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Embodiment of art - Sharad and Suchitra Tarde

Updated: Apr 1

Sometime back, I had the opportunity to visit the studio of Artist Sharad Tarde and his wife, Artist Suchitra Tarde. I wanted to record my experience in words and publish an account of the same in Romartikaspeaks. But I never knew that putting it in words would not be easy.

Yes, it is not easy for me to describe the beauty of every inch of the studio. It is not easy for me to tell how the paintings and artworks on the wall merged seamlessly with the wooden chairs and tables as well as floors of the house. I can not describe how and why the man and woman of the house appeared to be another sublime stroke of paint by themselves!

I had planned to talk to them and write about their lives, their journey. But the ethereal atmosphere at his home, made me forget about what I came for. The conversation took off even before I sat down with a cup of coffee. The conversation got its own wings and led us into the mysterious world of art.

Now, let me tell you, why. It took some time for me to understand the reason.

Both are abstract expressionists. Their paintings and sculptures do not come with outlines of familiar objects and forms. Their strokes of paint or blocks of wood are timeless and formless without a beginning and without an end. The voices calling out of the paintings and sculptures take one to another world of intimate privacy where vernacular stands invalid; as if some universal language resounds all over.

But when I am writing this piece, I am at a loss, because the primordial language of Tardes' works is not English, neither Marathi nor Bengali. It is the silent voice of the eternal existence. The ultimate example of abstract expression.

In simple words, the entire studio was an artwork. The chairs, tables, paintings of course, the door of the kitchen, were the creations of the artists.

On asking about their career, Artist Sharad Tarde said vey little. Suchitra was a professional artist right from the beginning of her career but Sharad began his journey as a photographer. They exhibited together right from beginning. I wanted to know finer details of their connection but the artist did not seem to be a man of mundane details involving specifics. A true abstract expressionist.

To explain the spirit of his creations, he spoke about the award winning photograph taken by him many years ago. It was the photograph of a little girl going to school daily in the morning. He noticed her one day and befriended her. He spent days on end chatting with the little girl. After knowing her well and feeling for her plights, Sharad captured her within his lens one day. Because, he said that the spirit must be pulsating in the photo, not just the likeness of the face. Face could be deceptive anyway.

It is just eight years ago, in 2015, that Sharad decided to move to painting and sculpting in totality, leaving photographs behind. And since then there was no looking back. Realism was not his interest ever. In fact, the sculptures he made were also not of any conventional form.

In connection with one of his paintings on the wall, I took the privilege of asking for its meaning. He told me a story in connection with the painting. Some art critique from the west, had mulled over the painting for many days and then said that the image represented the vision of someone seated behind an opaque glass wall in some stifling corporate chamber. The man in the chamber is trapped. He craves to see the world beyond the glass but can not. As if the life of prosperity and comfort built a set of opaque walls of suffocating confinement around the man.

Saying this, the artist began to laugh. 'You see, I never thought of anything like that when I painted that image. But this is what one of the viewers felt. Similarly, someone else would feel something else while looking at that painting of mine. This is the beauty of abstract expression. Had I, let us say, painted it in a realistic manner, I would be painting a man in formal attire seated sadly looking at an opaque wall of glass. But then, there would not be any other possibility. Everybody looking at it, would feel exactly the same. There could not be any other explanation or vision. An abstract expression comes with a million possibilities like a blank canvas.'

I have been into the history of art for almost a decade now. Nobody explained it this way.

Later as we spoke about the art market, he shared his recent experience with some art buyer. Someone was decorating his upscale office elaborately. The interior decorator came to Artist Sharad Tarde for painting. At hefty prices, they collected several artworks from his studio. He got the payment right away. But after sometime, there was a telephone call from the final buyer.

'My friends and relatives are saying that the paintings are no good. My office does not look nice with them on the walls.'

The artist never paid much concern to the commercials and critics of lame taste. He replied, 'No problem. Return them to me.'

'How about the money?' Said the distraught buyer.

The artist said, 'At the moment, the money is spent anyway. But I shall pay back in a while. Not an issue.'

I mentioned the dialogue verbatim for a reason. The calmness and matter-of-factly manner in which he narrated the exchange to me is amazing. The money seemed not a big concern. The disliking of his works by someone did not matter. He was clearly beyond such trivial matters. Art was beyond such small things. Such issues took care of themselves.

However, after about a week or so, the same buyer called him again. But this time he was ecstatic!

'Your paintings are just amazing!'

The artist replied, 'Is it? But how they turned good from bad in one week?'

'Actually, a group of European business partners visited my office and they were mesmerized with your paintings! I am not giving them back. Thanks a million for painting them. You are a great artist.'

'Ah...ok.' Replied the artist.

Perhaps this equanimity is a part and parcel of any high achiever in any field of life. Those, who discover a new land, do so by enjoying the journey, not by chasing for a missing address. Nobody can hunt for what is unknown.

When I was leaving, I was curious about something. I felt so much at ease in his studio, that I never looked out the window. I like open views from tall heights. I love to spend a couple of days at an apartment I managed to have across the Mumbai-Pune expressway. When I am tired of the walls of the building thrusting upon my chest from across the road in the city, I run for life and end up at that little apartment. I stand on the small balcony and gaze at the mountains faraway. I feel good that the world is much bigger than I think. There is so much space to make me disappear.

But when, before leaving, I looked out the window, I saw no great height. But a bushy bunch of leaves crowding around the window. At first, I missed the open view but right then there was chirping of a dozen birds. The birds seem to gather next to their window all the time. Perhaps they identify themselves with the artists in the studio.

I felt, like a muse opens the window of the artist's confinement, the birds opened not only the window but the entire wall of the studio to the universe. After all, Sharad Tarde and Suchitra Tarde do not paint but they are painting themselves.

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