Artist transformed after Rumtek visit

INSPIRED BY Zen Buddhism, Delhi-based painter and sculptor Satish Gupta went to the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim more than a decade ago. Just outside the monastery, he had a `transcendental' experience and could sense the pulsating universe flow through him. That incident transformed his life.

And while after that he started painting the complexities of life in ever greater detail , the colours of his palette changed from ethereal whites, silver greys, jades of the sea and sky to a warmer palette of the desert. "I started painting the Thar desert and its people," says Mr. Gupta. "Life has now come full circle and I have returned to that magical moment in Rumtek that transformed my life and works."

A veteran of one-man shows, he has always alternated between being a painter and a sculptor and a poet. While the group of five metal sculptures he created in 1998 inspired by five primal elements are displayed permanently at the Jindal Art Centre, a book on his desert series, "The Eyes of the Thar" was released recently. And such has been the influence of Zen in his life that he even wrote a book of Haiku poems, "The Broken Wave".

His present works - currently being exhibited in his studio, Zazen, at Gurgaon - are about the transformation of the self. "I have painted the physical self as the eagle representing power, greed, lust or the ego. His alter-ego, the spiritual self, appears as the monk. Illusion or Maya is the nymph - the ultimate sensuous beauty and a purity to be discovered by unravelling the web of life," explains the Delhi-based painter, who feels transformation does not happen in a linear fashion.

Elaborating, he reminisces on his life's journey and how through quirky paths, to where he is today. His initial battle to establish an identity balancing the material and spiritual aspects of life, the sudden chance discovery of a brain tumour when he was having a crush on a girl, now his wife, and the subsequent successful surgery and his mystic experience at Ramtek have all shaped his dream. "We live on many planes at the same time. Sometimes the physical instincts are elevated to a spiritual level and often the spiritual being descends to a baser life. Transformation is happening constantly from one to the other."

And though the painter believes in destiny, he also feels that man can make or mar himself by his actions. He recalls a young camel which strayed into his house some years ago when he was exhibiting his desert series, a coincidence that led him to name the animal, `kismat'. "I even took a lock of hair from her and made it a part of my brush," says the painter, whose latest exhibition goes to the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai after it gets over in Delhi on November 16.

By Kannan K