by Georgina Maddox
Soul Stories, a solo exhibition by artist Jaya Baheti by Art Pune Foundation at Raja Ravi Varma Art Gallery in Shivajinagar, Pune from 16 to 19 November 2023
Jaya Baheti with her artwork
Creating an abstract backdrop of vibrant yet calming colours, engraved with linear demarcations of forms and figures filled with empathy and tenderness, artist Jaya Baheti, brings art that encourages its viewers to give back to the universe. “My art is my mediation, it reflects on my practice and my state of mind. Very often when you are an artist you become the cause and you unite with your art,” says Jaya whose approach to her artwork is not a materialistic one. She adds,
“Yes of course we need money to live, but life has to be more than that. One asks oneself, what is my reason to be here on earth? For me, I found my answer in art.”
The family is a group of animal lovers and they believe in plugging into the universe but also feeding it back—after all it has been said that the universe will only respond to what you desire.
“It’s all about giving back to the universe. It is a journey and we have a chance to rejuvenate our soul with this energy that defines our life,” continues Jaya, who expresses herself through a mingling of bright and calm colours, yellows and blues, greens and reds that stand as a backdrop to her linear expressions of cattle (Gauri), fauna and the woman at the centre of it all. The strength in her work comes from giving her energy toward her art-forms.
Penchant for Colour
Blue is colour that brings an energy that is a calming, supportive and meditative part of the universe. According to Nina Ashby, the author of Simply Color Therapy, the color yellow is symbolized by the sun and represents joy, light, and mental positivity. Red symbolizes energy, passion, strength, courage, physical activity, creativity, warmth, and security, while green energy, passion, strength, courage, physical activity, creativity, warmth, and security. These colours bring to Jaya’s canvas a fusion of all these energies.
Jaya also references the Panchatatva (Prithvi (Earth), Jal (Water), Agni (Fire), Vayu (Air) and Akash (Space) where the entire universe is created by these five elements. Yet the earth is minor point of the Cosmos. “The Universe is part of my life and I am part of the universe and it is my journey to discover my reason to be through my Karma,” Jaya says.
Taking a Glimpse Back
To go back in time, in 1990, Jaya had engaged in the display of work where the kite was a symbol of Karma. One may fly high and be stable in the sky, but it will finally get cut when it is our time to leave the universe. Through this symbol Jaya explored the ability to go higher and her connection between the kite and the universe pointed towards growth and flight with the help of the elements. Art was always ‘in her blood’ and even though both her parents belong to business industrialist families, culture was in her veins whether it was visual art, music or theatre. Her father hails from a village called Manwath in Marathwada, Maharashtra, and she often visited the farms, which were an important inspiration and memory for her from childhood. The farm animals and the patchwork of fields are an important source of inspiration till date, though the landscape has changed over time. When she was barely ten years old she was exposed to the works of artist Murli Lahoti who opened his studio and she decided that art and culture was the path to be followed. “In my 10th standard I decided I wanted to join art school,” says Jaya, who then joined Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya in Pune (1986-92) where she did a Government Diploma in art, where she was a gold medalist.
The works of artists Jamini Roy and NS Bendre, were also important sources of inspiration for her and in her final years of her course she held an exhibition of more than 50 paintings that set the course of her journey ahead. She soon became part of Bombay Art Society, and was selected by the jury right after her diploma.
In 1993 she got married to Mr Vishnudas Baheti at Hyderabad, but she continued to paint with many awards and shows during her journey. She was part of The Asia-Pacific Anthroposophical Conference in 2004, Hyderabad, which explored the concept of life under the roof and under the sky. . She has done many shows including at Absolut Lifestyle & Art show, Hyatt Regency and Park Hyatt.
Jaya has also worked on panels engaging mural art, with the highest level of simplicity, which led to a slight shift in her technique where her surface detailing diminished and gave way to an abstract expression and background. She always carries with her the influence of Roy and Bendre, where the eyes of her protagonists are almond-shaped, large and expressive. She combines this with Western academic art to bring solidity to her line drawing. She does make references to traditional motifs but she brings in her own modern language to transform the composition to a contemporary expression.
She has held exhibitions at the London-Calcutta Art Biennale, Concern India National Level Show, Surbhi Nag Pune Art Festival, Singapore Art show, and at Delhi - AIFACS and the Lalit Kala Akademi. She has had private exhibitions at private art shows for Jean Oliver & Paul Nicholas, along with exhibitions for IAS Officers Academy and her work is part of the Collection of Royal families of Britain, France & Brussels, and the Netherlands.
When she works, Jaya does not use preparatory drawings; instead, she works directly on the canvas, beginning with an abstract background and then taking the brush. The lines flow out capturing the energy of her childhood experiences in the fields and forests with cattle and other farm animals and birds. The work for her upcoming show began with Gauri's grace where her influence is wonderfully visible.
She often works with solo figures surrounded by the landscapes and the cattle, the elements that transformed her whole life’s journey; the story unfolds around one figure. “When I am sitting under the moon I am rejuvenating. Nature completes my life what my soul needs and it defines what my journey has been so far and my work keeps me vibrant,” says Jaya.
She also believes that art is not only for the canvas. She has done fashion shows in London where her art is reflected in all the clothes showcased by the models. She has worked with mixed media on saris, besides creating artifacts like table-tops and objects that are painted with her stylistic elements. She reflects the inner strength of woman and nature and her work is reflective of the energy that runs the universe.
Soul Stories, the show by Art Pune Foundation will be held at Raja Ravi Varma Art Gallery in Shivajinagar, Pune from 16 to 19 November 2023.
(The images of the artworks are courtesy of the artist Jaya Baheti and Georgina Maddox.)
Georgina Maddox is an independent critic-curator with almost two decades of experience in the field of Indian art and culture. She was assistant editor at India Today’s Mail Today and senior arts writer for the Indian Express and the Times of India. She is currently working in the media as an independent critic for various publications and has published articles in Open Magazine, India Today, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and also in Elle Magazine, The Hindu and Business Line, Sunday Magazine BLINK, TAKE on Art, Time Out, and online with US based E-magazine, Studio International, STIR world and MASH Mag.