SHOBHA BROOTA speaks with Aashna Abrol about her sustenance of passion and creative learning

Updated: Nov 22, 2020

Self Portrait, SB.2.1964 | 15x20in, Oil on canvas

“We are all born...then we go through conditioning. We are taught to live in a certain way. Slowly we get bound by beautiful frills of life. We live blindly thinking this is it, but somewhere deep down, I knew this was not true life. It’s all made up of conveniences.”

Untitled, 2016, wool NM 30 x 30 in

Shobha Broota is one of the established contemporary Indian artists, who has rotated the wheel of abstraction in an invigorating dimension. Brought up in a family that nurtured his artistic values from childhood, she feels privileged of having learned arts, music and dance long back before her professional career had begun. Her paintings chart an earthly layer but generate meanings that are deeper and transcendental. While viewing many of her paintings, I felt engulfed in an evocative silence they emanated, leaving me entrenched in resonant harmony for a while. Moreover, Shobha is a Sangeet Visharad in Classical Music.

Having spoken with Shobha on the phone, not only we exchanged our common love for taking up immediate challenges but I also learned the significance of creativity irrespective of what medium one selects. She taught at St. Thomas School and Triveni Kala Sangam from 1964 to 1970 and 1970 to 1994, respectively. At the same time, sharing her childhood stories, she sportingly tells us that as a kid her teachers described her ‘reticent’.

Her paintings have been described with varying criteria that underpin a sense of cosmic attributes while a staunch relevance to tantric forms. However, when it comes to herself, she explicitly confirms that she enjoys the process and loves taking up challenges.

Buddha II, 2004.NM. 48 X 48 in.

AA: Could you share the process of your painting? Do you visualise the painting beforehand?

SB: My work is based on spontaneous decisions. I do not enjoy thinking about the process beforehand. Rather, I just listen to the canvas. When it tells me to paint, I follow. Subsequently, once I realise that it is finished, I end my work. For me, every painting is a new start. Without challenge and learning from mistakes, I can’t enjoy my work. This is how I move forward! And, it is very satisfying. A slight change is not a repetition and also it is not a copy. Once I start, the canvas directs me. That is why I rarely undertake commission projects because the rich quality of the original somehow gets diluted. Preferably, I work regularly like our daily routine.

The accumulated experiences subconsciously reflect in my paintings.

Also, I believe in taking breaks as a means to restart work with renewed strength and a peaceful state of mind. Also, then, the itching for work is more powerful.

Broota is a voracious reader. However, her reading that plunges deep into her inner self, reveals in exemplary successive paintings. A journey which requires immense patience, perseverance and equanimous mind to perceive the object as it is. At the same time, she accepts the arising notations, wherein each brushstroke converts into a permanent mark on the canvas. The expressed motifs of dot, line, form, colours, movements and expansive territory of conscience lead her into a mystical realm.

Origin 130, 1994, Acrylic on canvas, 70 x 70 in (178 x 178 cm), Property from an Eminent Private Collection, USA, Courtesy Saffronart

Broota has been part of several national and international art exhibitions. India, post-independence, had seen a gamut of artists who experimented in abstraction, impressed by European modernism. However, as a postmodernist, she has charted a route which is bereft of influenced regimes. Rather, to find a personal style she travelled within herself to accord an individual analogy for the world of renewed abstraction in India. We asked about her initial encouragement from the family which inspired her to walk the road of abstract concepts.

S033, Oil on canvas, 24X30IN Approx.

AA: How do you describe your journey of becoming an abstractionist?

SB: My father was an architect. And, our home environment was suffused with artistic skills and values. Because of my father's profession, our home was always equipped with art supplies, which inspired me to practice art.

I practice music, dance and theatre. With no restriction from family, my lifestyle had been imbued with artistic mediums and styles. My mother was interested in embroidery while my grandmother, which I had observed, also created artworks. By being an artist, I feel like being connected with my ancestral past.

I think, we don't learn everything from school but grasp it from our surroundings, friends' and many activities. Probably, everything has an impact on you if you are sensitive. During the learning process, your failures, as well as achievements, equally become part of you.

I started painting when I was a child. In school, my teachers would ask me to do drawing work and I did a lot, too. During college, it was like I obeyed what teachers guided us to do. At that time, the syllabus did not begin with abstraction in training school. Now it must be different. We had one week for landscape, still-life, printing, commercial art and we learned all of these in the initial two years.

Untitled 1972 SB117 11X15IN, Etching print