Dr Sushma Mahajan is a practising radiologist from Jaipur with a passion to paint in watercolours. She is a sworn animal lover, and you will find lots of dogs, horses, elephants, and squirrels figuring in her artwork. She has a knack for capturing the fascinating world of animals in all its glory. She also has an inimitable ability to play artistically with flora and architecture. Interestingly, even in Amsterdam’s frozen cityscape, she chooses to perch an owl on a bicycle parked by the canal. Barnes and vintage cars add variety to her captivating spectrum of art. She lives and works in Jaipur with her husband and daughter.
1. When did you decide and what prompted you to become an artist? Please give a brief account of your challenges and struggles in your journey as an artist. Any role models?
SM: I think we all have artistic impulses when we are young. It’s only when we get lost in the usual drab routine of modern-day life that we begin to lose the creativity within us. My case is no different! I always had an eye for aesthetics and art but then I got busy professionally as a radiologist. The Covid-induced lockdown came as a heaven-sent opportunity to unlock the artist in me and I virtually went full steam thereafter. Painting got discovered both as a talent and a hidden passion. Of course, there were challenges initially. I am self-taught and I have evolved on my own as a watercolour artist with a lot of experimentation and adventure. However, what initially looked like a handicap has eventually turned into a blessing. With no formal tutoring in art, there was no pressure of any validation and I could freely delve in all kinds of genres. This gave me the autonomy to do whatever I wanted to do with my paintbrush. Yet, I was apprehensive when I put up my first collection of artworks in an exhibition in Jaipur two years back but the response turned out to be very heart-warming and spurred me to chase my new-found passion with renewed vigour.
I will be presenting my first solo exhibition in Delhi through Unique Creation and Arts Gallery titled ‘Curious Charms ~ The Magic of Aquarelle’ from 1st to 4th April 2023 at the Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. Curated by Dr Alka Pande, the exhibition attempts to view the beauty of flora and fauna through my creative imagination but with a difference.
2. What art projects are you working on currently? What is your inspiration or motivation for this?
Art for me is an escape from my stressful work life; I head the Radiology department in the biggest cancer hospital of Jaipur. And my medical profession keeps me engaged for most part of my day. It’s the hours beyond hospital duties that I get to do my art. My motivation is to create happy art with a lot of positivity and vibrance. Years of dealing with tumour patients needs a powerful catharsis and to me my dive in the beautiful world of watercolours has imparted me that calming and healing effect. I enjoy thoroughly the whole journey of creating a piece of art - it is a sort of meditative bliss for me.
3. Contemporary art has become very diverse and multidisciplinary in the last few decades. Do you welcome this trend? Is this trend part of your art practice?
SM: I acknowledge that contemporary art has become very diverse and multi-disciplinary. It is a healthy thing. You cannot confine art to conventional boundaries. Art is meant to transcend the established limits. I surely welcome this trend. Not getting wedded to any particular genre is in keeping with this trend only and I want to explore newer horizons in the years ahead as an artist. Artist should never be hesitant to take a plunge into newer territories!
4. Does art have a social purpose or is it more about self-expression?
SM: I think art has bit of both and my case is no different.
5. Where do you create your art? What is your process?
SM: There is no such fixed place where I create my art. I do have a paint studio at my residence in Jaipur which is my go-to place after my hospital hours. However, I carry my art- making kit even on travel and love creating it in open spaces. I do watercolours and have a penchant to deploy bright colours and metallic hues. I am an eternal optimist and my art is all about bounties of nature, architectural splendour, vintage charm and human-animal connect.
6. Why have you chosen watercolours as your medium?
SM: Nothing specific as such, but yes, I find watercolours apt to play around with tonal variations in my paintings. Watercolours are also the best medium to come up with vibrant compositions and dabble in translucent and luminous finishes. I love to do shimmers on waters and reflections on cobbled streets after rains. Watercolours are ideal to capture them with a paint brush. And yes, watercolours are tough to negotiate in that you cannot afford mistakes or lapses in concentration. Watercolours are not forgiving in that sense and demand better focus and precision.
7. Your current exhibition has works of nature and animals. any particular reason for the choice?
SM: I am a sworn nature lover. I love to travel. I love going to open green spaces and to wild life sanctuaries. I love keeping pets. I am a diehard animal lover. I consider animals to be the most beautiful creatures on earth from whom there is so much to learn and imbibe. Loyalty, depth of affection, unconditional love, compassion and what not. No wonder, all this gets reflected in my body of art!
8. Tell us about any other interest you may have besides your art practice. Does it get reflected
in your art?
SM: I love to travel and go on vacations. Architectural elegance rubs on me. Apart from our own architecture, I am enchanted by European and Japanese architecture. I love depicting frozen cityscapes in watercolours be it the Swiss towns in the Alps or European cities clad in winter snow. Vintage items of bygone era too inspire me as an artist and I love bringing them up in my compositions to stir up that nostalgia!
(All images are courtesy of the artist, Dr Sushma Mahajan.)
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