Shampa Sircar and Sanjay Das's recent exhibition in New Delhi focussed on meditation.

Some artists often work according to the ‘direction' of the prevailing c For instance, a few years ago when the ‘prices' of the abstract works, especially in oil on canvas, suddenly shot up in Delhi due to the sale of Raza's ‘Bindu' for a awesome US $1.4 million in an auction, a few artists suddenly started swearing by abstract, and made money too.

It was followed by ‘subjects' like Buddha, urban complexities, etc. But repetitiveness and the recession hampered the flow of such art works and those genuinely motivated by such themes heaved a sigh of relief. They weren't big names but when they showcased their works, they surprised genuine art admirers.

Young Shampa Sircar and Sanjay Das are among them. The duo showed their works together at New Delhi's Shridharani Art Gallery recently. Though the theme of their works ‘Dhyan' or meditation remained the same, the medium differed. While Shampa works on oil, acrylic and photographic prints on canvas, Sanjay Das's forte is art photography. Both travelled together to Leh and Ladakh and brought back images of meditation.

“A play of memory”

Shampa's works, “a play of memory” as she defines them, have symbols inspired by Buddhist culture such as lotus, fish, conch, bell, tiger, white elephant and Tankari and Tibetan text. They remain stoically placed at one corner of her canvas while a face in deep meditation dominates. With touches of gold on bright hues, her canvas emits a simmering effect.

Says the artist, “I have lived in Ladakh for five years and worked on the concept of ‘Zen'. I visited gompas and found that ‘spirituality' is not forced on them but it is a part of their life. Despite limited source of income, transport and problems of harsh weather, they remain stoic. The awesome bounty of nature that God has granted them, makes them so.” And that explains the vivid use of gold that reflects purity in her works.

While Sanjay Das' photographs show the elements of meditation picked from parts of Ladakh, Assam, Varanasi and Vrindavan. Diyas, scriptures, dholak, bells, water and flowers tell unusual stories of prayers in them. Be it the singing young men with dholak during Bihu in Assam, evening aarti at Yamuna in Vrindavan, devotees taking a holy dip in Ganges in Varanasi or musical chimes in fairs and festivals like Kumbh, Sanjay highlights them with the fondness of a devotee.

For instance, one of his photographs taken at a Varanasi ghat, shows people busy in prayers as a few diyas are kept lit and a big one emitting a fire heading skyward. This image rests against a calm river hosting a colourful, well-decorated boat. Some flower petals falling in the river connect these elements of prayer — fire, flower and water — together. Yet another picture shot aerially has a devotee's reflection in the water that on close scrutiny looks like an abstract painting!

Says Sanjay, a wildlife and travel photographer for 18 years, “I clicked those pictures over a period of time and found that each element of worship or spirituality has several stories attached to it. For example, diyas in Vrindavan are painted with sandalwood each time before the prayers as they turn black during the prayers. And only a particular group of people paint them.”