One Life, Not Enough


One life, not enough

I am a painter, wanting to become an artist.

I never like to give an elaboration, explanation or description of my works. Ever. When somebody asks me, “What’s the thought behind your paintings?” I turn it around and show them the back of the frame!

Originally, I am from Baripada, Mayurbhanj, a culturally-rich district of Odisha. At 17, I went to Bombay. From fish and rice at home to fish and chips at the Wayside Inn. I even developed a taste for coffee at Bombelli’s. After studying at Sir JJ School of Art under Prof. SB Palsikar and spending ten years in the city, I came to Delhi. From the east to the west and now in the north, for almost 55 years.

I draw with conté, and paint with watercolour, ink and oil. I dislike acrylic but sometimes I paint with it for vengeance. Drawing and painting are great fun. The day and life, both become meaningful. There is an intimacy, a purity. When the work finishes, it doesn’t need the artist anymore. Even I become a viewer. Some works stand tall on their own merit and strength. Some fall in my eyes, and they go into the bin.

For the first time in 60 years, I am viewing so many of my works together as an outsider. And I realise that my earlier works were more abstract. Over the years they have become more detailed. Also, in the 1970s and ‘80s, I did very large works and my figures had a lot more movement. More recently, the works have become smaller, and the figures are charged from within, looking more still.

I like playing with different mediums. I have done sculptures, murals, ceramics, terracotta platters and small figurines. I respect every medium. And each can be rewarding or limiting, depending on how you handle it. Painting is also drawing. Drawing is also sculpting. It is a matter of creating negative and positive spaces. The ecstasy and the poetry of a line transcend tone and colour. When I have an idea and I can see a larger picture emerging around it, I dive into it. Knowing well that it may not get completed in my lifetime, yet I pursue my instinct, my passion, my concern.

2024 ---

Jatin Das

When I look at an empty canvas, a bare paper, I feel I am starting to paint for the first time. Then the journey begins. It is great fun, but preparing for an exhibition is boring and exhausting. You have to take out the works, photograph, mount, frame, and document them. Being an artist you have to hold shows and sell your work, simply to live. That’s the dichotomy – I live on the sale of my paintings, but I do not paint to sell.

What you see in this book is only the tip of the iceberg. I am 83 and have been working for more than 60 years. Enough sweat and blood has flowed under the bridge. Yet there are many things that I want to do that I haven’t. How time has escaped from my hands! To be an artist, you need two or three lives. One life is not enough.