City Express Bangalore, 2005
KOUSHAL CHOUDHARY’S ART PIECES REFLECTS THE VARIOUS FACETS OF INDIAN SPIRITUALITY
BY REEMA M. PRASHAR
KOUSHAL Choudhary could be mistaken for a dervish but for a modern attire. The art however, reflects the spirit within. A Civil engineer who five years back, gave up all trappings of the rat race to pursue his childhood passion is now sure that he has found his life’s calling in art. Self-taught and sensitive to the smell, texture and flow of thought and colour, he paints as much with his mind and spirit as with his hand.
The works, done mostly in acrylics and oils, rejoice in the riches of the Spiritual realm and conjure up a meditative state of mind where soul speaks and becomes one with God. The large canvasses depict, among other things, a ‘pitambar’ hued and ‘morpunkh’ strewn Krishna, a Ganesha cought in the swirl of light, sufi dancers in the spools of ecstasy, glorious twisters of colour and energy, the churning before moksha, the joy of Nirvana.
Choudhary attributes the spirituality in his art to ‘Sanskara’, that indefinable Indian gift given to their progeny by God loving parents. Sanskara, for the want of a better word, is a fine-tuned conscience or a set of values that sifts from wrong and helps the human mind to elevate itself from baser urges. Choudhary is aware that world is full of cruelty, greed and fanaticism but believes that each human being can communicate with a higher power just the way he does when he paints. “I feel very sad for politicians who try to divide people on the basis of religion. They themselves are so lost, how can they guide anyone?, he says.
The only real religion he believes is to value other human beings, not to hurt and to be sensitive. He cherishes the peace he get from his Himalayan trips where people are gentle and content with their own pace of life. “I love coming to Bangalore because there is little aggression here and people are nicer but still things are different from 1991 when I came here,” he says.
Choudhary visualizes the world sans violence and full of harmony. His art, he believes, is a small way of showing people that a higher consciousness is available to all.
India – Dances of the Soul
Text: Olga Slobodkina-von Bromssen
When I met the Indian artist Koushal Choudhry at his art exhibition at the Imperial Tailoring Company showroom, I was surprised by the similarities in our understanding of life.
“What I want to express is the human soul,” says Choudhry. “The energy and depth required to see God is my basic theme in art and in my view of spirituality. My paintings are not two-dimensional. You can see the depth. You concentrate your eye and it becomes a form of meditation.”
The display starts with two paintings called ‘Rebirth-I’ and ‘Rebirth –II.’ In ‘Rebirth-I’, energetic movement rises up and comes down to the bright white spot, which is new life. The blue color is a symbol of the universe or cosmic power, the white is the color of purity or the symbol of the Soul. In ‘Rebirth-II’, the soul achieves enlightenment in whirlwind movement, but consciously chooses to come down to partake of a new birth in the world to help, support and guide people on their path of humanity. The golden color represents divine souls.
“Since my childhood people have been talking to me about karma and other spiritual matters, but I did not feel they really understood what it was. In my paintings I want to express the depth of these notions.”
As Choudhry walks with me to look at his paintings, we come to one called ‘Why the Rebirth?’ The artist gives a simple answer. People come back to earth because of their attachments and emotional feelings, their unfulfilled desires or because they haven’t learned their life-lesson. Others come back because they have become teachers. The painting, ‘Why the Rebirth?’ is about the sign of infinity where the left part represents the earth while the right part is freedom, or a liberation of the soul. It is a single whole, but earthly attachments pull the soul back to earth while an enlightened soul can choose for itself.
Koushal Choudhry started painting at 11 years old. His mother was a painter, so all the painting materials were near at hand. He was the best artist at his school, and his ambition was to serve the nation. From that early age he felt he had something inside him from God. Since his father was in the military, Choudhry wanted to join the army as an engineer. He admired Leonardo da Vinci (who was also a military man and an engineer) and wanted to be like him. So his first degree was in civil engineering and architecture and in 1991 he graduated from Bangalore University with honors. Then his younger brother was in a serious accident and remained in a coma for four years. Choudhry re-taught his brother about the world by painting for him every day.
“I used to be very nervous and even angry,” says Choudhry. Those difficult times changed his character and strengthened his talent. His desire to become an artist ripened. He took one year of sculpture at the Indian Institute of Craft and Design in Jaipur, after which he started creating things out of papier-mache. He established a workshop of artists and developed a business selling the works of art all over the world. The income from this business eventually enabled him to paint full time, which he has been doing since 1999.
Choudhry’s spiritual art has taken the form of spherical whirling movements. The medium is acrylic paint on canvas. But what lies behind it is spiritual philosophy. The work ‘His Master’s Fight’, where one can see two brightly-colored roosters whirling in a circle bound to each other as if in a centrifuge, symbolizes politics, which involves not only the politicians themselves, but what it affects – a whole way of life.
