My career is peaking at 75: artist C.D. Mistry

March 10th, 2008 - 11:25 am ICT by admin  

By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi, March 10 (IANS) Age has not dulled the fire of his ambition. “At 75, my career as an artist is finally peaking,” says Ahmedabad-based artist C.D. Mistry, who has experimented with tribal folk and religious motifs from the south of Gujarat in his latest series, “Force & Fantasy”. The series, one of the best executed by the artist in his four-decade-old career and which is currently being exhibited in the capital, is the talk of the country’s haute art circuit.

After 40 years, Mistry, who is known for his highly stylised folk and religious paintings and innovative treatment of forms, strokes and canvas surfaces, is thinking of new ways to carry his genre forward.

“I want to do something groundbreaking with the folk motifs from my state, perhaps stylise it even further because despite my years I feel almost like a restless 20-year-old at heart who is in constant quest for something new.

“I feel up above the world so high,” says Mistry, pointing to his canvases of Ganesha, mother goddess Shakti astride a horse and complex compositions of human, plant and animal (mostly horse) forms.

The title of his latest series “Force and Fantasy” reflects the change in the artist’s approach to his work. The forms verge on distorted shreds of fantasy like cruelly cut human breasts growing on trunk of trees and pale pink lotuses scattering in the direction of light and love in a kind of interplay between flesh and nature.

The religious tenor comes through in his “Buddhas” floating in halos of light; and men and women twined in a complex chaos of shapes to depict Adam and Eve and the process of creation. His black and white compositions are dramatic - and are sought-after in Indian living rooms despite the price tags, which take off from Rs.300,000 upwards.

According to the artist, his latest compositions are all about inner force (shakti), though the forms are essentially figments of imagination, shaped by the folk motifs that he sees in the villages of Gujarat during his frequent “inspiration tours”.

“All my works have been inspired by folk art. Since childhood, I have liked the colourful primitive forms with which the tribal people decorated their homes near my hometown in Chikhali in Navsari district of southern Gujarat,” smiles Mistry. The epics Ramayana and Mahabharata also find their places in his frames.

The artist, who studied and honed his skills in Ahmedabad for 40 years, is a master of innovation.

“There are no influences. I stylise my own paintings. I treat the paper to give my paintings a textile feel, like a rug as if the cloth has been torn apart,” says Mistry, one of the few Indian artists to have shown his works in Cuba.

Narrating the story of his evolution as the master of stylisation, Mistry says he began simply. “Initially, I dabbled in decorative art and then folk. It was followed by a stint in surrealism and cubic studies and then nature and mythology took over, along with technical innovations,” recalls Mistry.

The artist has been influenced by the Progressive Group of Artists in Mumbai during the 50s though he has not been directly associated with the “rebel” group, which sought “Indianness” in the country’s artistic genres post Independence. “I am an admirer of S.H. Raza, M.F. Husain, Satish Gujral and most of the senior contemporary artists in India, who championed the cause of Indianness in art,” says Mistry. “Our art should reflect our country.”

Like most of his era, Mistry is contemptuous of new age artists, “barring a handful though”. Much of the modern art by the younger crop of artists that float around today is like fast food, laughs the septuagenarian.

“I don’t like the instant work for it leaves no everlasting impression on viewers. There is no depth. The new generation of artists wants everything quickly - fame, money. But there are so many exercises en route.”

Mistry has his feet firmly planted on the ground unlike fellow artist S.H. Raza when it comes to the economics of art.

“Commercialisation is necessary. How can an artist survive without money? Investment in art is a good trend and there should be more of it,” signs off Mistry as he rushes to help a buyer choose from his selection of canvases on display in the capital.

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