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Friday Review » Art

Updated: June 16, 2010 18:39 IST

Small is well

Shailaja Tripathi
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Artist Amitesh Verma at Shangi-La's Eros in New Delhi. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
The Hindu Artist Amitesh Verma at Shangi-La's Eros in New Delhi. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Food is just incidental to artist Amitesh Verma and what better proof would one need than the artist himself declaring, "I eat, drink and sleep art."

Food is just incidental to artist Amitesh Verma and what better proof would one need than the artist himself declaring, “I eat, drink and sleep art.” A lunch appointment even at a restaurant like 19 Oriental Avenue in Shangri-La's-Eros Hotel — a unique space divided into four sections offering delectable Thai, Japanese and Chinese dishes doesn't really inspire him to eat and that too when he has not had his breakfast. Like always, Amitesh has slept through the morning. “I paint during the night as that's the only time I get complete peace and go to bed in the morning,” reveals the artist. Simple, vegetarian food at lunch and dinner isn't quite relished either and had more like a duty.

It seems all his passions are reserved for his racehorses, rendered intricately in charcoal, that Verma is so famous for. “No, I have very little appetite. I can have food but in smaller portions. I don't have ghee and I never buy butter. And my dinner has to be light since I have to work after that,” he says appreciating the wok fried mixed vegetables with chilli onion, a Chinese starter served to him. His small meals remind one of his works on small formats which have managed to cast an indelible impression on many.

A unique oeuvre

Anyways, more exciting than the palate is Verma's palette. Surprisingly, the power stallions, his name had become synonymous with, have galloped out of his canvases and in the latest show ‘Crossing Over' — a joint exhibition with American artist friend Andrew Connelly — it's faces of the people, he encountered in France. The 25 works in charcoal, oil and mixed-media, mounted at Shridharani Art Gallery in Triveni Kala Sangam, were executed during a residency at Marnay-Sur-Seine in France held last year.

“While my faces tell the story of my experience in France, Andrew's sculptural installations have stemmed out of his stay in Delhi during an art residency and that's what links our works together. As for the horses, I have outgrown them and don't feel like painting them anymore,” explains the graduate from College of Art, Delhi, who for years visited the Race Course to study the equine anatomy in great detail.

“They are not academic portraits, you can call them compositions. They are replete with feelings based on my memories and observations. Chatting with somebody, I noticed how the light fell on the particular face and how the features changed during a conversation and I painted that,” adds Verma gushing about the omnipresent aroma of art in the atmosphere there. For instance ‘My Crush' portrays the face of a blonde girl, Verma bonded so well with, testifies to his mastery over drawing whereas ‘Awakening' shows another French woman, whom he met at a railway station. “We talked, debated and discussed art. Actually that's why one goes to residencies,” Verma expresses. But what about the food in such places given the restrictions of his palate, we ask him as he has hot and sour vegetable soup. “You know an elderly French caretaker there had started treating me like her son and knowing that I can't eat the non-vegetarian stuff, she would buy lentils and Basmati rice from the market and cook for me,” Verma quips.

The main course of fried rice with mixed vegetables served with stir-fried mixed vegetables and mushroom and garlic and stir-fried potato dice with dry chilli and peanut is a delight as it has everything from mushroom to green vegetables that Verma is so fond of. “I like Moroccan food too as it uses so many vegetables with herbs and spices. And recently enough I overcame my dislike for pasta and I can have it anytime. I know it has lots of cheese but again I have it in really less quantity and I work out whenever I have it,” says Verma, refusing to have dessert.


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