HEMRAJ: THE ABSTRACT CONTEMPORARY PAINTER
Whenever contemporary Indian art is mentioned, Hemrajs name automatically comes up. In Delhis art world, he is a familiar face. But even when famous Indian painters are mentioned, Hemraj sits close to modern masters of Abstractionism. Working mostly in oil, Hemraj has produced a remarkable body of oil painting over the years. Top Indian art galleries have been dealing in his works both in Delhi as well as Mumbai. Their well tested assessment is that he is one of the most saleable Indian painters in abstract vein. Personally, one of the most humble benign an unassuming person, ready to communicate and reciprocate. There are few fine artists who would match him. He is a class to artist like Atul Dodiya, Subodh Gupta & the veteran master of line, M.F. Hussain. Contribution of this fine artist to the contemporary art of the abstract genera is both substantial and significant.
Art Critic & Poet
This Painter Captures Spirit of Nature In Oils
If he had not been a painter, 33 year-old Hem Raj would have probably found his calling in being an environmentalist. The Delhi College of Art product swears by his pakki dosti with oils. That is why flora and fauna find an important place in my work. Even the stone lying on the road is connected to us in some way. No wonder, he calls his current exhibition, on view at the Delhi Art Gallery till December 7, An Ozone for Spirit.
But then, all his shows in the past too (his first art outing, Metamorphosis was held at Lalit Kala Akademi in 91) have had exotic titles. I take the help of my teachers and seniors for such things, says Hem Raj, who won the National Award in 2000. But if there is one person he credits for motivating him, it is his father. He understood my innate talent for art and persuaded me to take the exams for the art college.
Though Hem Raj remembers his first year in college as very unsatisfactory, he went on to win the award for best student for both BFA and MFA courses. Do awards mean a lot to his? such recognition does make one confident but I do not strive to get them, says Hem Raj, who has earlier shown at the Dhoomimal Art Gallery and Alliance Francaise. He counts V Gaitonde and K. S. Kulkarni among those those who have inspired him. I am fascinated by the freedom in their work. Only now this control over medium has begun to creep into my work.
Saturday, 1 December 2001
Celebrating the divine, proclaiming rebellion
The first thing you notice about Hem Rajs paintings titled Metamorphosing. To Devotion is their sheersize. Added to the mammoth look, the paintings are mounted on some exquisite hand-crafted (by the artist himself) wooden frames interspersed with rusty iron and brass patches and chains as are found on some ancient doors. The frame is the gateway to the sanctum sanctorum of the divine, he says.
Currently showing at the Shridharani Gallery at Triveni Kala Sangam, the entire range of oils on canvas reminds one of tribal art from Madhya Pradesh. There are massive forms of animals and birds, flowers and tree. The texture is rough great blobs of paint left to dry within the shapes, signifying the pores of the skin, represented by the outline of powerful forms of animals like elephants because God is powerful and immense too.
The paintings are devotional, like the bhakti ras found in poetry and music. The style is reminiscent of Sufism, the same abandon and gaiety in reference to the divine who is both the lover and the teacher, the giver and the keeper. Simplicity abounds, again in keeping with the Sufi tradition and tribal art which the within himself.
Colours are kept to the bare minimum, subdued shades monochromatic colours where different shades of the same colour have been used to the maximum effort. No stark colours for Hem Raj, which is where he perhaps differs from the tribal artists who have a penchant for using bright shades. Indigo blues, olive greens, dusty pinks, murky browns, rusty oranges, pale yellows Hem Raj is indeed different from them.
Like Sufism, again Hem Raj is concerned only with singing praises of the divine. Unlike a few of his contemporaries who are keen to project contemporary life, the artist has restricted himself to religious themes because according to him this is perhaps the best way to try and be with god while living in a society which is full of false pride, faithlessness and strife.
Hem Raj believes an artist is like a flute it doesnt pipe of its own. The player is the one who creates the magic of music. Likewise, the comes to naught, he simply becomes a medium. I am as animate or inanimate as my canvas, brush or colours are. The forms and shapes start talking place the moment I pick up a brush, the painting begins from within me and towards the climax I find myself loosing my own individuality and mingling with the beauty that has flown out of me. That is the ultimate bliss for me. I feel as if Ive successfully managed to give birth to these forms and in return they are grateful to me for bringing them alive, the art and the artist then become one and the same!
The flute remains a mute witness to the ongoing phenomenon of the divine, it lets HIM play as per HIS whim and fancy. The artist, then, is the mute witness-cum-medium of the magic that unfolds before his eyes. The paintings are no longer that of the artist but are the footprints, symbols, and the reflection of the Magnificent who sometimes appears in the form of a beautiful animal or a bird, or even in the vegetation and the sky. He is the scriptwriter as also the actor, the director and the producer. He is the form, the shape, the colour, the texture and the shine of my art. And he loves me through all these shapes and sizes, proclaims the Sufi-artist.
