Beyond the Organic Shadow


– Saira Aslam and Akanksha Jain

“…Destined I am To remain attached to the Banyon tree trunk, Moving on the ground From west to east, In my half elliptical orbit. Longing to meet the sun And, failing Must keep on moving, Gradually reducing, Almost vanishing Enlarging again, Only to die in the evening. Everyday the morning comes And I am brought back. The cycle goes on Yes…..I am….. No mass, nor volume; The organic shadow of the Dead banyon tree.” (Lines from Umesh Chandra Varma’s poem ‘Organic Shadow’)

Umesh Chandra Varma is a poet, a painter and a philosopher; and a different one at that. He likes to follow the unconventional path and says it is art that keeps him alive. In fact, he believes in finding order in the surroundings through disorder. At 75, he confesses he draws inspiration from almost everything that surrounds and interests him. He was awarded the prestigious Lalit Kala National Award in 2004. After graduating in Bio-Sciences, he went on to pursue where he his heart lay… painting. Visiting him in an Artist Studio at Lalit Kala Academy at Garhi, Saira Aslam and Akanksha Jain talk to him about a variety of things; the passion that drives him to create something as unique and debatable as his painting titled ‘Orgasm’ seven years ago, his take on the ‘metaphysical’ and the constant driving force as he prepares to celebrate what he calls “Birthday of Earth” on the Earth Day eve through another painting.

“In a democracy everyone is a king and a queen but you have to discover of what”, says noted painter Umesh Varma at his studio in Lalit Kala Academy.

The artist studio at Garhi is where he spends the whole day trying to generate new ideas, “though not necessarily the purpose is achieved that often”, he confesses.

His studio has his work of more than two decades and hence it comes as a surprise when he says he can locate each and every thing accurately.

Lalit Kala Academy indeed provides an ideal ambience to stir creativity in an artist's soul.

There are mainly three departments in the Lalit Kala Academy at Garhi: Sculpture, Painting and Graphics Department and the sidewalks are flanked by a number of sculptures made out of stones, clay and metal.

There are a lot many inspirations in the premises; all of them being the works of the artists who have stayed there or are still contributing.

Varma’s recently finished work in his studio.

Pointing out a caterpillar in his painting he made for the celebration of the Earth’s Day. Most of his work is abstract art as he explains.

The process of completing the painting is carried on outside when it begins to dry.

Other artists who had come from outside Lalit Kala to take part in his low-key celebration. They sat outside and took inspirations from various parts of Nature to create something.

Drawing in progress. Varma also says that it is always good to start a work without keeping any pre-conceived notions or without even thinking what and how the finished thing would look like.

“As this physical world is a truth, similarly the metaphysical world: of the sun, the moon, the stars is a truth... which is mysterious yet enchanting”, he says.

“Orgasm or Jeevantomukti is also more metaphysical than merely physical and this is what my work tried to depict.”

Varma likes taking a walk in the park of Lalit Kala till the tea stall and interacting with other artists.

He believes that if one has not identified one’s own talents, the basic objective of being a human has not been achieved.

“There might be umpteen Umesh Varma around the world but my uniqueness comes from the way I write, I speak, I think”, he says pointing towards the stone he has written his name on himself.

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~ by Niha on April 25, 2010.

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