A Jharkhand boy, who left his home for Delhi in search of a job, was hired by a painter-couple as a cook at their house. Inspired by their artwork, Sukhlal too picked up the brush and started painting. Now, he is showcasing his work at exhibition ‘Beyond Hope and Horizon’ at Navya Naveli Gallery. Patriot caught up with him to know more about his journey and struggles.
Q: Can you tell us about your journey as an artist. How did you discover your passion for art?
A: I am from Jharkhand and I came to Delhi around eight years ago to find work to support my family. At the time, I was working as a helper for a family in Delhi, but later I was fortunate enough to become a cook for Sakti Burman and Maite Delteil, who are internationally renowned artists. Over the last four years, I have been working as a cook for Burman and Maite. Being in their presence and witnessing their artistry up close has had a profound impact on me. Seeing them work with their brushes and discussing art [with them] ignited a spark in me, and I began to develop a keen interest in art.
Maite and Sakti are truly among the best in the world when it comes to their craft, and working for them has been an incredible learning experience. Their dedication to their work is inspiring, and their passion for art has inspired me to pursue my own artistic interests. Since then, I have been spending my free time exploring different forms of art, attending workshops, and trying my hand at painting and sketching. I never thought I would have an interest in art, but being exposed to their work has opened up a whole new world for me.
Working with them has been a life-changing experience. Their artistry and passion for their work have inspired me to pursue my own artistic interests and have shown me that with dedication and hard work, anything is possible.
Q: How did you develop your skills as an artist, considering you had no formal training in art?
A: I am used to seeing the paintings of Sakti sir and Maite. There are many paintings made by them in the house. There is so much in the house itself to see and take inspiration from. So, by watching them and staying with them I gained some kind of training, one can say. It is not exactly a formal training but watching them has given me a lot of ideas on how to paint and I feel that I have learnt a lot just by observing them. I am still learning and will keep on learning this way more and more and develop my skill.
Q: Can you walk us through your creative process? How do you come up with the ideas for your artworks?
A: I would say that my artworks are simple and accessible to anyone. While there may not be a specific narrative or story behind my pieces, I draw inspiration from my own thoughts and emotions, allowing my brush to flow freely across the canvas. Some of my paintings feature idols like Krishna, while others depict everyday objects such as vegetables. While my style may be straightforward, I am constantly learning and growing as an artist, seeking to understand the deeper meanings and complexities behind more intricate and meaningful paintings. Overall, my creative process is rooted in personal expression and a desire to explore the world through my own unique lens.
Q: How does your experience as a cook influence your art? Are there any similarities between the two?
A: Yes, of course, as we all know that cooking is also a form of art and I gained a lot of positivity from there. So definitely, cooking influenced me to be a painter. There is a similarity between the two for me as both these forms of art give me immense pleasure and positivity. When I started as a cook, I never thought that this would be an opportunity I would get and still I am not thinking much about it. It is just happening. So both of them give me spirit to work and whatever difficulty comes in front of me I will overcome it with help of these two art forms.
Q: Your artworks are known for being expressive and full of life. What inspires you to create such vibrant pieces?
A: I take a realistic approach when it comes to paintings, and I draw whatever I feel inspired to create. Lord Krishna and Goddess Durga are some of my favourite subjects to paint, and each of my paintings holds a special place in my heart. One of my unique works was created using Haldi (Turmeric Powder). When I first started painting, I didn’t have access to expensive materials, so I used natural products that were readily available to me. This limited my colour palette, but I never let that stop me from creating art.
Even today, I continue to use natural products and experiment with different mediums to create my paintings. While I may not have access to the latest and greatest materials, I find that working with natural products allows me to connect more deeply with my art and the environment around me.
In conclusion, my approach to painting is grounded in realism, and I draw inspiration from the world around me. My work with natural materials has allowed me to create unique and beautiful pieces of art, and I hope to continue exploring different mediums and techniques in the future.
Q: Can you share with us some of the challenges you faced while pursuing your passion for art, especially as someone who is underprivileged?
A: Definitely, I faced challenges even before I left Jharkhand and came to Delhi in search of livelihood. I have done a lot of different types of work. I have struggled a lot already and I am still in my struggling phase. Cooking is my passion and nothing can stop me from doing it. Similarly, painting is also my passion now and in future I see myself as an artist. I know many hurdles will come but I will overcome them and mark my struggle with these types of exhibitions in future.
Q: What does it mean to you to have your first art exhibition, “Beyond Hope and Horizon,” curated by Maite Deltiel and Sakti Burman at the Naveli Gallery?
A: I am feeling very happy as I could have never imagined that my employers, for whom I am going to work as cook, would one day discover me and support me as my curators. I have come a long way with their help. I have got more than what I had hoped. This is exceeding my expectations. That is why I have kept this name.
Q: What message do you hope to convey through your artworks?
A: These are artworks which I make from my heart. They simply convey my surroundings and what I see. I always believe that what you watch is what you can paint better and connect to it more. This creates great artwork and also positive artwork.
Q: Finally, what advice would you give to other aspiring artists who may not have access to formal training or resources?
A: As I said, problems come in everyone’s life. It may come in the life of an artist, a student, a singer or a dancer – everyone has to struggle. Ups and downs are parts of life but we have to keep moving. We need to do our best in life. Whatever are the things in life, we need to keep working hard and keep on moving in all situations.
With more than 7 years of experience in Journalism, Tahir Bhat is Chief Sub-Editor at Patriot. Tahir has reported on Human Rights, Economy, Polity, Society, Culture.