Canvassing the crumbling

ByProma Chakraborty

Feb 28, 2019

Tones and textures of his canvasses appear like weathered and dilapidated walls – the walls of the one-room apartment that he rented when he first moved to Delhi. Artist Shahanshah Mittal draws his inspiration right from where he started his journey.

Hailing from Gwalior, his interest in art or rather things other than mainstream subjects, was   evident from his early days. But the lack of guidance kept him from exploring his creativity. It was only after his eldest sister got married to an artist that he was encouraged to take up art as his core vocation as mentioned in the exhibition catalogue.

Finishing his BFA in Applied Arts from Jabalpur, he took up a job at an ad agency. However, the artist in him needed an outlet and he left the job within a year, returning home only to start with his MFA. Completing his body of work, he put it all together at an exhibition in Gwalior, where he met Anwar Khan — a practicing artist in Delhi — and moved to Delhi to hone his skills under Khan’s guidance.

Calling it a turning point in his life, he saw a major shift in his work within three months of moving to the capital. Creating figurative and colourful works in the past, his focus now has shifted to abstraction using a monochromatic palette.

His works are currently at display in an exhibition titled ‘Formless Whispers’, where his paintings celebrate the formlessness of his works. Devoid of heavy concepts and intellectual contexts, Mittal does not work with reasoning in his mind. He thoroughly enjoys the freedom and allows things to flow in a natural way.

Taking a closer look at his work, one can find reference to his short stint with an advertisement agency. The works feature repeated use of triangle form and grids. “We used to make colour charts manually at the agency and somehow that form stayed with me,” he explains.

The most prominent aspect of his work is the overall tone of a decrepit wall in his paintings. He clearly recounts spending hours in the one room apartment. “The paint of the walls was peeling off and at places explored the base plaster. The balcony had potted flowering-plants and I observed these two things the most. I began to enjoy the very character of the wall at one side, and the beauty of the flowers on the other. Every so often, these too find their way in my works although it’s all subconscious,” he adds.

The layered paper stipes used in his works go back to the patch-up work on the walls to hide and mend cracks.

So, drop in as he asks the viewers to layer his creation with their own experiences.

The exhibition is on display at Shridharani Gallery in Triveni Kala Sangam till March 10.