Odisha, India-based artist Kishore Sahoo on his 7th solo exhibition 'Nature on the Edge of Cityscapes' at KamaRia Gallery

He talks about his great love for travel and favourite things about his culturally rich home state.

'Parallel Lives I' (All photos: Kishore Sahoo)

Options: Congratulations on your solo exhibition, titled Nature on the Edge of Cityscapes. What can you tell us about it?

Kishore Sahoo: Thank you. It is my seventh solo exhibition with Malaysia’s Sutra Foundation. Thematically, it explores the close encounter between nature and human ‘civilisation’. The latter has been aggressive in pushing the indigenous flora and fauna (which are the manifestations of Mother Nature) to the precipice in a battle to survive. Sometimes we can see this drama taking place in our own backyard, right before our eyes. I hope viewers will be drawn to contemplate on the resultant predicament and perhaps have their conscience pricked by the manner the message is conveyed through my paintings. For me, it’s clear that we are all part of nature and every living being is organically connected. What happens to one species may drastically affect the rest. Planet Earth is a closed system, therefore we must always endeavour to have the right balance in how we deal with nature.

How many artworks are there in total for this show?
There are a total of 15. I have a few favourites but one which is close to my heart was inspired by a scene I had witnessed with my own eyes at Sutra. I had seen a couple of jungle fowls blissfully perching and resting on Sutra’s concrete walls. Their beautiful feathers and plumage seemed to me a miracle. I marvelled at how they had survived despite the odds of living right in the midst of Titiwangsa.

Did you always want to become an artist?
Always! I was good at drawing, even as a child. My father encouraged me, allowing me to explore my talent even though I am the only son of three siblings. When the time came for me to pursue higher education, he willingly sent me to the BK College of Arts [& Crafts] in Bhubaneswar to obtain my degree in fine arts.

You mentioned always being encouraged and inspired by nature as well as places like Malaysia, Nepal and Bali. Tell us why.
Brought up in a village, I have always been close to nature and a keen observer of animals and, of course, people. I am also an ardent photographer, so I treasure and record the unique scenes that I witness and experience when I travel. When I visit the cities of Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal and Thailand, I am drawn to the shared drama of nature within these cityscapes.

What are you reading right now?
I have always been fascinated by our late former chief minister, Biju Patnaik, and have just finished the biography of his son, Naveen Patnaik, who is our present chief minister and longest-serving one in India. The book is by Ruben Banerjee.

What are you listening to right now?
A diverse genre of songs from traditional Odiya Bhajans to Bollywood songs. Bhikari Bala and Prafulla Kara are my favourite Odiyan singers. I also love some dance songs. Gita Govinda by Jayadeva is an example and I often listen again and again to the rendition by OS Arun, who is actually a carnatic singer.

You come from Odisha. Tell us about your home state and some of the marvellous things about it.
Odisha is India’s best-kept secret. Besides the well-known temple cities such as Bhubaneswar, Puri and Konark, there are also Buddhist archaeological sites like Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri and Udaigiri, which are thoroughly different. Buddhism was Odisha’s primary religion before Hinduism took sway. Don’t forget that it was in Odisha that Ashoka fought the Kalinga War in the 3rd Century BC. After the great battle which left many dead, Ashoka, although victorious, was so overcome by remorse that he embraced Buddhism. When you are in Bhubaneswar, I also recommend a visit to our new craft museum, Kala Bhumi, which is a comprehensive museum of the rich craft traditions of Odisha. From tribal, folk to the classical, dance, paintings, textiles, sculptures and excellent cuisine, our culture is best explored experientially, rather than just reading about them or viewing them in videos.

India also has a rich legacy of great artistic talents. Who do you admire?
Odisha has its own great visual artists whose works have inspired me. These pioneers have set the highest benchmark for the younger generation of Odisha to emulate. My own mentor, the late Dr Dinanath Pathy, was an inspiration and a renaissance man of Odisha. There is also Jatin Das, who is based in Delhi, and a whole bunch of younger generation after them who are creating waves. Artists like Ramahari Jena, Jagannath Panda, Sovan Kumar and Birendra Pani. Of course, from a pan-Indian perspective, there is MF Hussain, De Souza, Raza, Subramanyam, Amrita Sher Gill, Bhupen Kakar, Ilango Venkataraman and so many others. They have set the path in establishing a strong identity in Indian contemporary modern painting.

Tell us about your daily life and routine.
I live in Kendrapara, a small town about 100km from Bhubaneswar, with my wife, eight-year-old son and my mother. My wife works as a banker in another township not far away. I am very lucky as she has a comfortable job allowing me to paint full time. She is one of my ardent supporters and believes in my talent. Basically, I supervise the household: drive my small family to work and school and generally look after the household and schooling matters. I paint after the morning errands and chores. I’ve set up a room in my house as my studio. Whenever there is time and I am in the mood to potter around, I tend our small vegetable garden. I go to the gym or play games in the evenings.

And where do you dream of travelling to next?
I’ve not visited Europe, the US, China or even Japan. I would love to have the chance to experience these places!


'Nature on the Edge of Cityscapes' is presented by Sutra Foundation and is on until July 7 at KamaRia Gallery in Petaling Jaya.


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