Deepak Madhukar Sonar stopped signing his paintings about 10 years back. Such is the uniqueness and instant cognizance of his style. However, this wasn’t the case when he was a student practicing portraits and landscapes at Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya, Pune, from where he graduated with a general diploma in art.
Born in 1967 in Nasik, Maharashtra, Deepak’s life invariably revolved around drawings and paintings since childhood. Hailing from a family of blacksmiths, he muses that a certain artistic streak always lay dormant in him. As he grew up, through hard work and incessant practice on paper and canvas, complimented by a formal education in art, he blossomed into a young artist. “During our college days, we used to sketch at the bus stand at night and then practice portraits in the early morning,” he says. His unremitting perseverance paid off when he was able to secure admission into the prestigious J.J. School of Arts, Mumbai for a Diploma in Art Education. At that point, his father, who was initially skeptical about his career as an artist, finally let go of his apprehensions and offered to pay for his post-graduate course. The inclusion of family support in favor of his inner calling and the move to the city of Mumbai was a major turning point in his life, inspiring him and enabling him to shift to a greater dimension of creativity.
His participation in the Narmada Bachao Andolan and interaction with noted activists such as Medha Patkar and Baba Amte, influenced him with a fresh attraction and love for water and a fascination for its fluidity, leaving an indelible impression on his mind. This unique experience, along with his time at Bharat Bhawan in Bhopal, provided him with the perfect opportunity to delve deep into his own art and discover a splendid style of his own. There, his usual routine of practicing figurative art receded, the details on the canvas gave way to underlying forms and the beauty of backgrounds came to the fore, which define Deepak Sonar to this day.
The Soul of Deepak’s Art
Following a life steeped in dreamy uncertainty, away from the piercing clarity of long term planning, his time passed with a rare fluidity. In contrast to the usual evils of apprehension and fear that are inextricably linked to uncertainty, Deepak’s personality was enveloped in calmness and composure. “I practice meditation today and feel that this mood that pervades my personality translates directly into the soothing elements of my art,” he says.
Most of his work has an instant comforting effect on the onlooker due to a complete absence of jarring colors, clashing visuals and aching details. Due to the hazy, mirage like quality to his work, each observer is able to see a part of his own life reflected in the painting. “I have had many people walking up to me at exhibitions and saying that a particular painting looked like the lush green fields of their village in Punjab, or the landscape of Ladakh. One gentleman even asked me if I had ever gone deep sea diving because he felt that one of my paintings replicated the exact visual details of an underwater world known only to deep-sea divers. But I had never been underwater. So, the same painting can mean different things to different people,” he says.
It can be speculated that this quality of being able to mirror a person’s memories of various landscapes is a gift that reveals itself on Deepak’s canvas due to his own extensive adventures as a traveller and his love for travelling. A concoction of nature’s visuals in its numerous forms captured by Deepak’s eyes during his excursions are subconsciously transformed into great art, flowing through Deepak’s brush and various other experimental media, such as rollers and even floor wipers.
The Birth of a Painting
Each painting takes a life of it’s own. There are no definite goals or end results that he works towards. The brushes, the acrylic paints, etc. are his journey and the canvas his path. His instincts tell him when the journey is complete. A journey of self-portrayal, now ingrained in the calmness, serenity and tranquility of the hues and the coalesced blurs of minute intricacies on the canvas as opposed to the various self-portraits (over 300 of them) that he used to sketch for practice during the early days of his struggle. When the eyes are satisfied with the completeness of the painting, when the need to add another swath of paint ceases, he knows that the journey is complete.
However, this feeling can be a momentary illusion. The satisfaction of sufficiency can vanish in another moment after time passes and the need to indulge in the same painting, once again, can arise. So the expedition on the same canvas continues into another dimension, sometimes even destroying what has been created to make way for a visual even more magnificent and satisfying. “The end, that feeling you experience when a painting is complete, cannot be described,” he says. “Like when you look at a sunset and you feel it is the most beautiful thing ever. Even if given a chance, you wouldn’t change it one bit, not even a single detail. That feeling is similar to what I feel when a work is complete.”
His studio is filled with a display of all his recent works. Whenever he enters the space, he contemplates all of them one by one, taking inspiration from what has been externally manifested and what remains inside him, waiting to be unleashed on the canvas. Some paintings are like naughty children. Many of them adhere to an elder’s instructions at once and are easily tamed. Others have a will of their own, entangling the artist in their rebellions, luring him to work more on them but never relinquishing the satisfaction of completion to him. These interactions with the paintings as living beings result in varying levels of details being captured on canvas, some filled with an explosion of fullness from end to end, while others having a focal portion with the simplicity of vast expanses of merging colors surrounding the main area of activity.
What Lies Ahead
His love affair with acrylic colors makes for an interesting tale. In 1991, when he got a cash prize as a state award, he spent it all on acrylic colors. Since then, his bond with these colors cemented into a life long companionship and his love for their nature – their textures, the way they dried quickly and dissolved into the perfect effect he wished to achieve on the canvas – a natural dynamic.
When asked if he would like to experiment with something new in the future, he enthusiastically talks about working on collages and also incorporating metallic colors in the current style of his work. We are sure he would conjure something extremely extraordinary for us to look forward to.
– Shauryavir Singh