The imagery in Jayasri Burman`s work has a dream-like and lyrical quality with a unique sensitivity which, although inspired by the Indian folk element, retains a quality of refreshing candour and reflective honesty, that is as original as it is endearing. She manages very successfully to weave the decorative and design element of the folk idiom into the intricate patterns of her canvas, without losing the natural charm and naivete of her work, which is uniquely her own.
Her concern for women is also evident in her work. Without calling herself feminist, she confesses her desire to see her women content in partaking in the bounties of life. Free, and at one with Nature, her woman is sometimes a coronated ceremonial bird, and at others, a mother Goddess or a creature of the woods.
Jayasri`s closeness to Nature is also reflected her in works. She can reinterpret the lush green environs, the hybridized imagery of a woman who is more bird-like in her grace and form, the stagnant pools that bring out the flamed colours of “Basant” (spring), in her paintings. Jayasri`s latest oeuvre reveals an unconscious suspended energy that can find its parallel in the environs of Santiniketan, where she studied. If she expressed a tranquil sanguine feel in the images she reflected two years ago, this time her vehicle of expression is the dance of colour.
SVD: What is your place of birth?
I was born and raised in Kolkata (West Bengal) which is very rich in culture.
SVD: Could you tell us about your childhood, what was it like?
My childhood it was very good I must say, I am very blessed and very lucky that I have been brought up with such an artistic background. My father was the one who really encouraged me to do art. Every Saturday my father used to sit with me and used to recite Rabindranath Tagore’s poems and I used to become so emotional with my father. Both of us used to cry sometimes along with the poem because Rabindranath Tagore is such a versatile Poet that he wrote each and every moment of his life and it really gives you the emotions. So I was enriched as a child.
I emotionally became very rich. I enriched myself through the family affections and upbringing. I am very fortunate that the school where I studied, all the parents of my friends were film directors, writers, artists etc. So I was very pampered by them all as I used to paint as a child and I was very naughty and never wanted to study properly, I always preferred painting. I am lucky about that as they never said anything to me and always encouraged me and that helped me alot. So that is my childhood, I then finished my school in Kolkata and then I went to Shanti Niketan, which is Tagore’s University and then I went to Paris I worked there then after that life goes on.
SVD: How old were you when you actually started painting?
I started painting at a very small age. I started writing poems and suddenly I turned into an Artist as I wanted to be an Artist. I was 8 – 9 years old from that time I started writing poems and started painting. I used to play with colors and my first painting was a water painting which was a landscape and the second was a portrait of Rabindranath Tagore.
SVD: So when you showed it to your parents what was their reaction?
My father was a very encouraging person he never said anything to anybody and he was very happy to say that his daughter is painting but even then also he never pushed me that you have to Art college or you have to go to Academy. I was the one who decided to do art as a profession.
SVD: Which field/ faculty did you study in at University, Arts or Science and what did you do after finishing university?
I studied only Art as a subject from Shanti Niketan in Bengal, I got married very early as I had a baby soon after, so it was a little tough. There was far too much to do.
SVD: Did you feel peer pressure or any family pressure that you have to show yourself?
There is a big generation gap in our family. When I was at school, I was very naughty and I used to go and paint. I never felt any pressure from my parent’s side and others. We have a very successful background (touchwood- God Bless) My Uncles, Aunts and their husbands were all very successful but I never felt it. Because I learnt from my mother as my father was running a business in West Bengal which was a very famous business brand. And my father had so many relatives working in the same business and they had a different name and were very successful.
Up until now we are very happy and content. So I have learnt alot from the family and I must say I am very proud and I loved it. I never felt any peer pressure that I had to be a famous artist. The pressure was from within that I had to do a good painting and people should love my paintings.
I am extremely happy that I am doing this exhibition in Hong Kong for the first time at The Visual Arts Centre and if people come from all other backgrounds that is the happiness I have and the mental thoughts are present. That pressure is there. Otherwise there is no other pressure.
SVD: All Artists have one thing in mind. Either they would like to marry a Doctor or an Artist like themselves. Have you ever felt you wanted to get married to an artist?
Not at all, It happened but I never thought I would marry an Artist ever. And it is a very good thing which happened in my life. We never get bored where ever we enjoy talking about art and it is beautiful.
SVD: Mostly after marriage Indian ladies cannot enrich themselves as sometimes it can be very difficult. But how did you manage?
It is difficult for women. Women have a quality; scientifically we are made like that, we can hold lots of things at home and outside. We can hold our own tension and pain at the same time we have to hold other family members tension or something. So we are scientifically made like this we are Shakti.
SVD: People say painting is the field of sensitiveness is that true?
You have to be very sensitive and devote yourself and be much disciplined. Sensitive people are not always disciplined all the time that is true. But especially for a women I have to cook, I have to paint, look after my child and my dog. Doing all these things I have to do my painting I made myself like that. It’s like a walking studio. Wherever I go I have to paint if I think all the time I have to make a special time and I have to set a special mood then I will never be able to do paintings. So it is somehow devotion. So you know “Jisko bolte hai Sadhan na karo” When you pray you get it. Once I sit and paint I don’t spend hours. So I go into my own world. Nothing disturbs me.
