Art as passion, parachute, and purpose — creative insights from the Maitree Utsav 2021 artists

Art is an important source of livelihood, and an anchor for the human spirit in turbulent times. Here are some inspiring and colourful perspectives from an ongoing exhibition!

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Onkkon Art Studio’s annual Maitree Utsav exhibition is wrapping up today at Bengaluru’s Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath. It features 100 unique and original artworks of 35 artists from across India (see Part I and Part II of our coverage).

The meaning of art

“Art came to me like a parachute when I was hanging at the edge of a cliff. It’s an anti- depressant for me,” explains Jayshree Chhajjer, in a chat with YourStory.

She sees it as an internal and external growing experience, full of joy, peace and love. Her artworks are priced from Rs 2,500 to Rs 50,000.

Jayshree hopes that art also becomes a mainstream career like others, and gets due respect. “There is great demand for us to use our creativity to the maximum,” she adds.

“Art is my passion, it helps me connect with others. I can easily express my feelings through art,” Odisha artist Rosy Mishra says. Her artworks are priced from Rs 2,000 to Rs 60,000, depending on size and form.

She has a special place in her heart for the folk art of Odisha, pattachitra. There is a village called Raghurajpur where every member of the family makes this art. “I tried to popularise this art through this exhibition,” Rosy says.

She appreciates the Maitree Utsav exhibition, demos and seminars as well. “These seminars and interaction with other audiences gave me new ideas and new viewpoints,” she adds.

“Art is a beautiful experience which gives a positive outlook to life,” explains designer-artist Vasumathi Vasudevan. Her work is themed on nature and its beauty, and reflects the happiness she experiences in her garden.

“Art for me is a therapeutic expression of the vibrant hues of a garden. It gives calmness to viewers and brings them a smile,” she adds. Her paintings are priced from Rs 12,000 to Rs 35,000.

Art on display

For Maitree Utsav, Varun Rao displayed works from his Light series. “I depict beauty in simplicity, the beauty of darkness that’s blended with a single source of light,” he says.

Milna Sajee selected three works based on human emotions, thoughts and mind. They are titled Sporadic thoughts and Far away from the madding crowd. Another titled Pas de deuce is a ballet duet.

“I am still a fan of those well-defined and maintained bodies, and perfectly rhythmic – almost impossible – movements and energy of ballet dancers,” she enthuses. Her artworks are priced between Rs 1.56 lakh and Rs 2.18 lakh.

Sirajuddulla Chitrakar

Award-winning tribal artist Sirajuddulla Chitrakar displayed a series of scrolls depicting themes on mythology, folk tales, and social issues. The Bengal-based artist uses traditional materials for paints, such as soot, seeds of bel fruits (wood apples), turmeric, and nilmani flowers.

His works have been selected for collections in India, Bangladesh and the UK. Sirajuddulla has conducted art workshops and given lectures on tribal art in India and Bangladesh as well.

Success for an artist

Success for Rosy Mishra comes from audience appreciation of the beauty of her artworks. “When the person understands the effort behind it, I feel very proud. As an art teacher myself, it’s heartening to see that I can make a difference in my student’s life and inspire them to choose art. For me, that is the definition of success,” she adds.

“Success comes from hard work and determination. For me, art has no end as we are always learners. Working with passion and enjoyment will give success,” says Vasumathi Vasudevan. 

“Success for me cannot be summed up in one word. It starts from the eyes that appreciate art to the people who carry it along,” Jayshree Chhajjer describes.

“Success is that journey where you reach and exist in places you never thought of before. Success for an artist is the joy that people not just see your work but observe and understand the effort behind your emotion,” she enthuses.

Pandemic resilience

Throughout the pandemic, Sarbani Chatterjee, CEO and Managing Director, Onkkon Art Studio, kept working at her goal to establish an art university in Bengaluru.

“The pandemic was tough on everyone, but I utilised that time to meet and interact with all possible artists, and select the people who would be a part of the university,” she recalls.

