As Paulo Coelho rightly said ‘And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’ An artist who migrated to the small industrial town of Ankleshwar in Gujarat when he was merely a little boy stands as a testament to this idea. Pankaj, who couldn’t afford pricey art material in his early years, took to an alternative medium. The medium was industrial paints- acrylics and enamels used in painting automobiles. This was easily available to him being a part of an industrial town.‘In my childhood, I wasn't going to museums or fine art shows but I was very connected to the industrial material, to colour. I was using that material since the beginning like how people paint their doors during the festival of Diwali.. I would also paint my door.’ Till date, his paintings see the use of this material, as he has grown to become convinced of it’s potential. Although the dearth of mediums is barely an issue with him as he finds something new at every turn. On graduating from his Masters of Visual Arts in Print Making from M.S.U Baroda, he couldn’t find any material to work with but he had a camera and a laptop. A series of experiments while shooting videos led to a stock of footage which he then manipulated to create video works which were showcased at the Kanoria Centre for Arts. On another occasion, he painted directly onto printing machines transforming them from functional objects to works of art. The transition that takes place in the nature of the material that he is laying his hands on is what interests him.
His most recent work involves a sole ingredient, colour. His ties to the medium have roots reaching back to his childhood.‘When for the first time I sketched in my sketchbook as a child, I used colour and not pencil’ he tells me. Go to his instagram handle and you find works from his first ever solo show held this year. The forms in his paintings resemble galactic and celestial forms, but their actuality couldn't be further from their appearance. It’s all about what the viewer interprets. His art is not limited by his personal, political or even conceptual concerns. He doesn’t talk of his emotions through his work nor does he talk of any idea that would have struck his mind prior to the process of creating. What, then, is his work about? It’s collaborative effort with the forces of nature. Literally. He pours paint onto the surface of the canvas and lets gravity, wind, humidity, time of drying and the temperature of the room do the rest of the work. His only part lies in controlling the angle of the canvas. The oblivion of not knowing the direction in which the paint is going to flow next excites him and urges him to create more.
Pankaj sees himself as a scientist and his studio as a laboratory where these artistic experiments take place, but does his laboratory also ever change? Pankaj has been a part of various notable art residencies and this year, he is prepping himself to attend another one. The Piramal Art Residency which is going to be held from 10th June to 1st July has it’s theme as ‘Chromatophilia’ where artists will explore the idea of colour, as merely a colour or as pigment with different shades that lurk within. Given Pavan’s roots and his incessant engagement with colour, he was deemed to be a perfect fit for this programme.