""In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest, where no one sees you. But sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art." | Rumi
Renowned Indian artist Hemraj's paintings reflect duality; impressionistic enlightenments contradict expressionist discontent. What arises out of this duality or contradiction is a kind of chiaroscuro through which he delves deeper into existence.
His search revolves around a unitary point of exploration to find the truth behind the existential predicament. But truth is always intangible. So the prediction is always incomplete. Hemraj does not like to label his form with any fixed epithet because he thinks it leads to a sort of brink of closure. He chooses colour and its tone carefully and with intention; most of the time the major areas of his canvases are monotones.
He essentially explores the ‘landscapic’ feeling with one colour and its countless tones. Each of his paintings has its own river, hills, waterfalls, smell of vegetation and its own independent entity.
Hemraj is a painter whose direct approach yields expressive results. He paints with lust that is revealed in the glory of colour. Every form has its own autonomy. Within this liberation the form can attain a universal significance transcending all local demarcation.
When viewed in dramatic close up his work very deliberately depicts “a voice” to the voiceless in his paintings through melody, rhyme, rhythm and soul, all of which coalesce into a single whole.
I would say, in a way my entry into visual art, that is, painting, was almost destined. Nobody in my family could think of sending me to an art college. Art – painting, music or dance – was not considered as a profession. But when I expressed my desire to enter College of Art (Delhi), instant support came from my father. Because he alone knew how deeply involved I was with painting and could make a professional career out of it. However, the saving grace was, that nobody opposed such a course for myself. That open and silent support for my desire has been my strength all along.
In the College, some of the teachers appreciated my abstract renderings and some were indifferent. But, I respected all of them, unreservedly, though liking those who were encouraging in their behavior more than others. Over all, things went in my favour all along. This was really a big gain. I am still very thankful to the late Sidheshwar Dayal, who ran a gallery at Mandi House, New Delhi, for hosting my first solo show while I was still a student at College of Art, Delhi the National Capital. And I am still deeply thankful to the then College Principal, Sh. O.P. Sharma, who suggested my name to Mr. Dayal.
Both these facts helped my take off. In fact they cast a die in which my career as an artist was shaped.
I have, from my very first show at Siddheshwar Dayal’s L.T.G. Gallery, worked in the nature-oriented abstract idiom that leaves me free to culture my picture-space with whatever forms that I came to fancy or choose as a building bricks for my work. And such a free choice has been continually finding an echo in the hearts of those who appreciate and value abstract art (though I think that all art is abstract irrespective of its general categories such as figurative, surrealistic or realistic). Of course my sense of ‘abstract’ art is a bit different from what is generally considered as “abstract art”. I use the term abstract in terms of essence and not at all mean what can generally be described as non-figurative.
My art evokes a different feeling because it is close to nature. It tends to provide a view with the intention of evoking a feeling which one gets when one roams about in an inviting landscape. I can therefore say that I provide my audience a scape that is engaging enough to compel them to peep and survey, to implore and explore and then return to a stake of enlightened equilibrium. And to relish what they’ve surveyed like the after-taste of a good meal. My colours, my formal littering and my sense of space-culture are all there for providing my audience a romantic interlude apart from any intellectual pretentions. It’s simple recourse to aesthetics or, one can say, rather a personal version of it.
