom art for clients.
Rajeev Kumar works ‘Akshar’ are on display at The Leela Palace, MRC Nagar until March 20. For details, call 9941012388.