The paintings chronicled the transformation of the artist from a corporate executive to a painter

Some people are born to be artists and know it. Some others, like Shifa Mahajan, are born to be artists too. But it takes them years or months spent in an office, wondering why that restless feeling won’t go away, only to realise that its source is a disregarded passion.

Shifa Mahajan began painting when she was in school She painted right through college and business school where it became an outlet for the familiar frustrations experienced by a woman in her Twenties. She points at a painting of a locked gate, symbolic of the restraints of hostel life. It was only after spending six months in the corporate world that she decided, egged on by colleagues and bosses, to put in her papers.

Collectively the paintings exhibited are illustrative of this transformation. The first seven paintings depict several turning points this journey. Unlike the others which were painted over the course of the last couple of months, these seven were painted on special occasions: moments from her childhood, hostel life and her entry to and exit from corporate life. The sixth of these is that of a bird breaking out of a cage in watercolour and charcoal. The bold black lines against a fiery yellow background are evocative of a sense of passion and control.

Like most artists, Shifa is mostly inspired by personal experiences. A Few frames are inspired by her travels through the country – she has captured scenes from the serene backwaters of Allepey to the crowded streets of Delhi. “Even after I travelled to these places I felt restless. My visits to temples and dargahs were an attempt to find peace,” she says as we approach paintings of the Golden temple and the Charminar, among others.

When it comes to painting, the management professional is but an amateur and wants to keep it that way. “I didn’t opt for formal training because I felt myself getting constrained by technique,” she says. “I keep myself informed by reading as many books as I could on the subject.” Most works are oil on canvas with a few water colours and charcoal pieces.

How does the former finance executive sustain herself in new profession? “Apart from my own work, I have gotten offers from cafes and decorators to paint on their walls and staircases. Between all these little jobs I make as much money as I did on my previous job. It helps me stay independent.”