Tête-à-Tête: Parag Borse
The Wise Owl has a friendly chat with Indian artist Parag Borse whose paintings in vibrant pastels, oils and acrylics bring alive the rural Marathi ethos with great panache. A graduate from the prestigious JJ School of Arts Mumbai, Parag Borse has exhibited his wide repertoire of paintings in National as well as international exhibitions and also participated in art camps across the world.
Parag Borse was awarded the Ruth Richeson prize in portrait category by Pastel Journal (USA) in 2013. He was awarded by the International Artist Magazine for his works ‘Wrinkles and the Rooster’ (2011) and ‘Reflection in Ripples’ (2012). He was selected among 99 best watercolour artists in the World by ‘Splash 15’ Watercolour Magazine USA. He has also received several National awards in recognition of his work as an artist.
Thank you, Parag, for speaking to The Wise Owl.
Q. Our readers and viewers would like to know what prompted you to become an artist. When did you start on your artistic journey? Were there any mentors who encouraged your interest in Art?
A. I think becoming an artist is a continuous process. There is no turning point where you can say that we have become an artist. Living the life as an artist is also a continuous process. I think when we become capable of enjoying every moment of our life, that’s when we become an artist in the true sense of the word. Often, we are not very aware of each and every moment or process that is happening in our life. That's when we are not living the life of an artist but a commoner. It's only when we are fully aware of our thoughts and are sensitive that we start to enjoy even trivial activities of our daily life and that is when we transform into an artist.
I can't tell you exactly when I started my artistic journey. I guess I started at a very early age, watching my elder brother drawing pictures and my father creating little pieces of artworks from paper or cotton. Perhaps those were my first inspirations. And yes, I received guidance from many people that came into my life. My teachers, my parents especially my art teacher Mr G Dandekar from Sir JJ School of Arts, a senior artist and my friend Mr Rishi Sahani. I must mention veteran artist Late Mr Ravi Paranjape who was my creative mentor and whose demise is a personal loss for me.
Q. Your beautiful and life-like paintings are predominantly about the rural Marathi ethos. What attracted you to this aspect of life?
A. I never consciously tried to have exclusively Marathi subjects for my paintings. You find my paintings close to Maharashtra because I was born and brought up here. I have always seen these rivers, mountains and jungles, my surroundings, the climate and what I have experienced naturally come to be expressed in my artworks. The people, the nature, all these things are so enriching that it becomes impossible for me not to paint it. I experience a sense of joy and freedom when I finally put the beauty, liveliness and enchantment of the world full of life around me, on my canvas.
Q. Your works include watercolours, oils, acrylics and pastels. Your oil paintings like Pasture Hunt-19, Ripples of Joy, Pastoral Hues are so life-like. Yours pastels like Pastoral Beats and Winged Senility are also very realistic. What techniques do you use to make your paintings so real and uncannily life-like?
A. I think the liveliness in my paintings is not because of certain techniques. On the contrary, I believe it's because of the deep perception which has come to me by looking at everything with childlike innocence. The perception leads to language, skills or techniques. How I wish art-education would focus not on techniques, but on our perception of the world around us.
Q. You mostly do portraits. What attracted you to this genre of painting?
A. Well, people love to classify artworks as landscape, portrait, abstract, etc. As an artist I believe these are not different but the same. When we demarcate them into categories or genres, we unknowingly build boundary walls for ourselves.
An artist plays with colours, patterns and shapes, known or unknown. He sees just that. A landscape is no different from a portrait or an abstract. As an artist I look at a subject as an abstract feeling and put it into my work. For me each and every artwork is basically an abstract. I believe it's easy to portray known figures as known things but it's really tough to portray known shapes as unknown. It's like meeting your closest friend as if you are meeting him for the first time. We must ditch our prejudices and perceive every shape and colour as a new experience. I experience this soul-searching feeling while portraying every subject. This is perhaps the reason why I enjoy creating portraits more.
Q. For the benefit of the readers please tell us a little about the creative process that goes into your paintings, from the time you conceive an idea to the finished painting.
A It’s really a good question. Before responding to it I would like to dwell on the word ‘creative’. For me the very word creative means the absence of the doer. I have learned and observed this in nature. Why is Nature so beautiful, so full of spontaneity and liveliness and why man-made things are so ugly? Why is it that man cannot create anything comparable to Nature’s beauty? The reason is that in Nature there is no doer. For me, thought is the doer, and it is this that makes an activity creative and beautiful. So, I always go with
the flow, with sensitivity but without any plan and my paintings come into existence. I enjoy every single stroke, every breath, every action in that process. In doing so I forget everything. I even forget myself.
Q. You have said somewhere that ‘when I make a painting, I am transformed into a mirror.’ Could you throw some light on this philosophical statement?
A. The statement is based on real life experience. When I say, I transform into a mirror while painting, I mean
that like the mirror I reflect everything without any indulgence of my mind. Mirror doesn’t have any prejudices, any past, any knowledge. Mirror is a symbol of a pure consciousness and nothing else. If we really want to see the truth, then we have to transform our consciousness. Our consciousness, which is made up of past-future, prejudices, previous knowledge, thoughts, has to go. Only then there will be a revelation. Then one can understand what is a mirror like consciousness.
Q. What are your future long-term plans as an artist or your goal as an artist?
A.I am a person who loves to live in the moment, that’s why I am unable to have any kind of futuristic plans or goals. On the contrary we can say that having no goal and living the life moment to moment is my real goal.
Q. Are you currently working on a project or an exhibition? Please tell us a little about it.
A. Yes, my upcoming solo show will be at Jehangir Gallery, Mumbai from 14 February 2023. There will be 25 paintings of oil, soft pastels and charcoals. In August 2022, I am going to conduct a portrait painting workshop in Singapore.
Q. Do you have any favourites among traditional as well as contemporary artists? Tell us what you like about them the most.
A. Ah, this is a real tough question for me because I have so many favourite artists. Some are traditional artists, some are contemporary, it's really difficult for me to name just one or two because there are so many whom I really appreciate. Still if I decide to name a few - senior artist Late. Mr Ravi Paranjape from whom I have learnt a lot about compositions and colours, especially the importance of space. Traditional artists like Walter Langhammer, contemporary artists such as Prabhakar Kolte, have taught me how to create spontaneity and liveliness in my artworks The gradual flow and delicacy in Vasudev Gaitonde's work has also influenced me.
Q. What would your advice be to young upcoming artists on how to hone their craft?
A. This is again I think a very important question. For in today's world, all the art schools and colleges, even most of the artists are focusing mainly on the skill of an artist and are trying their best to improve skills through various techniques. Yes, it has a certain degree of importance but I will advocate that art-education should focus on human perception. I think an artist needs to be in a state of innocence or ‘unknowingness’ so that he may perceive the subject anew without any prejudice. I believe this approach will help the young artists express more than their learnt skills. I think every artist should develop his own style by melding his perception, his techniques and his own journey of happiness through creating art. If we try to imitate books or other artists, it will be doing injustice to the artist in ourselves. As far as learning techniques is concerned, you can even learn them online nowadays through social media platforms or different websites. So learning techniques has become very easy nowadays but that's not enough for becoming an artist. One can be an artist only through everyday practice and by expressing freely and with a childlike innocence.
Thank you so much, Parag, for talking to The Wise Owl. We wish you the best in your artistic pursuits and hope that you continue to paint your beautiful and colourful portraits that bring the rural Marathi ethos to Galleries and drawing rooms.