Ajay Sharma: The Speed of Life. It was a wonderful opening night …
Ajay Sharma’s exhibition The Speed of Life opened at AirSpace Projects on Thursday 3 July with much fanfare. The Deputy Mayor of Marrickville Councillor Rosana Tyler introduced Mr Pawan Luthra who spoke so generously about Ajay Sharma’s work. We thought it was well worth posting. The Speed of Life will continue until 5.00pm Saturday 19 July.
Ajay Sharma, Mother Nature (Impairment of Nature) from The Speed of Life series, 2014, pigment on paper, 30.5 x 40cm. Image credit: AirSpace Projects.
Pawan Luthra’s Speech
Deputy Mayor Councillor Rosana Tyler, Ajay Sharma, Sally Clarke, Brenda Factor and guests, thank you for inviting me today.
Growing up in India, we were surrounded by many examples of miniature art. We had them in our homes and in our schools, and often on the walls at work also. It is a great pleasure for me to be here: something that was such an essential part of my childhood, is being appreciated in my new home.
I have never been good at art myself, but as a child I would often wonder at how tedious and painstaking it must have been for the artist to create the paintings that hung in my hallway, and that my mum cherished so much. The margin of error seemed so narrow, and having no confidence in my own fine motor skills, I made up my mind fairly early that I would not enter a field in which my mistakes would be laid bare for easy scrutiny.
And so you will understand, what a privilege it has been for me to meet Ajay Sharma, India’s leading miniaturist. In a career spanning some 40 years, Ajay has devoted himself to keeping alive a centuries’ old tradition. As head of a studio of artists and students in Jaipur that was launched way back in 1984, he is involved in all aspects of the art form, including composition, drawing, conservation, copy work, in the research and preparation of pigments.
He has some fascinating stories to tell about his art, not just the process in which he creates the wasli paper on which the works are made, but also of how in the early days, he made his own paintbrushes: he physically caught the squirrels to extract the fine hair from their tails. He will assure you though, that no squirrels were killed to make up the brushes that created these, or indeed any, of his works.
Ajay has also been instrumental in taking the Rajasthani style of miniature art to some of the world’s leading art institutions, in the form of both exhibitions and workshops. Many non-Indian artists have now taken up the art form.
Interestingly, the theme of his current exhibition, The Speed of Life, finds much parallel with his own life’s work. While he has dedicated his energies to conserving and perpetuating an age-old practice, he sees around him a world that is modernising at fast pace. The Speed of Life is a lament on the loss of traditions and family values, and an increasing disconnect with nature, that such modernisation and globalisation has brought in.
The horse of course, has interesting symbolism. Representing a driving force that carries you through life, it is a symbol not only of life energy, but also of freedom of expression. As such, it turns out to be a perfect medium for Ajay.
As an observer myself of trends in the psycho-social fabric of contemporary India, I do agree with Ajay. The change is quite tumultuous really, and like a tsunami sweeping across the land, it is leaving behind some debris in its aftermath. The particular social problems that have arisen in India recently and made headlines across the world, are an unfortunate side effect of this fast-paced change. I don’t want to bring a sombre note to tonight’s event, but I think this has a significant bearing on the works of art displayed here. They speak of the far-reaching psycho-social implications of rampant and unsustainable modernisation.
Unlike Ajay however, I am a bit more optimistic about India’s youth. My own view is that as a developing country, India is going through an adolescence of sorts, struggling with issues of identity as it grapples with the notions of tradition vs modernisation. It’s going to be interesting to see how the ‘teenage’ India resolves this crisis, but at the end of it, it will evolve into unique selfhood.
India will modernise – it must modernise. And just as Ajay’s particular passion has evolved through Persian, Islamic, Mughal, Rajput, even British, influences, and survived to tell its own tale as an amalgam of all these, yet an independent and innovative art form that can be used to cast a contemporary look on life, India will make it too– with its own particular mix of traditionalism and modernism.
I thank Sally and Brenda in their vision of putting this exhibition together and sharing with all of this the talents of Ajay Sharma.
Pawan Luthra 2014 ©
For more information about this exhibition see Current Exhibition on this site.