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Listen to the canvas

For Rahul Inamdar, art is a calling but he says the survival of an artist is about how well one is able to stay away from the market noise

So many of us dream of having a six-figure salary. Lots of money is #goals, right? But what happens when you get there, and it’s still not enough? That’s exactly what happened to Rahul Inamdar, who quit his plum corporate career to follow his passion for art. “After my Engineering and MBA, I worked in the area of branding and innovation quite successfully. The corporate life is driven by the outcome, the brief, the timeline filled with actions. Most of it is outside in, a response to a stimulus and never in the moment. As my dissonance grew, so did my search for what truly mattered to me. Painting fit right in,” says the Mumbaikar. He took another three years to call it quits – “I had an EMI to clear,” he clarifies, adding, “But on the side, I invested in a studio. Space and time did wonders. Art grew deeper my mind got clearer. I realised that for me, it was the closest to a calling. So when I quit, I sure had butterflies, but I had no doubt that I was doing the right thing.” Did it ever occur to him as to how he was going to survive as an artist? “One aspect of survival is money. I started out with a decision that I won’t make art to sell,” he says. “So depending upon the sales was out of question. My wife has been supportive and she runs the house. The fact that I had limited needs, helped me stay afloat.” But survival as an artist has another meaning, he says, a far more important one. “Art is a calling, a process of moving from outside to deep inside. But as we begin linking it to the market, the ability to hear this sound of art goes down. Hence the survival of an artist, in that sense, is about how well one is able to stay away from the market noise,” says Inamdar. Through his savings and projects, he has been able to pursue his work without compromise. “In fact, in the year 2014, I didn’t produce a single work. The entire year was spent in reflecting on the work, colours, light, physics of the medium, what is subtlety, intensity, how does one achieve it,” he reveals. “I have been fortunate enough to afford to not show my work for a long period of time. In my aloneness and silence, I have learnt to listen to my inner voice better.” Inamdar says he has had no mentors in art and never felt the need. “There have been nourishing inspirations that taught me to look at things, aspects through their work, their interviews and thoughts,” he says. “Monet’s Waterlilies, Rothko’s Chapel Murals, Kumar Gandharva’s Sudh Naa Rahi, Yo Yo Ma’s Bach Cello Suites, Louis Kahn’s IIM buildings Auguste Rodin’s works, Dagar’s Todi on RudraVeena, Nasreen Mohamedi’s lines, Zen koans and haikus are my gurus, my sanctuaries. Works that embody simplicity, oneness, timelessness that I resonate with, that inspire me to move from ‘form’ to the essence.” Did it occur to him that he could be an artist instead of studying for a business degree? Did he wonder what an art degree could have done to him? “I was a good student from a middle-class family. The safety and security of a job was my goal. I was more interested in studies than art then,” he says.: Never thought about taking it up as a profession then.” Inamdar gives the example of Tadao Ando, and how an architect that the world speaks about is self-taught. “The formal education system can be quite limiting. Designed to introduce one to a range of options, the techniques and forms, it could trap the learner in the teacher’s dogmas and beliefs – making the shift from ‘form’ to ‘essence’ extremely difficult,” he says. “Once one has learnt how to learn then the world is a school. One is not limited by a discipline. Art could be learnt from looking at arts as well as science, philosophy, music, astronomy, architecture, design, culinary arts, theatre, politics, sociology, agriculture. I feel, being able to practice art after experiencing a diverse life makes a difference to my work.” Inamdar says he began working with oils on canvas. “Initially it was impasto – and over time I moved to very thin wash-like layers. As one understands why one paints, the medium moves. The canvas changed from coarse cotton to fine linen. The tension, the surface quality, the physics is different, so are the results,” he says. “I like to work large scale – on oils as well as murals on walls, with enamel paints.” Couple of years back, to break the automaticity of the hand, he began working on paper and inks, in smaller sizes. “As the size changes, the length of stroke as well as the detail in the work changes. As the medium changes, drying time changes and so it demands the tools to change. The tools, the medium, the surface are a part of the work and a part of an artist’s being. I like to work with them rather than against them,” he clarifies. Inamdar says between two works there is a lot of time spent on seeing the work, becoming aware of it and absorbing it. “Time is spent on being alone and waiting for the new work. There comes a time when one feels ready to begin the work. There is no line drawn or shape formed. The work I do is not through composition – a certain process towards an outcome. The idea is to be in tune with the canvas and to allow the work to happen. It’s important to listen to the canvas and the colours. As there is no form being designed / created / realised, the work in that sense is in the moment, in the state of flow,” he philosophises. “Works typically don’t have names. There is nothing the works are referring to or trying to trigger. They don’t need the support of words. One could call them abstracts but to me, it’s just an unfortunate bucketing tag. I find my kind of freedom in works that don’t explain or say, but puristically focus on the feel. A feeling that the viewer may not even be able to relate to.” he adds. Disconnected from the expectation of outcome or what people say about it, Inamdar says he has never been disappointed or faced any hurdle over the last 14 years of his practice – it’s only been full of learning and understanding the space. “The objective of my art journey is to make art that could move me and I have time till the end of life to reach there,” he says. “The ability, the technique and the responsibility for the art and its evolution for the same resides within me.” Currently working ‘verso’ – on a new direction of works made on the reverse, the uncoated side of the canvas – he says there is a very different interaction between the pigments, the oils and the surface and he’s enjoying seeing it happen. “I want to create art that moves me, that makes me respond to it subconsciously, like some pieces of music, space, fragrances do. I am not constrained by the medium or method or a need to make a statement. I want the work to go subtler and subtler and reduced in the means – till I reach the essence of my art and my being,” he says.

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