SVD: When you feel you want to draw something do you immediately start painting or you will keep that idea in your mind and paint it later?
It comes very spontaneously but an artist’s mind and soul is always working. Even as I am talking to you and around me, as long as colors are there; it is consistently working. When I sit with my drawing paper, paint and brush it starts coming spontaneously then I cook up and break it and make it in my own style and own way. I can make this in such way.
SVD: Sometimes when a certain poet is sleeping they wake up in the middle of the night and start writing what is in their mind does it happens with you ?
Yes, it happens all the time. And it is nonstop. The artistic mind and soul is always switched on. As I talk to people I am listening but my mind is somewhere else sometimes.
SVD: Does your painting reflect your life?
It is not my life. It is around me what is there and as I am an Artist I have a responsibility to bring out something through my art to the views. To me the special things is that to paint something which will give people happiness because now for a second you can become very unhappy seeing something nasty in the media and you are broken and frustrated. You don’t want to meet anybody but you practically open the door and someone is there to give you a rose and you feel so happy. Beauty and nature is so important. So if something comes in my painting that is my way of work and I want to express my painting with love, peace and harmony.
SVD: Is your main area of painting social, emotional or natural?
It is totally natural and emotional first of all. And automatically it will give you the social lesson; I must say when you see a lady or a child. You can think you are floating in the water and wish you can do it now or you can fly in the sky like a bird or go to India in a minute. It happens through everybody’s mind and I like to play with that sentiment that the figures are like mermaids they are like birds, other animals and all are mixed up with the nature and animals. It is total harmony and if you see my work it is all fits together to make a picture.
SVD: When we saw your picture we were influenced. Do you ever get influenced by your own paintings?
I don’t want to be influenced by my own painting because I don’t want to do the same things and I am never satisfied with my work. I always want to do something new and bring out something new to my art. My style is there and I can’t abruptly change maybe one day I might change depending on my mood, where I am and how I am and what I am thinking and my mental status.
I want to give a message through my paintings that nurture mother, nurture women that they are the future. Mother earth is the future. If you don’t nurture the plant properly how will you get a beautiful flower out of it? It is exactly same thing with the women if you don’t nurture women how will you have the future healthy because women have to be taken care properly and then the future will be bright. If she is broken everything is broken.
SVD: In this modern world how will you differentiate the classical painting and the modern painting?
This is something we always think about the classical painting and modern painting. Nowadays Artists are painting modern work, sometimes without meaning and which doesn’t have any purpose or message that is so called ‘ modern art’ and is decorative. Good art will always stay and same goes for classical. You will never get bored with classical. This is like forever.
SVD: When your art piece is done do you get any instinct that it is not yet finished?
When I am doing the figures and I think the art is completed. Before signing the art the figures in the painting it has to talk to me, if the lady in my painting is not talking to me it is not finished. I keep it in front of me as much as I can and I give time to finish it because the figure has to look at me. It has to talk to me and I have to give life to my work. You say about the energy. This is the energy I want to give in my work. It is a really hard work and it is not easy.
SVD: What are the main challenges when you start your paintings?
Each and every painting has got a challenge. I don’t know if after adding a green color and if I put red color how it will look. But I have to be brave and mix the colors and then something comes out and I feel that this is something I want to see and there is a different feeling. I then start experimenting and proceed to the next step with those colors. I have to play around and the composition has to show.
SVD: How do you balance your work and home?
I somehow manage to balance it and I must say and I always pray to GOD to give me the strength and whatever comes to me in life I should accept it. And I really try my best to balance everything I do and I am very happy and proud that I am a ‘woman’.
SVD: When you start any sort of painting like a landscape, figures, nature etc. Is there any difficulty starting it?
Everything is difficult but once you start at the beginning and you know that it has come , then you can play around. Anything you start is not easy. You need to devote and concentrate yourself.
SVD: Do you play with water colors or oil paints? Is painting with Water color difficult or oil painting?
All are water paintings, but I also do oil paintings. Water colors are difficult, because you finish in one way and you cannot correct it easily. With oil color you can scrap it, take it out and redo with the paint but with water color you cannot.
SVD: What idea would you like to give to the beginners?
First if you want to do a painting. What is in front of you and what you like then you start with it spontaneously when you are innocently playing around with the colors and what you like you try to do it. You can see some forms developing. Then you feel happy at the same time. You have to devote yourself. If you are not devoting yourself and your work you have to sacrifice alot of things. Like for me when I am painting I am very strict with myself and my work. Once I am in the studio I don’t come out till it is dark. But once it is dark I take a break go out for a walk but I do not look around. I do not look up and smile at people because once I look up I have to smile or be asked for a tea with my neighbors. I go to an openness alone. I sit alone as I want to be on my own.
Thank you for coming to Hong Kong and exhibiting your art at the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre. And having a interview with Saanjh Vicharan Di magazine.