Sachin Jaltare is a painter of the intangible. His Hyderabad-based studio bristles with the chatter of dried paints and splayed brushes but the paintings themselves are studies in deep silences. These days his canvasses often contain a female and a male form taking shape from the surrounding elemental abstraction.
“Shiva and Shakti,” says Jaltare of the figures. “In these alone could I find the perfect meeting of form and formless.” In fact, such is the clever juxtaposition between the abstract and the figurative in Jaltare’s paintings, sometimes you may think the canvass features just swathes of gorgeous blues and greys. It is only when you look closer that you see Shiva and Shakti taking shape from the muted surrounds, like figures emerging from a fog.
Looking at Jalatre’s paintings is akin to exploring some unnamed, unmanned boundary: between the outer and inner worlds, between shape and colour and between being and nothingness.
“When I started contemplating abstracts about eight years ago, my thoughts would invariably turn to articulating the unsaid. This feeling of universality despite all of us being trapped in our forms,” says Jaltare. “And that is when I found the right expression in Shiva, who is everything yet nothing, who is every atom, but beyond definition.”
Dark, moustachioed and with a raw, rustic vibe to him, Jaltare’s Shiva is not really the God of traditional iconography or calendar art. The artist says he is not interesting in retelling myths; rather in expressing the essence of Shiva, as the primordial male energy.
“My Shiva looks more like the rustic men of my childhood in my Maharashtrian small town, very earthy, very every day. As a child, I used to be fascinated by them, and look where they turned up!” he says with a laugh.
Jaltare’s paintings are alive with spiritual themes, but it was not always so. A journey led him to painting “Tales of Infinity,” his vastly successful first collection of abstracts, exhibited in 2012, and beyond. As always, that journey is at least as interesting as its culmination.
From form to formless
“Even before I started to write, I was drawing birds,” says Jaltare. Art was his early-found vocation as well as immersed in his genes, with his father being a painter too. However, the Nagpur University topper in Applied Arts couldn’t immediately pursue his vocation because of financial constraints. He found himself a job as an illustrator at an ad agency in Hyderabad soon after graduation in 1991.
“Yet my father always encouraged me to continue painting. He worked as a signboard painter and was a drawing teacher as well, but he never let me feel weighed down by the responsibility of being the elder son,” says Jaltare. “Even earlier, when I got admission into an engineering college, he encouraged me to take up painting and study applied arts.”
Yet the initial days of balancing work with vocation in a new city were hard. His modest pay as an illustrator had him struggling to pay the rent each month and he was frustrated at not being able to paint. Ultimately, he decided to quit his job and focus mainly on his art. “I took a risk; I had to,” he says in a matter-of-fact way. It must have been a difficult decision to forego a steady pay check, but what helped Jaltare persist was validation and support from senior artists as well as the city of Hyderabad itself, which was soon to become his home.
“Those coming to Hyderabad are lucky because there’s always support from senior artists,” says Jaltare. Legendary names like Sanjay Ashaputre, Laxma Goud and the great Thota Vaikuntam, whom he met at the city’s sole art gallery at the time, were among those who encouraged him to prioritise art. “I learnt so much observing and listening to Goud and Vaikuntam,” he says. “It was a complete education in itself.”
The education got him into a fresh grade, that of the exhibited artist, with his first show in 2000.
“Yes, it took a long time,” he said in trademark deadpan of the exhibition, to the Hindu in a 2013 inerview. Hosted by the Birdwatchers Society of Andhra Pradesh at Kalabhavan, the exhibition featured paintings of birds, the muses of his childhood. “I especially loved painting sparrows,” he says, “We used to see so many of them hopping around in my home town. And you see very few of them anymore.”
Birds have the facility of flight; yet in life as well as art, Jaltare was moving onto forms even more unbound.
“I sold paintings at my first exhibition itself, so I was happy with the validation. But as an artist I still felt something was missing,” he says. “I found realism wasn’t enough to express what I wanted to express. I was restless, not at peace, and I started reading on spirituality. Everything began to flow seamlessly after that point. Reading led me to experiment with art and open up to new ways of painting.”
Jaltare, who had always felt figurative paintings were limiting, discovered that “abstracts unlocked vast vistas.” The journey into abstraction undertaken on the canvas is in tandem with his own voyage into the inner world. “The mind is so much quieter and richer than the noisy world outside,” he says. “People think this is a closed approach, but that is not true. When you go inwards, you can actually relate better to every particle outside. To a tree, to a rock even. You find harmony.”
Harmony is an apt summation of Jaltare’s current oeuvre, from its subject to the way colours and techniques are used as well. For instance, the artist, who is naturally adept at sketching, balances his lines with bold brushstrokes of pure colour. Then there is the palette, which is moody, elemental and gorgeous and never strikes a discordant note. “I don’t even like to portray emotion in these paintings,” says Jaltare, “Just focus on the natural balance of being.”
So can we say in travelling to the inner world, Jaltare has ventured home? “You could,” he says, “But evolution is always happening!” With a solo show in Europe on the cards, it is clear Jaltare’s art is an ever-journeying vehicle. After all, rockets may take you to outer space but interior-bound voyages never end.
Sachin Jaltare’s paintings are available with Eikowa on request.