Artist of the month: Mithu Basu

Mithu Basu

Meet Mithu Basu, Kokuyo Camlin's Artist of the Month.

1. What is the best thing about being an artist?
The temperament of sensitivity towards people, nature, observations, and feelings is to me, the biggest gift I get from being an artist. Being sensitive and compassionate towards nature and people comes spontaneously when it comes to expressing my thoughts into words; it flows effortlessly.

2. When did you decide to join the art world? Who inspired you?
My mother’s genes, father’s belief in me and late older brother’s mentoring got me into the world of Applied Art. Years later, my life’s many journeys and an art residency at Santiniketan, prompted me to take a U-turn from the corporate world which brought me back home to my cherished world of Fine Art.

3. Tell us something about your art education and early career.
My insatiable curiosity drove me to pack in diverse learning in my formative years. I am a Post Graduate in English Literature from Elphinstone College, Mumbai. This education has indeed given my sense and sensibilities poetic justice. As a creative corollary to it, I find my muse in nature and people. In fact, since my childhood, I have had a thing for the way a life should be drawn.

In the second grade, when asked to draw a flower from the backboard, I couldn’t relate to a cut flower standing on its own and so I placed it in a vase; the vase needed a table and to add beauty I drew a floral tablecloth. While the art teacher reprimanded me for going beyond what was asked, our Principal, a German Nun, on hearing my reasoning, prophesied that I would become an artist some day.

Soon after schooling, I apprenticed with the famed duo EA Kitabi & Mr. B.K. Basu in the studio of Kitasu, where I rose from studio artist to a visualiser and soon moved on as Art Director with Cine Blitz. I was also mentored by the legendary Larry Grant as a copywriter. I finally launched and successfully ran my Design Studio ‘The Basu Agency’ for almost a decade.

5. Which is your favourite medium?
The convenience of Acrylics makes it a favourite but Oils will always remain my first love. The Heavy body Acrylic Colours, the new offering from Camel that I recently used, brings together the best of both the mediums and I have a feeling, will soon be my new favourite medium.

6. What inspires you?
Sudden connects form images in my head. The stimuli could bea thought, something that I saw, read, heard or experienced. Inspiration could come from anywhere, anytime. The key is in being alert, aware and sensitive, with a desire to express.

7. Which was the highest point in your artistic career?
Beyond accolades and awards, what I consider my high points are those when I reinvented myself and created a world of creativity that I had envisioned. As an applied artist, copywriter, journalist, writer, designer, entrepreneur, public relations professional, corporate head and now installation artist, fine artist and Artrepreneur, I have walked a long path. Never one to toe the vertical line of growth, but rather it is Edward De Bono’s lateral growth that attracts me. The hope of a tomorrow, where peaks are yet to be conquered, drives me on.

8. How do you manage to work across a variety of mediums?
As an artist anything and everything holds the possibility of being a medium. I have worked with paints, inks, vegetable dyes, scrap, clay, papier-mâché and fibreglass. The key is to see in the medium, the possibility of shaping your creation. Play with the medium without an agenda, it will tell you its properties of strength, weaknesses and limitations. With this knowledge, you can proceed to create.

9. Can you give us some examples of the messages you have tried to convey through your paintings?
While walking on the seabed in Mauritius, feeding the fishes i noticed that the larger ones were up front, taking it all. The smaller fish just stared from afar for awhile and suddenly ganged up; appearing like a big fish, they barged in, grabbed the food and swam out splintering into a hundred happy fish.

‘Team spirit’ is the painting I did recalling that memory. Sometimes it’s not about a message.Recently a RabindranathTagore song inspired me to paint swaying rice fields in the play of light and shadow - where the Noble laureate saw childhood reflected. Over the aerial view I sprinkled a few Parijat flowers to symbolize his joyous spirit.

10. What genres do you enjoy painting?
Right now there is no limitation. I am on exploration mode. I can see myself moving inwards and towards abstractions of expression. I find that abstract lends the maximum bandwidth to tell my story. I am currently exploring the communicative power of colours and trying to understand the voice of each colour. A body of work will evolve and I am just as curious to see what emerges. I may know my subject and style, but my canvas is also participative and will direct me into my subconscious layers where I will tread the unknown.

11. Who is your favourite artist? Indian & International.
I love the flourish and chutzpah of M.F. Husain, the focus of Raza, the haunting lilt of Akbar Padamsee, the uninhibited style of F.N. Souza, the angst in the strokes of Van Gogh, Claude Monet’s exquisite expression of light and shadow, the bold vibrancy of Frida Kahlo, the life force of Jackson Pollock and the subtle nuances of body language in Ramkinkar Baij’s sculptures. In every artist that has found his language, I find aspects to imbibe.

12. If you were not an artist, what would you be?
I would love to be a ‘human potential developer’. Like the seed that knows not the tree it holds, most humans allow themselves to believe in limitations. Not acknowledging our unique and infinite potential, we short-change and accept to live a less explored life.

13. What would you like to say to the young artists of today?
Especially to the ones who could not study art in an organized manner, but still want to pursue it seriously. Find a mentor, learn, practice incessantly, and digest all the grammar and fundamentals of art. Don’t get happy too soon and finally, with full knowledge, unlearn some from what you have learnt so that you can write your own rules on a cleaner canvas.

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