Cobalt Arts (CA): Parag how you got interested in art?
Parag Borse (PB): First of all, I was born in the scenic environment of Karjat and (then) when I was in first standard in school, my older brother used to draw. As I watch his artworks, I thought that I should also draw. Then I started enjoying it and I began painting. I soon found this beautiful nature around me as a medium to express what I wanted to say and express; and this realisation, in fact, drew me to the field of art. Later while I appeared for Elementary and Intermediate examination and then while pursuing my matriculation studies, I kept hearing about the name J. J (School of Arts). I soon realised that J. J (School of Arts) is one such institution where I can develop my artskills and (that) I (can) pursue art for whole of life and also earn my living (out of it). (After completing my matricualtion), I went to Science. I really struggled in that first year (of science). It was very dreary. I again tried for admission in J. J (School of Arts). This time I got through and (thus) I got admission into J. J (School of Arts). My art journey started in such a manner. I got best teachers in J. J., also the seniors whose work was awesome and whose works for me were a great source of inspiration in the true sense. I could observe great artists here. Also, got to watch demonstrations conducted by them (and) their artworks. All this had a huge impact on me and my art was an outcome of all of this. I consider myself fortunate that I could learn at such an institution where I got great teachers and seniors as friends. I am really grateful to all of them. It is because of all of them that I became an artist that I am today.
CA: You were trained in Applied Arts. Then how did you turn to Fine Arts?
PB: I realised much later that Applied Arts and Fine Arts are two different streams. Commercial arts which we know as Applied Arts is quite different where the topics are related to the advertising world. What important here is who the target consumer is and also the concepts. Art comes later as an expression of such concept. I realised that I couldn’t say what I wanted to speak. I did not get to do what I wanted to do. I realized that something is not right. I have come in the wrong direction. Then I saw the Fine Arts building for the first time and out of curiosity, I went inside. When I saw the artworks done by the students there, I realized that this is what I wanted to do. Then I started going there frequently. Some of the students became my friends. I started going out with them to paint landscape. I met 3-4 like-minded seniors from Applied Arts, who were also interested in Fine Arts (and) we started painting together. I got to learn a lot from these seniors. In such a way, in spite of being from Applied Arts, I could keep in touch with fine arts and continue painting portraits, landscapes.
CA: As your training was in the Applied Arts, did you face any difficulty while pursuing a career in Fine Arts?
PB: Yes. As a student of the Applied Arts, I was trained in conceptual art, concepts, illustration. In college, I specialized in illustration and initially I joined an ad agency as an illustrator. I continued as an illustrator. But I couldn’t pursue what I really wanted to do. Then I decided to quit the job. At that time, I was getting quite a handsome payment. Everyone opposed my decision of quitting the job. But at that time, my family became my strength. They stood by me. My parents (used to say that) ‘It is OK even if you don’t do any job but do what you want. Search for your happiness. Get what you desire.’ They gave me time. Almost for three years after I left my job, there was practically no work for me. I used to visit different publishing houses, many newspapers as they would need illustrators. I didn’t want to do a full-time job. Regular Job did not allow any time for making portraits or landscape. I wasn’t getting to do what I wanted to. I was constantly in search for that. I explored for a long time. Three years passed. During that period, I used to do portraits at the restaurants or go to weddings to make portraits of people there. By doing such small assignments, I could sustain myself financially. It was due to these efforts I put in during this time that I could do good exhibitions later. Here I would like to specially mention ‘Art Plaza’ because it was indeed a milestone in my life. I did my first exhibition at Art Plaza (Mumbai) in 2002. I soon realized that this is a platform to sell my pictures. Established art galleries were nor ready to give me a space as (I) didn’t have a (great) biodata. My paintings were bit like that of a newcomer. But I got the wholehearted support of Art Plaza. They gave me the opportunity to exhibit and that exhibition turned out to be a good and financially successful one. Then I did many exhibitions there from 2002 to 2006, usually 1 or 2 exhibitions a year. These exhibition made me financially stable, in true sense. Later I got the chance to exhibit at Jehangir Art Gallery in 2008 and from here my art journey started in the true sense.
CA: Could you tell us about the style that you developed of your own and did it evolve over a period of time?
