Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The Zen of Painting

“I aim at directness and simplicity.”
Vasudeo S. Gaitonde

While often referred to as an abstractionist, it is a term the Indian painter Vasudeo S. Gaitonde didn’t like. He preferred to describe his paintings as "non-objective” since they are not the abstraction of recognizable forms but rather the result of an internal dialogue prompted by his adherence to Zen Buddhism.

As the Wall Street Journal reported Gaitonde saying “I don’t work, I relax and wait, and then I apply some paint on the canvas. The most important aspect of painting is waiting, waiting, waiting, between one work and the next… A painting always exists within you, even before you actually start to paint. You just have to make yourself the perfect machine to express what is already there.”

Born in Nagpur, the third largest city of the Indian state of Maharashtra, it was whilst his family were in the neighboring state of Goa that Gaitonde first developed his interest in art and had his talent recognized.

As the regular Artforum contributor Meera Menezees noted in the book Vasudeo S. Gaitonde and the Light of the Cave, Gaitonde said “I clearly remember one of my family members who used to paint on temple walls. Perhaps that was what first attracted me to painting.”

Such was the quality of the young Gaitonde’s work that one of his elder sister’s teachers remarked “Your brother is going to be a very fine painter in the future.”

At the age of 24, a year after India gained independence from Britain, Gaitonde received his diploma from the famed Mumbai art institution the Sir JJ School of Art and became an active member of Progressive Artists Group of Bombay.
About a decade later when Gaitonde embraced the Japanese variation of the 5th Century Indian philosophy known as Zen Buddhism his work change from the figurative to the nonrepresentational that was to occupy him for the rest of his life.

This adoption of a meditative process centered round the silence of contemplation gave his work balance, depth and a quality most often described as a profound stillness.

About which Gaitonde has said “Your entire being is working together with the brush, the painting knife, the canvas to absorb that silence and create.” 

The retrospective exhibition V. S. Gaitonde: Painting as Process, Painting as Life is currently on show at Venice’s Peggy Guggenheim Collection until the 10th of January next year.

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