Memory Lines

Art symphony of memories

“The waves of sound, light and lines keep revolving around my inner self on and on, sometimes slowly and often fast and with greater intensity. This is a rhythmic experience. This is my symphony.”

As Surendra Pal Joshi said, this is what his art is all about. His artistic tools were the instruments of this symphony whose notes were rooted deep in his memories of childhood, the hills where he originally belonged to and the ambience of the tribal and nomadic community he observed with innocence and excitement. Surendra Joshi said, “I pick up all my ideas and forms from the nature. I then weave them in my craft and style. In this sense, my paintings are imprinted with realism, even though they express it in fully abstract manner. One can feel the complete beauty in the chirping and singing of the birds. The basic point is to get associated with that kind of purity and aesthetics.”

Joshi’s aesthetic sense were embedded with nature and its objects.

In contemporary Indian Art, he had created a unique and genuine space for himself. His art not only represents a modern and universal vision but also signifies the traditional folk aestheticism which has been the soul of Indian culture. These aesthetics are represented in an exclusive manner, in his very own craftsmanship.

If we compare the earlier works of Surendra Joshi with the new ones, a big shift on the level of form and style can be distinctly noticed. His earlier figures depicted modern day complexities in a stylised manner, but his later canvases were more serene. Desperate figures and scattered objects of his previous works were transformed into columns, squares, triangles, circles and threads. His lines and threads appeared to be hanging on the canvas with a fixed uncertainty. He formed a new canvas on which, lines merged in each other to make a way for us to travel in a somewhat familiar but somehow forgotten space-time. This was a neo-canvas where texture is revolutionised and all other elements followed it.

 

Surendra Joshi ‘s command on the texture was amazing. He derived folk and tribal motifs from hill areas of Uttarakhand as well as sandy expanses of Rajasthan and creates a mesmerising effect by transforming them into a textural experience. As he said, “I spent formative years of my life in Uttarakhand, foothills of the Himalayas. The folks were involved with spinning sheep wool. Almost every home had a handloom for weaving cloth. It was also great fun to observe wool being processed and died in striking colours. I was hardly seven or eight years old. Life as such was hard but the direct contact with nature made it quite liveable. As the time passed by, I had to move away from this beautiful abode of nature for my education and future prospects. I carried that experience into my paintings. Although I had received the formal training of art but in order to have further exposure to the wide spectrum of visual arts, I started travelling. I studied the creations of great masters, their style and technique. There was still something in me like a seed hidden in the earth, wanting to sprout, to come up on the soil. I did not notice how and when the wool fiber, thread & texture of coarse woollen cloth got deeply imbedded in me. It was after many years that a sudden touch of coarse cloth revived that memory and gave me a strange sense of pleasure. I felt as if I had got something valuable  back which had been lost earlier. The feeling of the soil and the touch of the ruggedly textured cloth gradually started having their space, their life on my canvases.”

 

Joshi had completely devoted himself to his artistic pursuit. As he said, it’s like being a student again and thus, he can feel the pleasure and pain of exploring and finding something new and unexpected as well as experimenting on the level of craft in his search for perfection. It’ like finding a life in a life, a memory within a memory and similarly a colour within a colour. He was able to depict a phenomenon like spring, not just through yellow colour, but through the yellowness of the colour. Surendra Joshi had walked miles in his art, but it seemed he wanted to walk more miles down the memory lane. A walk with an experiment, and with a sense of realism. His charismatic textures would not only make themselves identified with their aesthetic folk roots but also keep echoing with the pleasures and sorrows and struggles of the lives of the wandering souls of Indian sub-continent. This would complete the expression of the “trace of a trace” in his art which is “something that refers to something that refers to yet something else.”

Shiv Prasad Joshi

Poet and writer