His ‘Nude’ series shocked many, his splashes of colour paint gigantic themes that appear not just poetic, but shriek with stark reality as well. Yes, we are talking about Wasim Kapoor – the eminent artist whose oeuvres have changed the world of contemporary Indian Art. Read on to find more:
Pablo Picasso had said, “The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web.” And in the midst of the rubble of long forgotten Oriental philosophies the opuses of eminent painter Wasim R. Kapoor seem to emerge both from the real and the surreal world. No wonder then they wake up the dreamless eyes to see the unseen with a rain-washed clarity. If the raw innocence blooms only to disappear amidst steel cityscapes it finds its manifestation in Kapoor’s strokes through elements of abstract, realism, and surrealism. Born in Lucknow Wasim Kapoor lives in the heart of Calcutta: Prafulla Sarkar Street that is.
The human agonies, the deep pains, the orthodox chains find their own voices to speak from the deep furrows on the human faces formed from the groans of Life. A facial portrait of brooding Mother Teresa seems to spread her aura of compassion rooted deeply in her wrinkles filled with tales of time. Kapoor’s vision magnifies the thankless labour of Sisyphus in the toll of Calcutta’s hand rickshaw pullers that he calls,” The worst example of human violation in a civic society of cultured people!” The faces turned stones from inhuman labour seem conspicuous by their absence in his painting of a rickshaw stretched beyond the clouds perhaps traversing the expanse of the endless sky with a golden bell to tinkle unconsciously near His Majestic Palace. A nightmare turns into dream riding on fluffy clouds yet cloaked in shades of black and white as colours would mock the plight more than to define it. What flashes from behind dark faces isn’t ephemeral but takes the conscience to a universe where grief croaks with a belief and dreams break into photons.
The stature of Kapoor’s dexterity emerges from dark crevices that have resounding effects in the society on a level that can’t be anything but humongous. Khamenei’s fanaticism made his revolutionary conscience pour the angst in ‘Burqa’ series that shows women trapped inside a prison of black fabric that doesn’t let even the whisper of wind brush the tender faces confined inside, that could otherwise have smelt the sky. The shriek of women transmutes into his series of prostitutes entitled ‘Victims’. An aching honesty glisters from these paintings that only a maestro’s sensibility and sense of aesthetics can bring alive on canvas.
Mastering the art
If the world is God’s canvas, Kapoor’s canvas is his entire world where dreams take shape and reality speaks. Confined to a hospital bed for twelve years due to his fall at the age of six months he’d nothing but a handful of sky peeping from a window to watch from his hospital room. He would try to emulate pictures of apples and animals from his brother’s book. And that’s how a new world of colours and figures came calling to him. His father the legendary Urdu poet Salik Lucknawi arranged for him teachers to teach him painting inside the room. “I have been a student of masters like Atul Bose, Debiprasad Roychowdhury, Gopal Ghosh, Chittarnjan Das.”
His father Salik Lucknawi, one of the founders of Progressive Writers’ Association: Calcutta Chapter, was the biggest pillar of support for him. Had he not realized Wasim talent for painting thing would have been different for him. “Even now when he is gone I still feel the warmth coming from his room and enveloping me,” reminisces Wasim, clad in his signature black outfit.
The ‘Nude’ series
The vast expanse of a blue sky remains the backdrop of many of his paintings that according to him, “Is an endless book of mysticism holding the secrets of universe in its pages.” It also denotes his deep wish to soar in the open sky: a sky of freedom where thoughts can be expressed as naturally as stars or rain and where no one stops a Husain or a Rushdie from what he wishes to express. That’s why despite hailing from a Muslim background his works celebrate sensual beauty of woman that’s raw, tender yet blossom into a myriad forms.
“What’s bigger than beauty is attractiveness otherwise it’ll be lost in a sea of other humans,” says the painter. In his ‘Nudes’ series the woman is again confined in a room but a window opens perhaps to let her fly into another sky or shows the coming together of two worlds one that is bleak and the other one juxtaposed as a planet of light. It appears more like a dream within dream while the window becomes the candid raconteur of silent stories. And the series attracted the hardcore fundamentalists who had gathered around his house demanding he stop his work.
Tribute to Tinsel Town
His series ‘Shades of Time’ celebrates 75 years of Indian cinema encompassing the era of Kanan Devi, Madhubala to Konkona Sen Sharma as a tribute to Indian screen beauties. Awards are nothing but recognition that come to his opuses naturally. No wonder his inspirations are the likes of Rembrandt, Husain, Picasso, Michelangelo, and Salvador Dali to Rubens. And he’s an artist who welcomes darkness and pain with equal élan while he celebrates beauty in places sordid and dingy in the light of absolute mysticism.
Across the world
Wasim’s paintings have been showcased in different exhibitions across many countries such as England, France, Sweden, Germany and Japan. What appeals to the art aficianadoes is his use of self-sensuality of the human images that he chooses. For example recently his painting that was sold in London for a whopping price displays Krishna in muscular form with his dark ebony hair flying as he mellifluously plays the flute golden in colour. His blue body blends yet remains distinct from the misty white background. The enigmatic co-mingling of three dimensions of art complete its aesthetic sense that brushes artistic sensibilities with its composition.
Published in The Times of India, Central Calcutta edition.