Review by Sarmistha Maiti
October 20, 2012


Thou… Thou…
A solo exhibition of paintings by Hemraj

August 7 -12, 2012
Visual Arts Gallery, New Delhi 

The connection of abstract art and spiritualism in the Indian context is not new. Space and its association with eternity and a wider reflection of the same in the ‘higher self’ have been eulogized in the Indian subcontinent for ages and this has a vivid impact in the world outside India as well. If one side of exercising such art practices is directly connected with the ‘tantra’ form, the other side is more to deal with the seeking of searching one’s own ‘self’ which at times is more profoundly delivered as searching the eternal joy of reaching to the highest end and unifying with the ‘greater self’. Artist Hemraj’s orientation and dealing with the subject is quite apt of the second type of searching and seeking spiritual eternity through art, and thus select abstract forms to encompass this presumed unattainable wideness of nature and God. At least this is how Hemraj relates the whole philosophy of his works and his own being in this world.

The works exhibited in this exhibition is basically an extension of his earlier approach to the concept dedicated to “Thou”, the most deal and loving address to the Almighty God. Literally “thou” means “you” but as the word “you” creates a separation and distance from the “self”, the word “Thou” spreads that belongingness and nearness and further the humility of unification. Beholding this philosophy, Hemraj leads his audience to a vista of experience and joy where anyone would be able to fly, dive, merge as well as stay at a bay and enjoy the colourscape and vastness of the articulation on the canvas. Hemraj has that captivating appeal in his paintings to pull the viewer in front of them and hold them there to take a flight of their trip into this “Thou… Thou…” journey as well.

As Johny ML writes on Hemraj’s works to be an “experience as space”, I would rather say it to be the other way round. It is not just translating experiences into space, but vibrating the space into a vista of experiences, making a way through a vulnerable journey with endless polarities, conflicts and collision of one with the other, yet struggling to unite and finally attaining that union resolving all probable binaries. And that is why in each canvas of Hemraj, the intensity of colour patches and the finer strokes of linear representations that the artist extracts out of the colour patches and then their blend with one another to form a smooth base to take you into its womb – cannot be just the depiction of experience as a space. It is an endless journey but a journey with a definite goal and that is seeking the “unification”. The merging of the colour palette of crimson red and yellow ochre with traces of green and cobalt blue speaks on behalf of this most sought after eternal joy of this kind of a journey.

The subliminal erotic elements floating on the picture plane explains both the virtue and vices of the journey where at times the life sustaining sexual thrust is absolutely collateral with the greater union of the self with the divine and again can be the most deviating force to reach the desired goal – the goal which seldom can be attained. Hemraj has inexplicably attempted to share this experience to an extent of philosophical piousness with a slight bias even in the age of the extended post-modernism, globalization and cutting-edge art practices with neo-visions in the contemporary art. Well that can be anyone’s, any artist’s choice but would be a bit dangerous if it is nothing but his/her ignorance.

Hemraj is no doubt a profound composer to create a harmonic orchestra on the canvases leading the viewers to multiple perspectives of the eternal experience of “Thou” as the artist refers to the “Greater Self” and as he himself states, “Today’s world is the cruel victim of the very idea of ‘mine’, the sole source of conflict in every walk of life. Aggression, violence, bloodshed vast destruction – are just the net outcome of going by the idea ‘I’ and ‘mine’… ‘Thou… Thou… 2012’ is a humble attempt to counter the ‘I’ and negate the idea of ‘mine’ for the sake of World peace”, Hemraj’s political consciousness in a way also gets reflected through his works apart from just being the depiction of a broader philosophy of existence, life and death…

Thou And Thou, 48x60 inches, Oil on Canvas

Thou And Thou, 48x60 inches, Oil on Canvas