Ajay Chakradhar, a self- taught artist from Jharkhand has been in this field for the past twenty years. His specialty is abstract art. But he gives them an innovative twist with a mix of minerals and ores of iron, manganese, coal, bauxite, mica and acrylics to create them. "The dimensions of a possibility can be limited- that it would start from one point and end at another. But art is one process that has a beginning but no end. And the possibilities of finding something new could be endless. And I feel the same about my work. I think that I can spend my entire life exploring new possibilities in my paintings." These words that Ajay Chakradhar, a self- taught artist from Jharkhand uses to explain the importance of innovation in art speaks volumes about the philosophy behind his work.
Ajay was in his prime when he graduated from Ranchi University. In 1989, he moved to Delhi from his village in Chota Nagpur Plateau in Jharkhand along with his family to Delhi and started assisting his father in the family business. Although he assisted his father to support his family, but found solace in drawing and sketching.
"Till the time we were in Jharkhand, I used to think that professional painters were those who painted calligraphic designs or number- plates behind trucks or the rear ends of vehicles. After I came to Delhi, I used to visited art galleries in Hauz Khaz and was amazed to learn that one could make a living out of painting. That motivated me to pursue my passion." reveals Ajay
In 1997, Ajay quit the family business and became a full - time artist. He travelled frequently to Jharkhand for inspiration from lives of the native, hillocks, mines and fields of the state. Although, he had no formal training in art, he used whatever he could gather and interpreted them into abstract paintings. During these trips, he realized there was something more that he could use from his motherland that would make his paintings truly representative of his thought- the minerals in the soil.
"I started collecting whatever material I could get and used these minerals as colours for my paintings." Since then, he hasn't looked back.
Ajay's work has been showcased across India and has been exhibited in prestigious institutions such as Lalit Kala Academy and All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS). In 2006, he was also awarded membership of Lalit Kala academy.
Ajay started using minerals for his paintings seventeen years ago. But it was not an easy ride for him. "Although I always wanted to use these materials, I had no clue about how I could use them on canvas or paper. So first, I had to learn about the colour, composition and character of the minerals and then I started applying my findings to my work." says Ajay.
His work usually depicts landscapes of Jharkhand before and after mining and it's impact. He explains how his village, Chakradharpur and his childhood memories associated with it, serves as his inspiration. "Even though our village is located in a mining area, it is as beautiful as Kashmir. But lately, we have been facing problems of Naxals and those related to mining, because of which people never get to see our land. I use these in my work and hope that people would appreciate the beauty of Jharkhand."
As he speaks about his recent solo exhibition 'Rejuvenation of earthen colours' in India International Centre in Delhi, he tells, 'Rejuvenate means to be reborn. So, I feel that though they are still ores and minerals, but by using them in my work their importance or meaning have changed."
The procedure of making such paintings is as intriguing. "I usually get the minerals from either the soil in Jharkhand or through mining laboratories there. After I procure the material, I refine them by sieving them through a cloth and cleaning them to get a refined powder. I use Marine, a superior brand of Fevicol that I mix with artist's glue known as Texture white, as just applying Fevicol would not bring out the colour of the acrylics".
Such a painting can take from five to ten days, "It depends on the subject, the thought process and the height of the canvas. But it is a time consuming process. I can only apply another coating after the first layer is dry. Sometimes the weather does not support or the coating completely dries up, because of which the colour does not take the desired tone. So I have to watch it constantly."
Even though his paintings are a means to follow his passion, Ajay considers his paintings as a social binder, "Whether its the people I talk to for inspiration or the laboratories that help me procure material for my work, I feel that a lot of people bond with me even though I am the one who is making the painting."
As quoted by Hans Hofmann, the German abstract artist 'What goes on in abstract art is the proclaiming of aesthetic principles. It is in our own time that we have become aware of pure aesthetic considerations' holds true for Ajay Chakradhar.