At the exhibition there are paintings called ‘Ghoomer-III’ and ‘Ghoomer-IV’. Ghoomer is the name of a dance. These works are all about whirling, which is a dance form of meditation. “These dancers have energy. When they’re whirling they become almost invisible, like Gods. But one can feel their presence,” says Choudhry. Another painting along these lines is ‘Fire of the Stomach’. It shows a dervish dancing in the whirl of his own energy. Some paintings are purely representational, such as ‘Morning: Ganga Temple’. The work shows a hermit living in the Himalayas. The hermit Bharat was a human being, grandson of the hermit Rishi. His name was Kanva. That is where Maha Bharata, or the origin of India, began.
The highlight of the exhibition is ‘Shiva Nataraja’. The dancing Shiva symbolizes the eternal dance of the Universe – tandava. This form of Shiva is called Nataraja or Master of Dance (natadance, raj –master). In his graceful and beautiful movement he maintains the Universe with his never-ending dance. In his upper right hand, Shiva holds a two-sided drum or damaru. In his left hand, the fire Agni, symbol of purification and renewal of the world. His second right hand is bent at the elbow and its gesturing hand symbolizes approval. The second left hand signifies power and force and points to the conquered demon of ignorance. These gestures (mudras) are also called abhaya and dandhasta (fearlessness and hope) and indicate the possibility of leaving the circle of constant rebirth.
Since 1991 Choudhry has had eleven solo shows and participated in a dozen group exhibitions. He is the winner of many prestigious Indian awards such as Best Artist of the Month, Mumbai 2007 and Rajasthan Sate Merit Award, Jaipur, 2003. The artist’s latest solo show was exhibited with great success at the Russian Parliament in October of 2007.
City Express Chennai, 2006
– SHALINI SHAH
He left a career as an engineer to pursue art full-time. This, while carrying with him, “elements of the past. “Koushal Choudhary’s collection of paintings, titles ‘Ecstasy’, currently on display at Lalit Kala Akademi, is as much about the artist as the force that drives him.
Koushal’s art is not completely realistic, But neither it is totally abstract. “My art is obviously first for myself, But if you put it in a gallery, people should be able to understand it, “he explains.
This Delhi based artist has been painting professionally for the past six years now. A decade-long stint as an engineer preceded, “with all the work pressure and everything, I hardly had time for painting. It’s no good doing things 50-50 or half heartedly, so I gave up engineering to give art more time,” he says. Acrylic on canvas is his preferred medium. “With acrylic, I can paint at my desired pace,” he says.
Spirituality is the common thread that binds most of his works. So, while Moh talks about the power that leads to the rebirth. Soul is about the quest to attain the higher being. Chakra , he tells you, is not just about a weapon (as most believe), but about the beautiful circle of life.
The painter has also incorporated some designs from his previous vocation, seen in the electric poles, the buildings and the flyovers. “For those who pass by them everyday, they may mean nothing, But as a bridge engineer, I have seen the energy that exists there,” he says.
Though the outlines are blurred, the form is very much there. There are paintings of Lord Ganesha, Lord Hanuman, Goddess Saraswati and goddess Lakshmi, characterized mainly by subtle strokes and conspicuous by the absence of the regular ornamentation.
“It is good to express something in as few words as possible,” say Koushal. This sums up his art in general.
Ecstasy is on at Lalit Kala Akademi, Greams Road, Till August 7 from 11 am to 7 pm.
DECCAN CHRONICAL, HYDERABAD 2006
His Path To The Soul Is Spherical
HIS PAINTINGS SEEK TO EXPLORE AND REBUILD THE BRIDGE BETWEEN GOD AND MAN. FOR KOUSHAL CHOUDHARY, PAINTING IS MOKSHA.
Former soil engineer who became the artist of the soul, that’s Koushal Choudhary for you. He is currently showcasing his paintings on the theme “Soul” at the Chitrmayee State Arts, Hyderabad. This is his sixth solo painting exhibition. Koushal even has a special name for his style of art, “spherism.” The term exactly describes his work, because of the circularity of his brush strokes. Spheres and circles abound in his paintings and reflect his preoccupation with God, creation and the world.
So how did he make the switch from engineering to art? “Art is an inborn talent.” Koushal states emphatically. An admirer of Leonardo da Vinci since childhood, Koushal also acknowledges the influence of his mother, also a painter. He candidly admits that he has been an artist in the true sense of the term for just the past six years. During that time, his style evolved from “realistic to figurative to abstract.”
Speaking about how he chose the theme of “soul” for his current series, he says.”I have read a lot on the subject and I spend a lot of time travelling and meeting enlightened Sadhus.” An army kid, he had travelled all over the country, but says his formative years in Maharashtra, especially Pune, had a profound influence on him. A great believer in the concept of “energy.” Koushal’s paintings try to explore and rebuild the bridge between God and the man. For KOUSHAL, Painting is moksh. “Fantasy is the reason for rebirth,” he says on being asked about his painting titled “Fantasy.”
