Artist Rajiv Puri on painting the varied shades of nature

On a breezy February evening, as the winter waned slowly, one walked into the Visual Arts Gallery at India Habitat Centre to find the rest of the seasons lining the walls in quiet, resplendent harmony. Rajiv Puri’s solo exhibition titled ‘Seasons’, held recently in the Capital, sought to represent, quite literally, the seasonal cycle. Walking past each work — all of them oils on canvas — the colours and hues did most of the talking.

“It is the hues that define the seasons in art and nature. Autumn, for instance, is all yellows, oranges and reds,” says the artist. His love for travelling, his love for nature and his love for painting seem to have blended seamlessly in all his works, as he describes elements of all three going into each composition. “I travel a lot and what I paint is an amalgamation of many images that my mind has retained, plus what I have imaginatively added to them. The hues I’ve taken for autumn are from my memories of travelling by road to Montreal. The colours are from there and the trees are my addition,” he explains.

The long, straight trees, in fact, recur in many of his works. “I love making high, straight trees, for some reason. You’ll see that I keep making them everywhere,” he laughs, and says that for him the best thing about his art is that it is born out of a complete sense of freedom. “I’m not a professional painter and my art is very private to me. It is for joy alone. There are no restrictions on me and no market I must cater to...I should like what I make, that’s really what’s important.”

It follows, then, that he doesn’t at all enjoy painting realistic landscapes, as against the impressionistic works on display at the exhibition. “Realistic landscapes restrict me. My strokes need to go anywhere, in any direction, and that’s what I love. I need total freedom for my strokes and my imagination when I paint,” asserts the artist who uses only a palette knife and no paintbrushes for his works.

Ask him if he has ever fancied painting portraits and he surprises one by saying that he does make nudes, but having noticed an aversion to the very concept of nudity in India, chooses to paint them, let them dry and put them away. “They can’t even be hung on the walls at home because of the maid servants! So they are simply stacked away once finished,” he rues.