“My learning was, such crises could happen over and over again, but we shouldn’t lose hope. I lost students, had no money, but I kept working towards my dream,” Sarbani adds.

“I am a dreamer and because of that, I am able to see my dream of forming an art college taking shape soon,” she affirms.

The pandemic gave artists like Jayshree Chhajjer some quality time to explore and try new things. “But at the same time, it was very demotivating too. Art lovers are there in abundance, but not art buyers,” she laments.

“So it’s been a journey from optimism to reality. I didn’t cope very well, sadly. Yet, I am hoping against hope,” she affirms.

Rosy Mishra also explored new art forms, but as an art teacher she found it tough conducting classes. “I love interacting with students and watching them grow. Because of the pandemic, it took time to adjust to the virtual platform and teach properly,” she recalls.

The lockdowns during the pandemic made it hard for Vasumathi Vasudevan to procure art supplies, though online shopping helped to some extent. “When I was affected with COVID-19, it was art that gave me a positive mind to go through my quarantine period,” she recalls.

Though studio artists like Milna Sajee were not affected directly by the pandemic, she missed exhibitions and interactions with fellow artists. “But in general, art sales have come down and many artists struggled to meet ends,” she laments.

The pandemic had a severe impact on artists through reduction in sales, orders and commissioned works. “Of course, there were no exhibitions and that further acted as a demotivating factor,” engineer-artist Varun Rao laments.

“More than that, during the first lockdown, we were all so affected psychologically. We weren’t ready for what happened, and that affected my creativity. For me, it’s important as an artist to be in a calm, peaceful, and positive state of mind to shape any artwork,” he explains.

However, he quickly bounced back. “I experimented more with the digital medium, on social media and WhatsApp groups. Indian cinema actor Amit Sadh noticed this and offered to curate my artworks for an online exhibition. That encouraged me further,” Varun adds.

He also conducted a couple of online art workshops to test the waters as a teacher. “I even tried my hand at creating trending videos along with my friends, conveying a message for friends and family in such tough times,” he proudly says.

Tips for artists

The exhibiting artists also offer tips for aspiring artists. “Don't give up and never underestimate your work. All works are beautiful. Make a habit of doing something every day,” Rosy Mishra advises.

“Focus on your skills and thought process. With regular practice and determination, one can eventually become a good artist,” Vasumathi Vasudevan advises.

“Consistency, honesty and originality will definitely help to move ahead. Art requires lot of dedication and passion,” Milna Sajee observes.

“Art may become a way of life and there is no shortcut to success. It is a never ending journey that you enjoy throughout,” she adds.

“Do not stop dreaming! I understand sometimes it gets tough and you have to think of feeding yourself and your family first, but do not let that stop you from dreaming,” Sarbani Chatterjee urges.

“I often say to people that if you stop dreaming, you are dead before death. If you dream, you will continue to inspire yourself to fulfill it someday. I believe artists are creators who have the power to dream and are passionate about their creations, which puts them next to God,” she affirms.

Message to the audience

“When you view a work of art, try to see the inner message given by the artist. Understand their feelings,” Vasumathi Vasudevan suggests to audiences.

“A word of appreciation will give encouragement to us – and buying is your choice. We artists are also ready to accept your views and comments, which will help us improve our work,” she adds.


“I feel the more you try and connect with the art, the more you will gain inner peace and spirituality,” Rosy Mishra adds.

“We would be blessed to have your precious time. Hopefully you don’t just pass by our artworks, but observe the expression behind it. Also, be generous in your appreciation and critique,” Jayshree Chhajjer adds.

“With the vaccinations in full-swing and life slowly coming back to normal, we artists are hoping that the cloud of uncertainty is lifted and the art market is back to its bustling ways,” Varun Rao adds.

He signs off: “Well, every sector is hoping for the same. Amen!”

Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and find new avenues for your creative core?

Lata Iyer

Rahul Dutta

BD Jagadish

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