By Saurabh Bhattacharya November 1999 A single look at Indian artist Monju Karmakar’s enchanting paintings could trigger off a lifetime’s search for the Self There is wistfulness in the young painter’s eyes. She gazes at her work, as if she is looking at fragments of a dream dreamt lifetimes ago. ‘You know,’ she turns towards you and says in sudden animation, ‘I have lived a thousand years before this existence. And with each birth, I have taken a step further in evolution.’ You wish to know the aim of her evolution. The wistfulness returns. She turns back towards a dreamscape where a nude woman is merging with the cosmos and whispers: ‘Aim? I’m not sure. Perhaps it is going towards the light, where the Ultimate is.’ That, in essence, is Monju Karmakar, a painter based in New Delhi, India, who is seeking her own self through the mystique of colors. What results from this journey are paintings whose depths captivate you. Monju does not deny this. ‘Every work of mine is a part of me,’ she says, gently stroking a frame with her eyes. ‘Whenever a painting is over, I feel refreshed. But the process itself is full of so much pain, as if my soul is being wrenched out from my being.’ Perhaps that is what gives her paintings their otherworldly tenor. If in one, lovers recline on top of the earth, in another Nature transmutes into a human form. As one canvas shows a woman balancing a crystal globe on her finger, perhaps seeking in it the synchronicity of life, another depicts the upward journey of human consciousness. Timorous brush strokes and a quiet intensity marks each of Monju’s works, a painter who takes pride in her non-formal background. ‘Painting is my mode of seeking truth. Maybe I am on the threshold of realization. Maybe I am still eons away. Who knows? I just paint and let things unfold through my brush strokes.’ What things? Monju pauses, and then whispers: ‘Things dreams are made of.’
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