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Joel's journey into the world of art

Joel Gill, an expressionist artist, has been associated with art all his life. But it is only in the last few years he has found his language of expression and is gaining recognition quickly for the depth and vividity of his subjects.

A 13-year-old boy, playing truant from school, peeped into a room filled with paintings. A kindly lady, seeing the boy, beckoned him and provided him with papers and colours. “Would you like to draw?” she asked. The boy nodded and eagerly sat down, lost in the world of colours and imagination. There was no looking back after this for this boy. Fate had brought him to his destiny, National Bal Bhavan in Delhi, with which he would be associated for several decades in various capacities.

When he was just 8 years old, one of his schoolteachers, impressed with his talent in drawing, had recommended that he be sent for a competition. Though he lived not far from the venue in Old Delhi, his family had neither heard of this place, nor did they take art seriously. The boy was good at studies and they wanted him to pursue education seriously so that he could make a future for himself.

Joel Gill did study well, but he was able to pursue art in parallel thanks to the kindly lady, Saavitri Shrivastava, at Bal Bhavan. He was there every day, learning and trying out different styles. Impressed with his skills, he was asked to join Bal Bhavan as a teacher and soon, through the institution, he also started doing illustrations for publications.

One of his friends introduced him to the world of comics and soon, Gill also started doing comic illustrations. “What people liked about my work was my thought process. People came back to me repeatedly because I was able to understand their needs and deliver what they wanted on time,” he explains. This diligence enabled him to learn the nuances of publishing too and soon, he was heading the publishing division at Bal Bhavan.

Yes, life seemed good. He was also winning prizes in art competitions and displayed his works at exhibitions. But strangely, his fellow artists did not take him seriously. He may have been good at illustrations and great at drawings, but he was not an ‘artist’.

This made Gill pause and wonder what he was missing. He was drawing, but he was drawing what others wanted of him. Where was he, his individuality, his creativity in all this?

As a commercial artist, he had a nest egg, a roof over his head, a family and a comfortable life. But slowly, he felt a craving for art. He had attended courses over the years to upskill himself in the various forms of art. He took retirement a few years ago and now, he spends time in his studio giving expression to his thoughts and feelings. He is greatly affected by current events and his works capture the impact they have on people. For instance, one of his recent paintings ‘I Can’t Breathe’ was inspired by the unfair killing of George Floyd, a black in America.

Influenced by artists such as MF Hussain, Gill’s paintings belong to Expressionism genre. Though he has always been involved with art, he feels he has finally arrived home. In this journey, he is grateful to the renowned artist and art critic Ashok Bhowmick for his guidance. He aspires to go deeper and deeper into the art so that he can express himself better and better, using his brush strokes to narrate universal stories of human life and living.

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