We Explore Indian Artist Sujata Bajaj's Abstract Works

BY Ayesha Sohail Shehmir Shaikh / Mar 30 2020 / 16:27 PM

India-born contemporary artist Sujata Bajaj’s works tell a story with just two elements: sharp lines and vivid colours. BAZAAR Art explores the abstract art pieces and the meanings hidden within them

We Explore Indian Artist Sujata Bajaj's Abstract Works
Courtesy of the artist and La Galerie
Sujata Bajaj. Spheres. Acrylic on canvas, dyptique. 150x160cm

Sujata Bajaj was only six years old when she picked up a paintbrush, not realising that becoming a professional painter would become a lifelong dream. She grew up in a Gandhian family and in fact, her father, who passed away at the age of 101, was a freedom fighter during the Indian Independence movement and went to jail with Mahatma Gandhi.

“Financially, my upbringing wasn’t a rich upbringing,” Bajaj tells me. “We were very simple, but in a sense, it was an amazingly rich upbringing because without knowing, I was surrounded by so many extraordinary people – whatever I am today, I think it is due to this unique childhood.”

Sujata Bajaj
Sujata Bajaj. Équilibre. 2017. Acrylic on canvas. 80x150cm

The then aspiring artist, who hails from Jaipur, was privileged to have complete freedom to decide what she wanted to pursue. “I had all the liberty to do what I wanted and how I wanted to lead my life with full support.” When she met her Norwegian then husband-to-be, her father asked her one thing: “‘Are you sure about your feelings and your decision?’ and I said yes. He didn’t ask me how much he earns, nothing like that. Once I said yes, he told me ‘we are all with you,’ which is very rare.”

In her early years at school, Bajaj was immediately drawn to the art world. In her adolescent years, she obtained a Master of Fine Arts, Art and Painting at S.N.D.T. University in Pune and shortly after meeting renowned Indian painter S.H. Raza, she was inspired to pack her bags for Paris and continued her studies there. In 1988, Bajaj received a French government scholarship to study at l’Ecole nationale des Beaux-Arts de Paris.

“Paris contributed immensely to my creative growth as an artist – I could only speak two words of French,” she recalls. “But when I landed there it was like I had reached home, it all felt so comfortable. It was like love at first sight. Even today, after thirty years, my affection for this city has not changed.”

Sujata Bajaj
Sujata Bajaj. Lumiere de vie. 2013. Acrylic on canvas. 100x100cm

One of Bajaj’s biggest inspirations to date is the intensity of lines and the beauty and richness of colour, namely flamboyant reds, yellows and oranges. “I believe colours and lines are sufficient to convey the emotions my work wants to express – you don’t necessarily need figures to be a storyteller,” she expresses.

The artist also notes inspiration from Indian tribal art and texts from ancient Sanskrit documents such as the Bhagavad Gita, the Vedas and other spiritual manuscripts. Presently, she works mostly with three techniques: acrylic on canvas, fibre glass sculptures and mixed media.

Bajaj has showcased her work in various parts of the world including the US, India, Japan, Paris and Italy through solo exhibitions, group shows, museum collectives and renowned art fairs. Most recently, the abstract artist’s work, including her most recent canvases and sculptures, have been exhibited at Dubai-based La Galerie, marking her first solo show in the region. 

The works serve to connect with the viewer but only if the efforts are reciprocated. “It all depends on the person’s perception,” she explains. “How deeply the individual wants to get involved with the colours and lines, see them and feel them.” 

Sujata Bajaj
Sujata Bajaj. Équilibre. 2018. Acrylic on canvas

Featured at the Dubai exhibition, which was on view until 15 February, were works including Spheres (2019) and Tension (2019) amongst others. During the exhibition the gallery showcased 14 unique pieces including ten abstract acrylic works on canvas.

The show was accompanied by a book launch in Dubai at which Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan was present, commenting, “Sujata Bajaj’s endless imagination conjures those shared hopes and dreams through the use of gorgeous colours, arresting lines, and compelling shapes. Turning the pages in her breathtakingly beautiful book Ganapati, I am especially captivated by her choice of vibrant colours that freely and joyfully give life to her creations.  It is as though she is revealing herself—her intellect, her imagination, her values. The revelations are wholly satisfying, but they can also lead a viewer to reflect on the nature of art as well.” 

Her joyful works have inspired many – from the great Indian master S.H. Raza who stated, when Sujata was still at the École des Beaux-Arts, that she was “one of the best artists of her generation, someone with clear artistic concepts,” to the renowned French novelist Jean-Claude Carrière who has written, “in front of some of her paintings I would say that Sujata has invented the colour red. Or, maybe, reds.”

Seeing Bajaj’s work makes it clear how important the lines and colours, gracefully balanced with texture, are in her life. At times, the artist knows exactly what she desires to bring to life through her art while at other times she has no clear perception.

“Sometimes, I’d sit in front of my canvas for a week before I would start painting,” she admits. “[The work] needs to create a tension, a balance and formation of lines.” When Bajaj paints, she surrenders wholly to her subconscious mind and the viewer is invited to surrender to the result, a beautiful harmony of order and disorder, chaos and peace.

“I hope I can give a drop of hope and aspiration or convey positive energy in some sense,” she expresses. An evocative symphony of stored memories, stories and perceptions, the works serve to provide eternal unity with the universe. sujatabajaj.com

All images courtesy of the artist and La Galerie

From the spring 2020 issue of Harper's Bazaar Art