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The Mighty Maity Of Indian Art

Maity's meteoric rise has been in the making for quite many years now. But he actually shot to fame with his 850 feet long mural at the T3 terminal of the Delhi airport

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He is the 'Almaity' of the contemporary Indian art scene. The Mighty Maity who is the ruling deity of the pantheon of modern Indian art. The Salman Khan of the Indian art box-office. Yes, Paresh Maity, 52, currently India's most saleable painter and sculptor. Whose 100-piece solo exhibition (his 79th) at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai's tony art district in mid-February was a sell-out. As the exhibition heads to the Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai, we meet him for a tête-à-tête in the midst of his towering canvases and colossal sculptures.

Paresh Maity is impeccably, and if we may say, fashionably dressed with a signature choker that adds to his personality. But it is his person-ability that impresses most. He is smiling and welcoming, ever-polite, ever-willing to discuss his talent, his journey, his humble beginnings and his myriad inspirations.

Maity's meteoric rise has been in the making for quite many years now. But he actually shot to fame with his 850 feet long mural at the T3 terminal of the Delhi airport. This is perhaps one of the biggest paintings in the world, and is testimony to the fact that Paresh Maity is a painter with a big heart, a big brush and a big canvas that is his playground. The painting also showcases Maity's world of colourful, cubic and almost angular faces; varying yet spectacular backgrounds and settings; different moods and motifs. Most importantly, an Indian Odyssey that comes alive with the mirth and celebration of Indian culture making a lasting impression of wonderous kaleidoscopes captured across different Indian states. No wonder, Maity's genius was rewarded with the Padma Shri a couple of years ago, and he was Artist-in-Residence at the Rashtrapati Bhavan a few months back.

Says octogenarian Shanti Chopra, Mumbai's leading gallerist, who has worked with Paresh Maity for over 20-years, "Paresh is a people's artist. His themes are Indian. His renditions have an earthiness that is just beautiful. You look at Paresh's art and you know he is still rooted in his humble origins. His love for water, for boats, for sunrises, for landscapes reflects a real India that just shines through every work. He sells well because his works connect straight with the heart." Adds Sunaina Anand of Art Alive, Delhi who too has been working with Paresh for a decade-and-a-half, "Colours are core to Paresh's art. They exude energy and warmth. I love his handling of light. And his palette is always rich and inspiring. But his genius is most visible in his water colours. This is where the perfection of his strokes is flawless, time and over again".

"I was inspired as a 7-years old boy to emulate the creations of idol makers in my home town of Tumluk, near Midnapore," says Maity, "and I earned my first few rupees selling my creations at the village fair." It has been a long, and lucrative, journey since … one that has brought in its wake global recognition and vast fortunes. Maity is reputed to sell for prices that range between Rs. 2 lakhs to Rs. 5 lakhs a square foot! And his sculptures, most of monumental sizes, are priced in the Rs. 40 lakhs plus bracket.

"Paresh has ready buyers. In 2017 itself with just two months hardly gone, he has had 4 solo shows in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Singapore. All sold-out, that too at prices he decides. No bargaining. He is prolific too. His Delhi show at Lalit Kala Academy had 130 water-colours. The one at Jehangir has over 100 exhibits. His works are gone in no time," says art connoisseur and collector Dr. Anurag Yadav. No wonder, Maity counts Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, the Birla clan and many many more amongst his admiring buyers.

Creativity and art flows in Paresh Maity's family. His wife Jayasri Burman is an equally famous painter. As his her uncle, the Paris-based Sakthi Burman, his wife Maite Delteil and daughter Maya Burman. Paresh laughs off the fame tag and maintains, "We are like any other normal family. Jayasri and I love going to the movies." And being married to a famous spouse doesn't seem to affect him. "In fact it is good to be married to someone who understands and appreciates my work." The couple's only son is headed to becoming a Bollywood photographer.

So what makes Maity so mighty? Kolkata based artist Avijit Dutta says, "Paresh has mastered the 'wash' in his water colours, inspired by the best of the Bengal School. His works have a unique transparency and lucidity that makes him one of the foremost practitioners of this art form. His oils excel for their radiant colours. His sculptures are in the traditional Indian mould … a cat, a tiger, a temple bell … reminiscent of Jamini Roy."

Artist Seema Kohli from her Delhi studio adds, "Though I don't know him personally, his works are simply spell-binding. They hold you mesmerized. They have a life. His handling of large formats is amazing. I think Paresh makes the usual so unusual so simply and so effortlessly. That is his genius."

Maity is an easy conversationalist. We get chatting about his impressively large 8 feet by 14 feet canvas, The Caravan. "In the old days people used to travel long distances like the Silk Route in caravans … along with their horses, their camels, their elephants … they used to carry along their entire families … they even used to carry along their musical instruments and looking mirrors ! Hope is inherent in every journey. In this work the red halo of the rising sun signifies that". What is more important, the journey or the destination? Maity is diplomatic. My art is in my heart, he says. And I would like to keep it that way till my last day.

Paresh Maity is today, without doubt, at the top of the pyramid. His rivals envy his stupendous success, more importantly his stratospheric prices. But, friend or foe, everyone says in unison, "What a Maity artist !"

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Tanya Goyal

The author is chaiperson and trustee of The Kailasham Trust

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Carol Goyal

Carol Goyal is a lawyer by training. She also has a Masters from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art, New York.

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