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Will the "real" me kindly raise his hand?

"I asked myself whether there was not in his soul some deep-rooted instinct of creation, which the circumstances of his life had obscured, but which grew relentlessly, as a cancer may grow in the living tissues, till at last it took possession of his whole being and forced him irresistibly to action."

W. Somerset Maugham in "The Moon and Sixpence"

What follows is an excerpt from my old website. It recounts my de-coccooning, and was written in late 2001. I am not sure whether I emerged a moth or a butterfly, but I did undergo something like a cathartic metamorphosis and became whatever I have become. I haven't made any major change in the excerpt(maybe omitted things from here and there), and it is still largely relevant. You may also want to read this bit on my pre-acrylic adventures(link should open in new window).

Genesis : Artist on a mend ( excerpts ) >>

So... as you can see this, is me! Me in the throes of an ecstatic scratch. My hand was trapped in a plaster cast for six l-o-n-g weeks - end result of a resounding fall! And while I was on a mend, my skin was itching like a thousand flaming antbites. This was my first graphic on the Day of Freedom. Oooooo....the simple joys of a scratch!! Such subtleties of life apart, lets get on with the story..... Here I was, a full fledged Dental Graduate, with special interest in surgery and well on my way towards a rewarding (economically, at least! ) professional career, gaining valuable experience in a far away foreign land amidst some wonderful people - when all of a sudden - perhaps surprising everyone, myself not the least, I returned to my beloved country, India - wielding the painting brush!!

Well, all I can say is that I am not the first of all those people - people reclaimed by their primary passions. Consider "Charles Strickland", the protagonist in W. Somerset Maugham's "Moon and Sixpence". Or "Tall" Bazille, that talented young doctor - friend, philosopher, and provider of food and shelter to the likes of Renoir and Monet in their wretchedly impoverished days, who was one of the posthumous participants in the Second Impressionist Exhibition, having died in war at the age of 31! Not to forget Paul Gauguin...that deliriously happy magician with colors.

So, when did all this happen?... I completed my Graduation from Calcutta University in '95. Academics was not too disinteresting and I secured the topmost position. My parents were surgeons, and inevitably my interest lay in surgery - especially cosmetic reconstructions of the face and the jaws. This was for people unfortunately suffering from some acquired ( by trauma or surgery ) or genetic disfigurement. My true passion, however did surface from time to time. But I used to take the Muse of Art for granted, utterly ignoring her while continuing to pursue my professional interests. Perhaps this was how my subconscious aesthetic cravings were satisfied!

I won a fellowship of The RCPS* Glasgow, UK and was offered a trainee post in the Maxillo Facial Unit of St. Richards Hospital. I was so happy working in that Center for Excellence, and amongst some very friendly people. All the time I was picking up additional experience. So why did I decide to leave prematurely?

The First Seeds of Re-Conversion, I believe, were sown here. At St Richards we had (still have, I am sure!) this wonderful annual Pre-Christmas event - A Cancer Patients' Reunion. A review clinic was run simultaneously to check up on former patients. This was a gathering of some very brave people and their heroic co-soldiers - clinicians and other staff. In the general drive to spruce up the department, I contributed by painting a mural....

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The Mural at St Richards Hospital
9' x 4'(feet) approx, Acrylic on distempered wall
(Click to enlarge - 113K, image - 1293 / 600 pixels)

Approximately 9'/4' in dimension, this huge mural was my first introduction to Acrylics - believe it or not! It was a thematically unified collection of snapshots of old English country life. The contained message was that of Bonding, Harmony and Hope. Being a foreigner, I had to take the help of old paintings, photographs and magazines to develop my subject. While many appreciated the work, it left me utterly shattered. For the First Time I discovered, that perhaps, my Muse was finally thinking of deserting me!

Having painted that mural on the walls of St Richards, I was becoming painfully aware that after a near artistic coma of 15 years or so, my skills were not what I had expected those to be! Not only did I get a glimpse of that fantastic world of ecstatic creativity, I also realised what I was slowly losing.

In that mural, even though people were appreciating whatever there was in it, I could express only a part of what I had initially wished to express. I was suddenly scared that that proverbial pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, could perhaps remain just that - proverbial. I would be toiling through another 15 - 20 years, perhaps would be happy with a certain amount of success in my chosen profession. Yet, in the end would miss out being Happier Still! Subconsciously, that set the ball rolling.... Eventually, after a year of inner turmoil - which produced Faith and Unbound - I had to submit to the real me! And I have been painting ever since.


Thus was born the "Artist on a Mend" - out of an urgent, urgent necessity to excavate deep tombs of thought. To stand before a mirror and discover that a mirror is nothing more than a mirror. An essential de-coccooning process which, I believe is now almost over. But again, who knows...

 
Self Portraits in pastel and in
charcoal (A4 and half-A4 sized
papers respectivey)

Get broken, and you are on a mend. They encase you in a plaster cast, and you begin to heal. Then you break again, and again(hopefully!) you are on a mend. Some repairs do not succeed, but one hopes they do.

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* Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (Back to Text)


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