Dr. Meena Baya is a PhD in Jain Temple Sculptures; she is a teacher, an artist and a painter. Painting is the absolute soul of Ms. Meena Baya, who came a long way to position herself in the list of few renowned painters of Udaipur.
Her paintings have crossed several continents of the world; spreading the message of life, its colors and nature. Recognition has always been secondary for this charismatic artist, who dedicated her life to society and nature through her spectacular art skills.
A narrowed work-space which she refers to as her place -of -worship is spread with hundreds of talking figures on canvas and elegant colors narrating the story hidden in its stature.
Born in a typical working-class Jain family, 47 year old Ms. Baya has an impressive and dynamic personality, which can influence anyone who comes in contact with her. I got the pleasure of meeting her at an art exhibition, and soon I landed at her yet-to-be-inaugurated gallery.
Our prolonged discussion was further extended after I had realized that I have a small artist hidden within myself somewhere after meeting her. Let’s see what you explore in yourself after reading her interview.
Here is an excerpt from the interview with Dr. Meena Baya.
Is painting what you wished to do since your childhood?
I used to draw around; something every normal child does, though my dream was not even close to what I am today. Belonging to a typical Jain family, I was very career oriented and wished to become a scientist, though my father always wanted me to be a doctor. He forcibly made me take science, something which I could not study even for a single day and asked my mother to sign on an application for a subject-change.
In our school those days, we didn’t have any other option as opposed to taking either science or arts, so I enrolled myself to study art. I started something against my father’s wish so I was under pressure to perform my best in it; I started working hard which consequently turned into a passion. I started loving painting, and then I never looked back nor did I ever regret.
How were your initial days as a science student who turned to a student of arts?
Initially my family was not supportive because they had doubts regarding career security in the field of arts. But I was firm on my decision; I started gathering art materials, books, magazines and other manuscripts to understand the basics. I started painting smaller subjects of my own. Some of my early work got appreciated, which further instilled my confidence. I was psychologically pressurized to execute well on my decision to take arts and decided to pursue my career in same.
Your paintings are mostly figurative, depicting various forms of life and colors?
I love contemporary art, basically distortive paintings. I make figures out of my own imagination which focus on subjects and its feelings. The blending of colors collaborates to bring about a lively mood. Most of my work illustrates simple subjects like life, human being and nature.
But isn’t the world just opposite to what you are painting? There is hue and cry everywhere, what do you have to say?
I know you are right but I will say it’s just a matter of how we see the world. I ask you, what is the necessity of showing terror and crime in form of art when we already have so much in real? I ask media for what they exhibit violence through movies. I respect art and artists but aren’t we also human beings? Don’t we have a duty towards society?
What are your sources of inspirations?
Inspiration to an artist is what water is to life. Now, the source could be from anywhere. I am inspired by my surroundings, like we are talking and suddenly something will spark in my mind. That is my inspiration.
Define art in your own words?
Take any form of art apart from painting, like theater, crafting, designing, music etc. Every art is a medium of expression. The perfection of art comes from Experience, Exposure and Intersection.
Whose paintings you like the most?
European painter Paul Klee is my favorite. I love his simple manipulation and child-like innocent expressions in his work. M.F Hussain is another respectable personality, who in such an old age is doing so well. Other remarkable artists are Krishna Reddy in print making, Bhupendra Khakkar in Painting, not to mention Mr. P.N Choyal and Shail Choyal.
How was your experience in working with prisoners in Udaipur central jail?
Jail is certainly horrific for any ordinary citizen. I visited Udaipur Central Jail in 2007 with a friend of mine who is involved with The Art of Living foundation. There I met and conversed with many prisoners and a few were just exceptional and out of my imagination. They were doctors and engineers; they were not ordinary criminals, but good hearted people who unfortunately, out of the wrong circumstances, landed in jail.
My group and I introduced a new program in jail, in which we encouraged inmates to start painting from their imagination. This gave them a platform to express their feelings, their inner self. Creativity helped them to express psychological to psychosomatically. Today I have more than 200 ready-to-exhibit paintings made by prisoners.
There are hundreds of works done by you, would you like to name few of your favorites?
This is very tough for me. I paint every piece with a lot of hard work and brainstorming so I will say all are my favorites. But still I love two of my piece extensively, one is “Bubbly” and the other is “Elixir of Life” where I expressed cheerfulness and colors of life.
If Dr. Meena Baya would not be a painter, what she could be?
I could’ve been a scientist as was my first dream, or may be a doctor as my father wished. It all depends upon time and consequences. I am happy with what I am today. But whatever I would’ve been doing, it would be something for the society.
Other than painting what you love to do?
Print Making is my second favorite after painting; I have loads of work in print. I simply adore this form of art; Print making and graphics are more of a technical variety of art where there are different forms to develop impressions. Leno cut, Aluminum sheet, wood cut, hetho and zinc print mixing all these known as mix-media. I worked mostly on every medium. Though I love to work on zinc and etching.
What you do in your spare time?
I love music; you must have seen a harmonium at my work space. I have been professionally trained in music for 10 years; it is a part of my life. I even love to write sometimes. To take a break from continuous painting, I do some odd stuff like creating paper meshy mask. It re-energizes me.
For Dr. Meena Baya’s complete biography, her achievements and work you can visit www.meenabaya.com