“Spirit of the Horse” was the theme of an exhibition of artworks on horses by Sujata Dere recently at Galerie Romain Rolland, Alliance Francais. There were 28 frames depicting various postures and movements brilliantly portraying equine energy and grace. Some of the catchy titles were Born Free, Free Spirit and Greywind (with two versions each) and the rest included Wind Song, Romeo & Juliet, Dream Catcher, Moonshine, Lord of the Dance, Amour, Harmony, Snowflake, Winsome, Sweet Melody, Lone Ranger, Rolling Thunder, Black Charger etc.
Inspired to draw since her early teens, she began with pencil sketches of faces and over the years enhanced her repertoire to include charcoal, stippling, pastels and mixed media, her medium for these horses. Graduating from Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai in 1979, Dere originally trained in ceramics and held several exhibitions in Delhi, in the early 1980s and received an enthusiastic response. The 1990s saw her develop an unusual technique called “stippling”—a form of pointillism, rendered with pen and ink. She created stark images in black and white, softened by the interplay of light; the additional use of conte crayons added warmth and tone, resulting in a uniquely refreshing style. In the next decade, Sujata developed a genre that bore the unmistakable stamp of her individuality. With her recent display, she has notched ten solo and 26 group exhibitions in Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Chandigarh, US, UK, Dubai and Bangladesh. Her works have won both critical and popular acclaim.
Being the daughter of former Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Hriday Kaul, commissioned in 2nd Lancers and married to Brigadier Anil Dere, also of the Armoured Corps, she was no stranger to horses, but it was her stay in the early 1990s at Wellington in the Nilgiri Hills, where she was swept by an overpowering urge to feel the exhilaration experienced by riders as they galloped across the Ooty Downs bracing against the wind. That is when she learnt horse-riding and thus began her intense involvement with horses resulting in the series she named Spirit of the Horse. She explains: “My drawings are about creating the essence of power and strength of the Horse by using a dynamic energy through the creative process. I use abstraction and ‘gestalt’ to create an equine figure that moves with gesture energy on the painted surface. I work in mixed media, using layers of dry and wet materials because the openness of the process lends itself to the innate energy, which I see as the essence of the spirit of the horse. My goal is not to draw the horse as it is, in a defined way, rather, I draw my horses as how they register in my mind as powerful, muscular, free and poetic beings. I am drawn to the dynamic presence of the horse in history and in contemporary life. Embodying all that is instinctual and intuitive; Horses speak to that part of our souls that long for a connection with nature, with something larger and wiser than ourselves… Everything I draw comes from my own experiences, one way or the other. I am forever drawing on the sense of mystery and wonder… and possibility that pervades at times in my life.”
ABOUT SUJATA DERE
Inaugurating the event, was Dr Karan Singh, an old family friend of Gen Kaul, who praised both the horse as one of the finest of animals domesticated by man and work of the artist. Formerly Yuvraj (prince) of Jammu and Kashmir which as a kingdom maintained a cavalry regiment, Dr Singh and his sons actively involved in polo, maintain a stable of horses/polo ponies. Also present at the inaugural function of the exhibition were artists Keshav Malik, Jatin Das and Naresh Kapuria, along with a mix of Armed Forces officers and some polo players and Alliance Francaise’s director Jean Philippe Bottin. The exhibition resulted in an encouraging sale of Dere’s works.
Sujata Dere… intrepid traveller, thinker, seeker, artist, brings a new dynamic element onto the canvas of her artistic perceptions, she captures the charisma of the exquisite equine form. It legendary beauty immortalized through the filtering lens of the mind’s eye, Sujata’s fluid equines forms emerge with a startling impact, stunning and riveting! They move, yet are still, with a sensuous beauty in their stillness which sheer linear perfection imbues with a swiftness of purpose…Sujata’s works, which have been showcased in many significant exhibitions, have won both critical and popular acclaim. An intrinsic part of private collections all over India, the Middle East, Europe and the US, her first solo exhibition was held at the India International Centre in New Delhi in December 1992. Followed by several other solo and group shows of repute both in India and abroad, Sujata has arrived on the firmament of the art world….with a definitive global metaphor of her own!
The artist graduated from the Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai in 1979, where she was awarded a scholarship for merit in her second year, and also won an award in the Maharashtra State Art Exhibition, India. She originally trained in ceramics and held several exhibitions in New Delhi, India, in the early 1980s and received an enthusiastic response. highlighting an unending travelogue of discovery, observation and interpretation on her artistic journey. Constantly enriching the repertoire of her palette, she added a new dimension with the use of acrylics and coloured pastels. Her fascination for the human body and mind translated into a series of images depicting the joyous rhythm of a Cosmic Dance, a deeply serene Lotus Pond, Musicians in harmony, gatherings of Chess and Card Players and Horses pulsating with life. Widely travelled in India, Europe and the US, she spent 2004-05 as a member of the Art League School, Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Continuing to travel and interact with a wide range of artists from different parts of the world, she is currently living and working from her studio in New Delhi.
The author is the Editor of Wordsword Features