Review by Neha Kirpal
November 01, 2018


Gazing at Reality
Basist Kumar
October 17-November 17, 2018
Nature Morte, New Delhi

Pictures of sunsets, grass, trees, shrubs, rivers, boulders and mountains …varying facets of nature…and man's interaction with them. Pastel hues, shades and contrasts of blues, greens and browns that talk of ideas such as silence, solitude, innocence, seeking and searching for oneself…Needless to say, the panorama of Basist Kumar’s work is stimulating. The Delhi-based artist says that the primary subject matter of his philosophical work is nature. “Our experience of nature as an everyday encounter is charged with mysticism and spirituality. What interests me about it is its specific perceived enigmatic quality. Both birth and death are rooted in nature and throughout our lives, we develop physical and psychological relationships with it,” he says about his work.

Basist, who is also an active photographer, says that the resources for much of his work come from the pictures that he has clicked in the past, which he often uses as references. Hailing from Bokaro in Jharkhand, he says his hill background has a subtle presence in the landscapes that he creates. “It’s a mixture of reality and imagination,” he adds.

Born in 1984, Kumar received his BFA in 2007 from the College of Art, Delhi University and his MFA in 2009 from the Vishwa-Bharati University, Santiniketan. By this time, he had developed a style of painting that featured individual, often abbreviated, figures in landscapes that resembled reality. A scholarship from the Ministry of Culture enabled him to study at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, China for two years (2013–2015) and the results of this immersion can be seen in this exhibition.

While in China, he worked on an intermedia study called ‘Dreamers’ in which he clicked photographs of about 50 people from different countries. He then gave them each a rice paper and asked them to write in their own language their ideas about where they want to go or be in their lives. After receiving their responses, he stuck the papers on each of their faces, and what he found was that what each of them said was mostly common. “Even though we’re all from different cultural backgrounds, fundamentally we are not so different,” he says.

The works in the current exhibition were created in the last two or three years after he returned from China. According to Basist, Chinese art which is mostly experiential and “in the moment”, affected him. So, while earlier his work was mostly figurative, now it is landscapes that form the prime subject matter rather than the backdrop in his paintings. After Basist returned to India, he consciously decided to become a recluse and stay away from a ‘conceptual’ form of art. “I wanted to connect with my deeper consciousness so that my interpretations are direct and abstract in perception,” he says talking about his method. Absence of anything is also a subject, he feels. The artist, who has his own studio space in Chattarpur, says that his new approach is part of a process that has allowed him more freedom and given him new findings.

The fact that Basist practices meditation gets him to ponder deeply about the intangible aspect of nature. And so, one of his driving forces is the metaphysical condition. In a sense, he uses his art to portray his deeper consciousness and amalgamate his feelings through the objects that he paints. While there is no such statement that he wants to make through his art, he aims to showcase one’s connection with different spaces that one interacts with. “We are all a part of what we see. These landscapes are witness to humanity. Man comes and goes, but the landscapes remain for eternity,” he says.

There is an attention to detail and stillness in his paintings, which is refreshing to see in the fast-paced world that we live in. Further, there is a meditative gravitas to the landscapes he creates—they are almost like fever dreams that seem to defy cognition. His first solo exhibition was in Berlin. Thereafter, he has participated in various art fairs and exhibitions in India and abroad. His next one will be another solo in Florence next spring. We wish him the very best!