Essence of Depth brings together the works of artist-guru Baijnath Saraf and his students, who extol a need for spirituality

Heritage and spirituality are the threads that connect the works of Baijnath Saraf, Ujvala Naik, Puja Suri, Priyanka Dutt, Sanjana Patel and Akrati Atrey collectively titled “Essence of Depth” at the Renaissance Gallery.

“All the works in this exhibition reflect depth, both metaphorically and visually,” explains HR professional-turned-artist Priyanka Dutt.

Priyanka Dutt, who has been training under artist Baijnath Saraf for over six months, has put up four pieces of work. Most of her works address the need for spirituality and the futility of indulging in sensual pleasures. In one such work, she paints a nude woman indulging in physical pleasures while in front of her unfolds a gateway into outer space. “The woman represents nature and how it always benefits the human being. On the other hand, I have depicted her sensual pleasures as base emotions that need to be dropped to attain higher spiritual growth,” she explains.

Baijnath Saraf is a Khandva-based artist (in Madhya Pradesh) who teaches young women to paint under his organisation Rangakirti, which he started in 1999. Baijnath studied art at Kala Evam Shilp Mahavidyalaya and has been experimenting with a variety of traditional mediums including watercolours, acrylic, ink and oils, on display at this exhibition.

His imagery is very obviously spiritual with its cosmos motifs in shades of dark blue and green and the reappearing meditating figure. His works in ink address the suffering that women face all their lives, beginning with parental pressures, then marital pressures, and finally, pressures from children.

He has also displayed his traditional Nimari lok kala, where he depicts forms from Indian mythology. “My paintings are all based on the Indian tradition and the spiritual knowledge that the ancient rishis propounded. I believe that the human mind needs to transcend its sensual nature, of indulging in the pleasures of the senses. These are fleeting, unlike the everlasting pleasures of yoga and meditation,” says Baijnath.

His influence is clear in the works of Ujvala Naik, Puja Suri, Priyanka Dutt, Sanjana Patel and Akrati Atrey, who are all his pupils. These artists also address various aspects of Indian heritage and almost always point towards a spiritual quest.

Ujwala's imagery is mainly rustic while Akrati focuses on the ephemeral nature of the human body. In one of her works, she paints, in blazing colours, five women proceeding towards “Holika Dahan”, usually performed on the eve of the Holi festival. “The five forms of the women represent the five elements of earth, fire, wind, water and space or ether, that creation is composed of. I have used fire as a representation of the inevitability of death, where man's body is consumed by fire,” explains Akrati.

Puja has displayed watercolour landscapes and works in oil, both on her thoughts on a woman playing the role of a mother and on mediation as a form of spirituality, initiated by the tradition of a “Guru”. Sanjana tries to depict the concept in the Vedanta philosophy of the “atma” as the soul of the individual realising its innate nature of “paramatma” or universal consciousness.

“Essence of Depth” will be on view at the Renaissance Gallerie, off Cunningham Road until February 4. Call 22202232.