पीयूष इन रंगकारों को वह अवकाश देते हैं जहॉं वे अपने कैनवास पर एक आत्मीय विमर्श में सम्मिलित हो जाते हैं। रंग-सृष्टि पर केंद्रित यह किताबें भारतीय गुरु-शिष्य परंपरा का भी सुखद स्मरण कराती है --- गुरु अपने शिष्य की चेतना को आलोकित करता है तो एक ज्ञानेप्सु शिष्य अपने गुरु को उन राहों पर ले जाता है जहॉं गुरु अपने ज्ञान का पुनःअन्वीक्षण कर पाता है। आधुनिक, खासकर अमूर्त कला पर पश्चिमप्रेरित होने का अशिक्षित आरोप लगाने वालों को इन किताबों से इसलिये भी गुजरना चाहिये कि इन चित्रकारों की भारतीयता का साक्षात हो सके।
The cloistered chromosome: An odyssey through the chromatic cosmos
Among the many bedazzling hues about Piyush Daiya’s books of conversations with two of India’s leading artists, Haku Shah and Akhilesh, the most inspiring is his ability to efface his minutest of the traces from the text. How he engaged the artists in the conversation we never know, we can only surmise that he would certainly be quite prodding if the intense responses are any suggestion, as he rarely reveals himself and the entire text comes across as a self-revelation of the artists as if they conversed with their selves in the dark of a summer night on their terrace or standing against their canvas with a smouldering white stick, and Piyush, if at all, merely overheard them whispering to their hues.
He does give the artists absolute space, still he is not a Joycean narrator paring nails in a corner. Despite keeping his ‘questions’invisible (Manush) or converting the questions into a tool for theartist’s self exploration (Akhilesh: Ek Samvaad), uncover the text and he will emerge as the guiding force, prompting the artists to unravel the soul of their canvas, and weaving the meandering conversation into a narrative.
And notice the contrast: Shah masters the figurative art, Akhilesh a giant of abstraction.
Piyush begins with an innate query --- how the interplay of colours and canvas creates a form? Is it a passionate copulation of an artist with hues or a violent act or a meditation performed in solitude?
And what does Akhilesh respond: Haan, hinsa hai… aur wah akramak dhang se rangon ko sandarbh men laane ki hai…iska swaroop maansik hai, sharirik nahi. Jahan kuch bhi racha ja raha hai, wahan hinsa hai. Ek rang dusre ke sath hinsa karta hai aur fir usmen koi samanjasya beth jata hai.
Rarely a conversation on art is so engrossing and overwhelming, exploding onto a wider horizon. Chak Par Lila, a chapter of Manush, is a similar rarity as it excavates deep inside an artist’s cosmos of howhe creates his chromatic code.
Abhi mene apne ek chitra men bhura rang lagaya --- ab yah dino takwahan rah sakta hai (note the hesitant definitude in the usage, rah sakta hai)…chitrafalak par rang ko halke se gehra va gehre se halka bahut ghyanpurvak karna hota hai.. jese bada avkash va chota avkaash rang ko badal deta hai, rang ko milana bhi rang ko badal deta hai.
These words are delight both for a connoisseur and an uninitiated visitor. Here you learn and locate the centrality of colours for an artist that a dab of a hue on the canvas is not a tool to create a figure or discover an abstraction but a realization that in the cosmos of art, colours rule supreme.
Chitra men mera prayas kabhi aakaar gadhne ka nahi rehta. Main kabhi kisi roop ko pane ki koshish nahi karta. Main ek rang rachta hun aur chitra men us rang ka ek aakaar ban jata hai… chitra men yeh roopkaron ki prakritk avastha hi hai aur ho sakta hai ve kahin nahin, yahin milen… jinhen aap roopakar keh rahe hain, unhen men rangaakar kahna chahunga.
As Akhilesh proposes, and establishes his constitution of art, he uncovers before you a universe of pure and pristine forms, leaving you absolutely awestruck. Colours emerge as the centripetal force, pulling the artist from all temptations to the canvas. Abstract artists have been facing a perennial complaint of operating in a virtual world, a world that has no semblance with ‘reality’, and exists, in an exclusivist manner only for a selected few.
Akhilesh registers his protest here. His universe is as real as it could be. Not devoid of forms, his abstractions instead discover the hitherto unknown forms through his colours, as he is reluctant to capture the existing or known ones. This is also an attempt to transcend the memory in creative process, and begin from tabula rasa with the innate flame to create.
Elsewhere, I mentioned that young Franz Kafka wrote his first novel, Amerika, with elaborate details of the land where neither he had ever stepped onto, nor was to ever reach in his life. This, in a way, was an attempt by the great writer to release from the trap of his memory many writers so often find themselves in.
Akhilesh has a wonderful experience to share here. Once he went to Benaras with a distinct desire to visit Tulsi Ghat. Unfortunately though, despite staying for ten days in Benaras he couldn’t visit the place but still went on to paint it on the basis of his imagination and exhibited his work. Result? Everyone exclaimed that it was exactly the Tulsi Ghat!
Reading through these texts marks a great learning in colours and artistic process, how a hue situates and reinvents itself on the canvas to mark its distinct existence. It also sensitizes us, the unsuspecting reader not much equipped to comprehend the dynamism of hues, towards the possibilities embedded in the chromatic code represented through a sheer visual.
After internalising these texts, when passing through a visual, howsoever ‘banal’ it is, you will begin attempting to locate the inherent maya caused by the interplay of colours and forms that you ignored earlier --- reminded and guided by Akhilesh's words that beneath this visible form lives a subtle abstraction that yearns to be given a form.
