When the Covid pandemic hit, it was a fight for survival.
Along with his wife and kids, artist Sujith S.N. was in Mumbai during the first wave, craving to meet close family and friends. That is when he started painting portraits. But he did not depict any one in specific in his portraits, it was just an urge to view another human.
During the second wave, he moved back to his hometown in Kerala with limited painting materials.
“When I realised that the pandemic was not ending anytime soon, I started digging into my imagination for inspiration. I built the whole set of works based on my imagination. The title ‘Emphasizing Stillness’ has been inspired by David Hockney’s picture by the same name which freeze-frames the scene, loading it with tension and expectation for what might happen next,” he says, talking about his recent exhibition ‘Act II: Emphasizing Stillness’ at Vadehra Art Gallery in the national capital.
For someone who prefers watercolours owing to their “unpredictability”, Sujith feels that with oil, acrylic and other such materials, one knows what exact shade of colour is being used.
“However, with watercolour, you may reach somewhere you would not expect. Even the physical surroundings and climate affects the pigment from every shade. It helps me explore and find myself,” says the artist, who won the Foundation of Indian Contemporary Art’s Emerging Artist Award in 2011.
Having dones shows titled ‘The City and Tower’, ‘Map is not the Territory’, ‘Stains of Stimuli’ and ‘Archipelago’, among others, the artist, whose style is recognised through landscapes and watercolours, says that he is often narrating an event in a specific style, something that challenges him.
“More often than not, I paint very minimal sceneries. But, there are times I also create maximal compositions. I like exploring both and moving between the two slowly,” he says.
For someone who does not ‘push’ political/ideological ideas in his works, he believes that we are all political in one way or another.
Stressing that when it comes to his work, he keeps away from that as he is not interested in narrating any political event.
“That limits the viewing of an artwork. I’d like my work to remain timeless. I really enjoy politically inclined works that do not promote any sort of linear narration. I would like my work to survive,” says this pass-out from the College of Fine Arts, Thrissur, University of Calicut.
Believing in practising his art every day with a view to sharpen his language in terms of thinking, Sujith says that he has always been very particular about the colour he uses in his works to represent certain creations.
“It is paramount to me and my style of depiction. I am a process-oriented artist and that is what takes me forward,” he says.
Sujith finds inspiration everywhere – ideas, books, movies and music. Then comes scribbling on paper, something that is carried on for weeks.
“When I start, there is no intention to turn the same into a painting. It is only after a couple weeks that I decide to make the work larger and then go where it takes me. I never expect a scribbled version of my drawing to look similar to when I actually start painting it. It is always unique,” he says.
Remembering the lockdowns again, Sujith feels that when one is in panic mode, he tends to switch off.
“But when you understand the situation, and learn how to work around it, you do tend to respond better and become more comfortable. This is when I started to paint portraits — waiting to see close family and friends,” he concludes.