Born on June, 1968, Hem Raj one of the most promising contemporary young artists was initiated into the art by his father who persuaded him into joining the College of Art. But college was limited only to the point where a mother initiates a child into learning to communicate. How he does it and how well depends entirely on the child. For this artist too the art college taught him the basics of creativity, but he preferred to develop his own style instead of limiting himself to a particular genre.
Awards, solo exhibition group shows and workshops have all been cramped into the short span of about four years on his way to being recognized as are artist with a difference. His collection of paintings could be viewed at Lalit Kala Akademi, College of art, Sathiya Kala Parishad besides several private collections in India and abroad the Germans being the most ardent admirers of Hem Raj.
But at a glance, the paintings also seem to be proclaiming rebellion against the present. And at time some of them resemble graffiti on the wall.
The Indian Express
New Delhi Tuesday August 20 1996
Metamorphosis of Hem Rajs imagery through oil on canvas
His canvases are huge, and overpower the white stark gallery walls. Their theme, Metamorphosis dominates them in their entirety. The painter, exhibiting in Bombay for the first time ever, has concentrated more on imagery than form, but form has not been ignored altogether.
Hem Raj, a 26 year old MFA Delhi University post graduate, has to his credit the Lalit Kala Research Grant in painting for 1993-94. this is his third solo exhibition.
He preferred medium is oil, and he uses colour as an orchestral medium to depict certain evolution of thought.
Bhakti or devotion is very important to me. I start with the basic premise of questioning ones existence in the scheme of things in this universe. And form this quest I reached the conclusion that everything begins and ends with devotion or love or faith or belief. Call it what you may.
He has tried to represent devotion through the use of tribal symbols, cave paintings, the male female symbols, cave paintings, inverted hearts, passage like tonal progressions of symbols.
Representations of icons and idols mutate into blurrings of colour and shadow, there is a procession of the microscopic algae like forms and the amoebic squatness of free floating shapes co-exist in a time space warp, an expanding cosmos.
There are no limitations in my work, there are never any boundaries, nor any land or sea or sky to be seen. The would confine my forms to a finite zone. What I seek to represent is infinity.
Tantric symbolism is a major part of the symbolism inherent in his work.
Intertwined forms, apex joint triangles, handcuff shapes, layering of colour under knifed out forms, all point to a rootendness in the archaeological heritage of the country.
The patterns shown his work evolve from canvas to canvas, the Metamorphosis is subtle yet discernable, the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth is implicit in the movement of the symbols.
Stylized forms and symbols point back to the Darwinian theory of the evolution of the species.
The one celled protozoans and the primitive species of geomorphic evolution are indicative of the origins of man, and the inheritance from the nebulous interstellar gas clouds.
I believe a lot in mankind as a species, and it is imperative of us to understand that we have not been created from a vacuum, there is divine force which has created us and which moves us.
This dependence on a supernatural force, and this infinity, which buffets and cradles the forms of life is sought to be represented by light rays which sweep the canvases.
His work draws heavily on the influence of J. Swaminathan, and he readily admits it. Basically, my works try to show the interaction between various forms of nature, whether man or animal or plant.
This premise is inherent in tribal art, which is animistic in its orientation.
The space in the canvas is realiged with a deft handling which belies the apparent naivety of the lines.
As his paintings evolve, one notice a definite evolution of style simultaneous with the theme.
The Asian Age
20 May 1994
Hem Rajs paintings, which he exhibited in Delhi recently, are like discovering history. That he makes history in the process for one so young is only incidental. In thick oils, he buries symbols for you to pick up like fossils from another age.
He is very definitely influenced by cave paintings. In his paintings, he has created an ambience of primitive history. His paintings create a dialogue with each other. His treatment of colour has a maturity unexpected in so young an artist. He is a painter who goes beyond his time into the future with symbols of past making the present worth living.
Passion for the past
July 8, 1994
Artist: Hem Raj Exhibition at Alliance Francaise
A product of the Delhi of Art, Hem Raj has come a long way since he first started out. His present exhibition consists of multimedia works using mostly pastels and charcoal.
The symbolism relies equally on colours, bold strokes and geometric figures. They blend together perfectly to form a structured whole. Most of Hem Rajs works are inspired by cave paintings and folk motifs. He seeks to find a language for the changing faces of nature through colour and line. Hem Raj is guided by hypothetical ideas which are governed by their own logic and formulate their own meaning. He intuitively weaves one concept into another turning them into one ...