SELECTED SOLO SHOWS
"The Voice of God," Bill Lowe Gallery, Atlanta, GA, USA
Avyakta-Vyakta:A Virtual Journey, Visual Art Gallery, New Delhi
Galeria Muller and Plate, Germany
Galeria Muller and Plate, Germany
Blue Moon, Germany
Delhi Art Gallery
Shridharani Art Gallery, Delhi
Son Et Lumiere, Mumbai
Shridharani Art Gallery
Alliance Franchaise de Delhi
Dhoomi Mal Gallery
Jahangir Art Gallery
LTG Art Gallery
Group show in Korea
Delhi Art Gallery,New Delhi
Dhoomi Mal Art Gallery,New Delhi, India
Jung Art Gallery, South Korea
Shanti Art Gallery, South Korea
70 years of Dhoomimal Art Gallery
Garhi artist,Art Exhibition Organized by Lalit Kala Academy Delhi
Indian Abstract Art at Shridharani Art Gallery–Indian Forum of Creative Artist
Kite show – Dhoomi Mal Art Center
‘Project Time’, Painting Exhibition, Belgium, Europe
Painting Show by Birla Academy
Painting Show at Hyatt Regency Hotel by Damayanti
International Miniatures Print Exhibition, Belgium.
Indian Painting Exhibition at Galeria Borowski, Germany.
Painting exhibition at Stadtische Galeria at Aserlohn
Nandan Art Gallery, Kolkata
Joy of Life - Painting Exhibition, Art Alive Gallery, New Delhi
Kalanjali Art Gallery, Delhi
Galeria Muller and Plate, Germany
Enter Art Gallery, Korea
Lalit Kala Rabindra Bhawan
Dhoomi Mal Gallery
Duet Show in Gallery Jharokha
Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur organized by ‘IPTA’.
Green Wood Art Gallery
Group Show in Denmark
METAMORPHOSIS & TRANSCENDENCY
By Ernst W. Koelnsperger
When talking to Hem Raj you feel like speaking to an artist with a conception of art dating back to a time ling before secularization of art took pace. He emphasizes the “Dignity” in art, specially of painting, if it’s “aspiring vocation”. Remarkable for the oeuvre of the 1969 born Indian painter. His paintings gained early national and international recognition and appreciation; they deal in a liberal, almost cheerful way with transcendental bearings, along with an intensive abstraction, an almost purificatory style rarely found in today’s art world. A hint may be seen in the titles of his recent production: “Metamorphosis”, “Voice for voiceless” and “thou”. In all his work, starting with the early Tantric inspired paintings and leading to the recent large coloured squares, named by the ecclesiastical English title “Thou”, a respectful devotional invocation, he in-cludes naïve drawings of animals, stylized sexual objects, pictograms of plants and animals. Some-times they are scratched into a thick layer of paint, sometimes washed on top with a seemingly fast brush. Yet the picture planes are always distinctly organized and screened. Squares, spaces shoved against each other, graphic elements organize the canvas and put it to distinct order. Tantra, the ecstatic way in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, is all but far from Hem Raj’s meditative paintings. “Pictures”, he say, “ought to bring peace to the spectator as well as the painter”. He uses the ancient Indian team “Anand”, “bliss” in English, which can be translated with utmost happiness. Animals to Hem Raj are means to express wildness. To him men alike is driven by carnal desires even when trying to ignore them. Lingam and Yoni (male and female genitals), sperm, symbols of fertility like serpents and blossoms testify to this way of thinking. He is convinced that the artist is a medium, obliged to express truth and manifestations beyond common reality. His way to express this is paint and canvas. And then again paint and canvas are medium to him. Just think of Gertrud Stein’s famous line: “A rose is a rose is a rose…”. On first sight this concept of art is utterly astonishing. Should we step back to pre-renaissance art in order to discover such a philosophy? The artist a “Creator alter”? Not at all when you think of the theories e.g. of surrealism, initial essays of Kandinsky and early reflections on abstract art; all of this is very close to the thinking of Hem Raj. During the recent years Hem Raj has somewhat moved away from the stern, highly defined construction of his paintings. The are very colourful and gained more freedom in configuration. Very large, often radiating monochrome spaces are arranged in daring combination. Numerous erotic sings and highly stylized presentations of animals are dancing along the rims as graphic design. They don’t push into the intensive coloured expanses which dominate the larger parts of the painting. The paintings thus become icons for meditation and transcendency.
Munich, May 2004
©Translation: Arne e. Fuchs