PB: My thought process underwent many changes throughout my life (and that reflects in my art). Many had influence on me. I think it is necessary for me to mention here that the art we create is the result of our thinking process. Good art is not, as it is usually believed, the outcome of artistic skills of any person or his/her innate talent. It may be true at primary stage. It’s very elementary. But as you go further, art keeps evolving. This thought process becomes very vital. It may be because I was a student of Applied Art, this thought process came easily to me or I could do so. In college, we used to do a lot of concept based art. Hence thinking about a concept before creating artwork became a habit. I used to think about painting, about the process…many thoughts kept emerging in my mind. But then I realised that thoughts keep flooding the mind but where lies my true happiness? I felt that happiness is the state of absence of thoughts. Then I started thinking about how achieve this state of vacant mind? Let me give you an example. When we listen Zakir Hussain’s Tabla or Bhimsen’s vocal classical music or even Ravishankar’s Sitar, what we think of? Do we think at all? No. (This is) because we could experience and enjoy the music well with a vacant mind. After this realisation, my art started its journey towards achieving all-void mind. I think art should help vanish all your thoughts. You should create such an artwork that, for a moment, makes you free from all thoughts. I feel that while creating an art as well, artist should also experience such a state of emptiness. This way of thinking shaped my art as well as my style. Plus, subjects of my interest since my childhood (also had influence on my style). I would say that style is nothing but who you are. Everyone has different likings. Every artist creates an artwork as per his/her own tastes and that eventually gets recognised as that artist’s style. I loved the nature around me, rural life, rustic people (and that gets reflected in my artwork). While in the last year of college, I had chosen the topic ‘Bangarwadi’ which is a book by Venkatesh Madgulakar. I loved that book which was based on lives of ‘dhangar’ (herdsman community in Maharashtra). (For this project), I started spending time among these herdsmen, used to observe them, and observed their sheep for hours. I used to sketch their portraits and had also drawn sketches of their sheep. I would say that rural life is just as traditional and colourful as you could see in my paintings. I feel that its spontaneity gets reflected through the paintings so naturally that one doesn’t have to put any extra efforts to achieve that.
CA: You might have experienced many changes since your first exhibition. What according to you has changed or evolved in you as an artist?
PB: In fact, earlier I kept thinking only about the painting. I used to only think about as to how would it look beautiful, how I can enhance its beauty or how I can raise its standard. These concerns added to my anxiety. But now I could sense the change in my way of thinking. Now, more than the creation, I think about as to how the creator of an artwork will evolve, how his/her own identity will be transformed in its entirety, because art is born out of one’s ways of life, one’s identity, also from one’s happiness and sometimes even from sorrows (experienced by that person). Through our paintings, we express, we speak what we feel. In fact (not just painting), but even the music we love, the way we write, the way we say, the way we walk everything can get transformed (as we evolve). Paintings will mirror what we experience internally. My art journey is now a quest for identifying inner self with an aim to find out as to how an artist himself can become his own masterpiece and how art can be a life-changing experience. Now I want to explore beyond the frame of the canvas. Sometimes we hear that a man who is a great artist is in news for murdering someone. An artist friend of mine who does amazing work, if sees a dog while walking on the streets, would pick up stones and threw at the dog. I then wonder how these artists who are so sensitive about colours can be so insensitive in the real world. I think one must make an effort to create a sensitive human being. If art has to be brought at a larger social or global level beyond these individual confines, and if it has to be seen through lenses of humanity, then one has to see how art can help transform the artist. Journey of art has rarely been in this direction. I wish it takes this turn in near future.
CA: What advice would you give to new aspiring artists?
PB: I would like to tell them that art is a source of happiness. Do not create art to earn praises or international awards, but check if it gives you joy. Keep checking this constantly. One should look inside oneself and regularly keep checking if you enjoy what you do.
CA: What do you think about Cobalt Arts?
PB: Today’s world being the age of advertising and marketing, selling art is no more an easy task. This is quite a serious challenge for all artists today. Even though there are many galleries, no one is willing to do anything for an artist. When one of my old friend Neeta, who herself is a good artist, told me about this initiative, I welcomed her. If artist himself/herself enters this field and starts such a gallery or organises exhibitions, he/she can empathise with the problems that artist are facing and he/she can understand the difficulties artists are going through. Hence I immediately agreed to join her initiative – Cobalt Arts. Cobalt Arts’ approach is really different. Till date, they have organised great exhibitions – at Jahangir Art Gallery (Mumbai), in Delhi and in Dubai, without taking any money from artists and have also maintained a good standard for their exhibitions. They also effectively marketed (their exhibitions). I also appreciate their efforts to come all the way to interview an artist. This had not happened till now. I think it is an artist in her that makes her take such efforts to comprehend how artist has evolved and document his/her journey. I thank Cobalt Arts and give my very best wishes for their future journey.
CA: Thank you, Parag, for talking to Cobalt Arts…