Circular brush strokes are evident in the virtually every piece. “I have dealt with contours as an engineer and this circularity of brush strokes is automatic for me,” says Koushal, who works only with acrylic paints because he is allergic to oil smells and because acrylics suit the nature and speed of his brush strokes.
On the lines of Raja Ravi Verma and Jamini Roy, Koushal also has two sides to his art. He paints for art’s sake and also paint for commercial purpose. Following the dictum “art for art’s sake.” he paints ten paintings a year. The commercial side of Koushal sees him producing “innumerable paintings”, mostly images of Ganesha, Laxmi & Saraswati. These images have no face because Koushal says,” How can you put a face to God?”
Koushal believes that art is an investment and goes as far as to equate art with land as a serious investment option today. Koushal’s paintings sell in the range of Rs 12000/- to 96,000/-. When asked about the threat of fakes proliferating the art market, Koushal says he is confident that his style cannot be imitated. “ I myself cannot produce an exact copy of any of my paintings.” He adds with a smile.
India: Dances of Soul
Director of Gallery on Tsvetnoy
Koushal Choudhary was born on 15Th January 1968 in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. In 1991 he graduated with honors from Bangalore University, Tumkur with qualification on civil engineering and architecture.
When he was 13 the acquaintance with legendary figure of Leonardo da Vinci determined his life decision to become an artist. The exhibition of Koushal Choudhary – the architect, the artist, sculptor, photographer and designer – took place almost in all major cities of India, and many times his work got awards.
The understanding of art by the artist is concordant with the concept of “Chandogya Upanishada” where it is said that any creation begins inside the heart – rich, inactive. All feelings are merged together there, and the boundaries between the inner and outer world are erased due to the blossoming at the feelings. Hence, due to this – the highest ability of the master to penetrate inside the core of things. He sees invisible things, he sees through the infinity of space and the life at its roots, his vision penetrates inside the essence.
World view, ideology and art of Koushal Choudhary reveal deeply national vision of the world. The contemporary artist presents tantric trend which is done for the first time in our country. Tantric trend is very important in Indian art. The meaning of “Tantra” itself ad verbum means “cohesion” and in metaphorical sense it means “secret, inmost knowledge”. Tantra is the method or path to achieve Enlightenment which helps person to attain the state of Buddha during one life. In its core lays the conception about identity of micro- and macrocosms, human-being and world creation, unity of two principles – male and female.
Deities in tantric system don’t exist as something superficial, external. These images are visually bright and serve only as symbolic tools. In fact, tantric art combines all the most important aspects of religious teachings into very capacious set of symbols. And correlation of the matter, space and energy is reflected in the form that artist feels and identifies as “spherism”.
“For me art is the form of meditation, and I’m very happy when a viewer when seeing my painting experiences the state of meditation” – says Koushal Choudhary.
Today the most favorite technique of the artist is painting in acrylic on canvas.
THE HINDU, HYDERABAD 2006
Meeting the maker now
– SERISH NANISETTI
Koushal Choudhary’s acrylics are a whirr of colours and pattern
Remember the schoolboy trick of putting an inked thread between pages in a pattern like 8 and pulling it out slowly to get whorled, shaded patterns and inked hands? Well, Koushal choudhary’s paintings evoke some elements of those simplistic patterns, but are more intricately executed in acrylic and with a much vaster palette. On display at the state art gallery of arts where 18 of Koushal’s works, and three of them have been lapped up within two days of the show’s opening.
To feel the magic of art, one has to stand at a distance and see the broad, long, confident strikes of the brush. At the entrance is the huge Rebirth –III (5ft x 4ft). Out of the darker background emerges the illuminescence. A few other paintings follow the pattern with greater darkness and lightemerging out with greater intricacy. Koushal calles the show Soul – the inner power. In Ecstasy -1, a riot of blur/white/yellow, a feminine face emerges out in the middle.
Koushal is a busy artist, So, snatches from a converstation, he is having on a cellphone. “ when did you start?”
“I started when I was 12. I didn’t go to a regular art school but dabbled in it as it was my passion. Now I am 38.”
“You are from Kolkata?”
“No, I am from Jaipur, Rajasthan.”
“What are your paintings about?”
“My paintings are about mystery. They also have a message : When we can have moksha in this birth itself why wait for a re-birth. My paintings are also about the urge to meet the ultimate power (thus explaining the titles if the paintings).”
The standout piece in the show is titled Murlidhar: A twist, twirl and whorl that has the pattern of peacock feathers with a flautist in the middle.
SOUL CALL : Koushal Choudhary strives for the ‘ultimate power.’