Main drashya jagat ki natkiyata se prabhavit hota hun… Yeh natkiyta rangon men hai…Monalisa men aap jo dekhte hain aur jo anubhut karte
hain wah yatharth aur swapn jesa hai. Monalisa ka murta roop aapkebhitar amurta anubhuti jagata hai.
Akhilesh emerges as an extraordinarily perceptive painter, who lends pristine phrases to his abstractions and situates his colours in their exactitude. Not a single alphabet out of place here. Such an immaculate authority over words, amply visible in his other works too, complements his impeccable strokes on canvas. He is among those rare artists who actually ponder over their works and forms, for whom the painterly world is as much conceptual as it is perceptual. And of course, sensual too.
To capture this characteristic, which Ina Puri elaborates in her essay The Algebra of Eros on Akhilesh's work, Piyush coins a marvelous term --- vikal shukraanu ( restless chromosomes). Chromosomes and chromatic, interestingly, have same etymological roots --- both derived from Greek chroma (colour). The retina of Piyush locates the sensuality in hues that opt for abstract forms to assert their identity. This chromosome, significantly, does not strive to take birth, does not run in a frenzied motion to see the light of the universe, as by taking a specific body it will extinguish the myriad possibilities contained in its pristine form. Indeed, it refuses to come on the surface and remains enshrined in its primordial vyakulta ( restlessness) within the eternal womb offered by the multi-layered shades of Akhilesh.
Imagine the surreal image: A restless chromosome inside an eternal womb. Precisely therefore, this cloistered chromosome does not tell you its tale; it prompts you to come closer and locate it on your own.
A significant component of Akhilesh’s painterly grammar is his insistence that there is nothing original and experimental in art.
“Prayogdharmita ek shabd hai jiska chitrakala sekoi sambandh nahi hai. Main jab chitra bana raha hun tab koi prayognahi kar raha…main apne anubhv se rang sangati bithane ki koshish karraha hun jismen meri kalpana mere saath hai.”
Here, unfortunately, Piyush doesn’t prod through. May be he preferred to leave it self-explanatory. But he should have delved deeper, like he does elsewhere, and asked Akhilesh that doesn’t an attempt to fashion the ‘rang sangati’ constitute an experiment in itself? Akhilesh may have a particular aversion for this nomenclature and use a different one instead; nevertheless, he tests and applies his experience and imagination, a process that in itself constitutes an experiment.
These texts are primers for anyone desiring to initiate a conversation with a maestro. And the texts would not have touched the artistic pinnacle without the unrelenting groundwork by Piyush on the subject. His armoury inspires, even intimidates. His questions match the responses almost notch-by-notch. Not for a while you find a reason to believe that there could exist a gap of decades between him and the artists. If these works should be read to get immersed in the sheer pleasure of an odyssey marked by the formation of forms through interplay of hues, to learn that when an artist moves from a composition to the other he does so only by refuting his existing works; the distinct narration Piyush devises offers ample signposts along the journey.
But can something like an 'interview', a mere exchange of questions and answers, have a narrative? Sure, when you consider the long tradition of Samvaad in Indian thought --- Yam-Nachiketa, for instance.
Like a great narrative you can enter into the texts from any station you prefer. Open the book, begin from any chapter, any paragraph and you are on the journey. By not beginning from the first leaf you do not miss anything; by not stopping at the last you do not alter the end, simply for there is no beginning or the end here. A special language and narrative was needed to express the inner self of the art, and Piyush realizes it in its exactitude. The exploration and the narration in their nuanced impact reach though at least a few notches higher in Akhilesh: Ek Samvaad than Manush.
The texts though suffer from an overwhelming cerebral presence; their unusually preened and polished form, great for a novel or a text on literary theory, deprive the conversations of their breathing space. With an arduous tilt towards deliberations on art and aesthetics, Piyush ignores that in a marvelous conversation responses must not appear tailor-made. He doesn’t record those hesitant moments the artists fumbled and stumbled upon his questions to locate their words. Likewise, he deletes the instances he went speechless by the blinding dazzle of their responses, and groped for clues to frame another question. There sure would have been many pauses and ponderings when Akhilesh and Shah were flummoxed by his questions, grappled with his inquisitiveness, probably getting the question all wrong asking him to repeat. Or the moments when a bewildered Piyush humbly asked them for a clarification, an elaboration.
Piyush doesn’t also retain the lighter moments, I’m sure there should be many such occasions, shared with the artists. Akhilesh has a subtle humour sense and same can be expected of Shah too. Like a great canvas, such conversations are best left with a little spot on their texture, a tiny peck here, a subtle freckle there. The text yearns for a few shades of wit, as the elements that make a conversation lively and animated are missing here.
That said, appearing in the first decade of the 21st century, Akhilesh:
Ek Samvaad should easily rank among the works of this decade. It cultivates a culture of colours within the reader, makes her civilized towards the canvas, transforms her retina from a mere visual tool into an organ to capture the maya of the visual, and, in the process, decisively alters her universe.
By suggesting that his journey began from the external world and found its culmination within his own self, Akhilesh underscores that strand of the Indian thought, which asserts that an artist merely manifests herself through her art. You discover not the ephemeral external but the eternal entity through you.
Some Adwaita here?
Shuruaati dino men lagta tha ki prakriti se sikhna hai…main prakritike piche bhagta rehta tha. Ab aisa nahi lagta ki prakriti ko chitritkarna chahiye. Ab main hi prakriti ka ang hun. Mera prakat honaprakriti ka prakat hona hai.
How many works leave you in such a spell?
Considering his uncanny and unwieldy reluctance towards publication, and equally innate dexterity to weave marvelously nuanced narratives, Piyush should be persuaded to emerge from his underground and take his works, confined to the cellar of his soul, to readers.