Benares Is Beyond History: Artist Paresh Maity
By Sukant Deepak
A part of him is answering questions, and another one is constantly working on the painting. On the banks of the Ganga, a canvas is coming alive with ancient temples, a soothing river, and the many boats navigating newer courses. He is using only black, the absence of color is stark, but then that is how artist Paresh Maity thinks of the world’s oldest city.
Reimagining the physical Benares and asserting a newer dimension to a city that can open new chasms inside, the artist says, “You cannot trap Benares in history, it is beyond that. It has layers that refuse to end. There will always be hidden aspects that lend magic to this place.”
The recipient of the Padma Shri honor, with his long brush strokes, is bringing alive the city which is called the womb of civilization amid an eclectic mix of music and discussions, says that currently, he is in a frame of mind that is pushing him to produce large works.
“It is all about large paintings, installations, and sculptures. It is tough to pinpoint the ‘reason’ for doing that but there are times that an artist wants a change,” says the artist, who has painted the longest painting in India, which stretches up to more than 850 feet.
He has worked extensively in Benares and making regular trips here since 1984.
“There is nothing superficial about this space. Wherever one looks, a certain rootedness astonishes you. Every time I come here, I see art and it sees me. A volley of ideas hit me,” says the artist, who has held more than 80 solo exhibitions in 40 years of his career.
Known for working with multiple mediums, Maity, who gradually moved from atmospheric scenery to representations of the human form, is known for working with multiple mediums.
He says he is not the one to decide which one to work with.
“Mediums and subjects haunt me — what they say is what I do. They invite me to paint. Also, I must experiment to ensure that I do not get stuck in one medium.”
Stressing that his art has always derived from what he observes socially and that is where his subjects emerge from, Maity is all for collaborations between different art forms.
“Yes, it is always a wonderful experience to collaborate with other artists, observe each other’s processes, and look at points of intersections and it’s something I do enjoy. I do a lot of black and white photography as it offers multiple tones.”
Looking forward to making more public art, the artist says it is always fascinating when people get to witness the process of art making.
“While art is mostly associated with working in a shell when done amid people, it offers a peculiar charm.”
With multiple art foundations and private museums coming up, Maity is optimistic that the trend will benefit the art community, especially youngsters.
“It is a great sign that many people are converting even their houses into art spaces. However, artists must not depend on anyone to create.”