Born in 1945, Delhi-based painter, printmaker and sculptor of international repute Jai Zharotia passed away on March 27 due to cardiac arrest. Zharotia will be remembered in his witty take on the world with his clown-like characters, representing the common man. Starting in black-and-white, his colour works glowed on canvas in the later years.
One could see the influence of Joan Miro, Paul Klee, and Wassily Kandinsky, in his artworks. He was awarded the Sahitya Kala Parishad Award in 1979 and 1980, and he was a recipient of the National Award of the Lalit Kala Akademi in 1993. Zharotia’s works have been acquired by art centres across the world.
In Delhi, his work is represented in the collection of the National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi, Lalit Kala Akademi, and Sahitya Kala Parishad. He was also wellknown for illustrating short stories by Nirmal Verma and Bertold Brechtd. The artist took keen interest in poetry and wrote in Hindi. As an educationist, Zharotia was frequently involved in children’s educational projects. Here, his friends and family remember him as a warm soul and an artist who had a satirical take on the world.
Shweta Zharotia, Daughterin- law, and Artist & Founder, Kala Care Foundation
We are planning an exhibition on his artworks soon within the family, and talks are on, performing to this, with other galleries as well. He had too many dreams which were not fulfilled. No one was expecting this sad news. He craved to work more and stretch the possibility of creativity with every passing day. He wanted to make more sculptures based on his drawings. I came to know about him when I was pursuing MFA as a student of College of Art, University of Delhi.
He was the head of our department. Before I knew him personally, I came to hear through every student I came across that, ‘this sir is very humble and polite who is always willing to teach students. He was always willing to guide students. His son and I were in the same class, in the later years we got married and he became my father-in-law.
But more than father-in-law, he was my father and guru. In the last few days of his life, he taught me six limbs of Indian art which he had seen from a documentary. He was very eager to talk about it, this I remember very well. He could not get up from the bed and therefore continued to do small drawings in his sketchbook.
Kaalicharan Gupta, Artist and Friend
From the college times to Kala Dham, Noida, and our friendship has seen every facet of life. We joined evening college together. Every day, we talked about art and artists. The discussions ranged from the new developments in the field, newer artworks and possibilities in the near future pertaining to our creativity. He was passionate about his artwork and many times talked about his response to the work. Always polite, I never saw him being irate or getting annoyed at anyone. He was willing to teach anyone who reached out to him. Even till the end, he continued to paint.
Amal Allana, Founder, Art Heritage Gallery
Jai Zharotia was an extremely brilliant artist. He created a kind of abstract art which was utterly new for his time. The only problem with him was that he was utterly shy and not able to promote himself like other artists of his time. But the quality of his work was just brilliant, that’s why our gallery continued to support him for many years.
In 2016, we gave him a very large retrospective, a tribute to him, in which he showed that despite his age he had already crossed a threshold and entered an entirely new threshold in his work. So, he was in the midst of his new phase when he had been snatched away. We are all taken aback on what has happened so suddenly.
His art was politicallycharged, but it was not a kind of political work that was overt. It always had a sly wit, satire, and out late, it had a playfulness that gave him a double-edged sword. Like Vasudev Santu Gaitonde who was not recognised in his lifetime, and only much later his work begun to be appreciated, I have a feeling that this is going to happen with Jai Zharotia as well. May his soul rest in peace and we have all his good wishes for his family.