A look at Rajakumar Sthabathy’s ‘Emperors’

Artist Rajakumar Sthabathy is on a journey to depict and talk about ordinary people. His exhibition at Shrishti Art Gallery showcases men and women on the street, who find an expression with their eyes, smiles and sorrow. Rajkumar says he is inspired by the place where he grew up and loves its simplicity. He feels immense love and respect when he sees ordinary people for what they are, their struggles and the way they carry on with their daily lives. He calls them ‘Emperors’ and that’s why the title of the exhibition – ‘Portraits of Emperors.’

“They are real people and do not wear any make-up. They do not wear jeans or have French beard. Their dressing is simple and ordinary and is not put on. Even though they have less money, they lead happy and healthy lives. In future, these people would have perished without any trace,” he says.

The exhibition features portraits of people we see around us from diverse backgrounds and have different stories to narrate. There is a painting of a Tonga man standing with his horse. With a stick under his arm and wrinkles on his face, his everyday struggle is writ large on his face. Next is a painting of two women with shining nose pins and kumkum on their forehead. There are exhibits of people playing music in a baraat and a window view of a dilapidated house, amongst others. The artist calls his Kumbh mela experience as overwhelming and one can see the mela reflected in the portraits of Naga sadhus with their dreadlocks and ash smeared on their faces. Another portrait of a holy man with a namam catches your attention. “The Kumbh mela is a different world. I got to spend 10 days at the mela and I cherish every moment of it. The sadhus were like kings with their laptops and mobile phones,” he says.

Rajkumar loves to work in watercolours despite its fluid nature. “Watercolour is not an easy medium to work with as one cannot make corrections. Since we do not use white in watercolours, the white you see in the works is the background paper,” he explains.

Drop in at the exhibition before September 18.