Adishwar Kumar Jain gives vent to his imagination with pieces of discarded and torn paper. Using his hands to tear them down, he then layers them to compose intricate and fabulously textured scenes. He is unabashed in his admission that he has no formal training in art to speak of. His creativity emerges from an ability to immerse himself in the world around him. Art contests won in his early school years were stepping stones to a burgeoning passion for creative exploration. In later life, a career as a manager for a textile company involved travel, urging him to record newly discovered vistas via the medium of oil on canvas. A visit to the famed Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai, introduced him to the world of collage art. The idea that little bits of paper arranged in layers could create the illusion of a three dimensional experience coalesced in his imagination. And along with it a dream took root – that he should compile a series of pieces, showcasing them at the very same gallery.
Collage art has a fascinating history as my research revealed. The term “collage”, not to be confused with the word ‘college’– defines an art form composed of various materials, like paper, cloth or wood, which are glued on to a larger surface. Historically, the practice of layering paper has been traced back to 10th century Japan. Calligraphers of that era glued paper using the surface to write poems. In medieval Europe, gold leaf entered the practice of collage making, along with gemstones and precious metal. In the 19th century, hobbyists used collage methods for photo albums and to store memorabilia. The artists of the cubist era, like Picasso and Georges Braque gave their own mark of creativity to the practice of collage. Over time, the art of collage has taken on many labels like decoupage, assemblage, digital collage, e-collage, and photomontage. Some of these forms have been categorized as crafts. Whatever their labeling, they each have practitioners who have raised them to new heights with their unique passion.
Adishwar’s dream took him on a journey finally culminating in his first collage show at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai in 2012. His work has the look and feel of the warp and weft of fabrics. In ‘Temples under the rocks’ – the viewer’s eye is drawn to the shade of a banyan tree whose branches spread out under a mosaic of a multi-hued azure sky. Temple pillars and domes peek out here and there, offering glimpses of timelessness despite their crumbling facades. The face of a wolf gazes back at the viewer, keenly observing the observer. The canvas is packed tight, layered with textures, interspersed with architectural elements. It is hard to tell where the rocks end and the temples begin. A nod toward the rich cultural heritage of India.
“Life in a Bombay Slum” – is a claustrophobic collection of dwellings packed tightly along narrow lanes. You see clotheslines sagging under the weight of clothing, billboards advertising all manner of things, pots and pans, pails lined up, while the imposing dome of a building takes precedence in the background. What is missing is the presence of people. But as you take in the little details of the collage, you can hear them.The din of the slum, with a background of the larger cacophony of the city itself. Above it all flutter a couple of butterflies. A counterpoint to the busy, bustle of the scene. A moment captured in time.
“My Village View from Fort wall” – shows the artist perched on rocky wall in the foreground looking out at his village spread out below him. His back is to the viewer, his shirt covered in labels – stickers from around the world. This work is his homage to ‘coming home’ from his travels. In the helter skelter arrangement of the homes and buildings of the village you can experience his sense of belonging. A large tree dominates the upper quadrant its leaves made up of torn bits of paper blowing around the scene. Maybe they contain the stories of the people who inhabit the village. This piece has a jewel tone palette of reds, ochres, bright yellows and blues. And in its geometric arrangement, it brings to mind the fascinating work of Gustav Klimt.
Since his first exhibit at the Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, Adishwar has shown his work at many prestigious addresses, Lalit Kala Academy (New Delhi), Birla Academy (Kolkata), Punjab Art Council (Chandigarh) to name a few. In September 2018, his work was displayed as part of a show organized by the International Art Centre, Canada. His work is part of the International Society of Assemblage & Collage Artists.
His most recent show was titled “Paper in Space” and shown at the Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, in October 2018. His dream has come full circle. Ask him what message he would like to give through his art, and he says, “Everyone should do some art of his/her choice. Artists can spread happiness!”
Adishwar’s collages seek to reaffirm his passion for self expression, celebrating life one little bit of paper at a time.
Pavani Kaushik is a visual artist who loves a great book almost as much as planning her next painting. She received a BFA from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. Her new avatar requires creative juggling with the pen and the brush.