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Aghora Tech by Arijoy Bhattacharya

Aghora Tech by Arijoy Bhattacharya

Aghora Tech by Arijoy Bhattacharya

Arijoy Bhattacharya, is prepared to enthral art fans with his upcoming exhibition, ‘Aghora Tech’ at the prestigious Jehangir Art Gallery in Kala Ghoda from December 25th to December 31st, 2023. The showcase explores the intersection of two seemingly disparate worlds: the minimalist earthly Tantric paintings of Rajasthan and the geometric precision of the Bauhaus (a German artistic movement). Vittal Narayana in conversation with Arijoy about the exhibition and more.

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Growing up with Sanjay Bhattacharya your father, a renowned artist, how did his influence shape your artistic approach?  

Well, my father had encouraged me since I was very young, I could always visit his studio and pick up anything I wanted, and sometimes I got rebuked for it also. Once he took me to a very important show named the ‘Enduring Image’. This was one of the major things that I had witnessed as a child. Apart from that it has been normal.

How did you come about the idea of merging these two different styles of art, the minimalist Tantric paintings of Rajasthan and the geometric precision of the Bauhaus a type of German artistic movement?

Actually, I have been doing figurative art for a long time and did it until 2021 after that it was a transition. I had made a painting of the three eyes of a goddess which turned out to be a geometric depiction of the eyes. I pursued this idea and made a series which I had made between November 2022- 2023, here I abandoned the figurative lexicon and went forth with the geometric series.

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You focused on the bright side of Aghora for your exhibition. Skulls and rituals might be a scary sight for a few, but how did you find the beauty in all the ashes and tantric chants? 

I visited Varanasi in 2017 and also went to Baba Kinara Stall, which is the headquarters of Aghora lineage. I had expected it to be a cremation ground aesthetics and sages doing heterodox practices but unlike all that when I went to that place, I saw a very strange sight. I saw a rooster, a dog, and a cat in an animal shelter sitting side by side without any animosity towards each other. After seeing this I was convinced that there is some power here something else guiding all of this. Also, I had seen nothing of the sort that you would associate with Aghoris as you see in pop culture. They are realised saints, they go beyond pure and impure, they express the state of non-disgust they have made themselves available for the underprivileged people of the society. For instance, they have opened hospitals for leprosy patients. Society treats them with disgust, this is like a message of Aghoras that they are beyond disgust and non-disgust. They are walking the talk. All of these got my attention.

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What role does ink play in your chosen medium for this exhibition? How does it contribute to the overall message? 

I have primarily used the colours red, black, and white; white on the background, I have played around with black and red over that. There are a few places where I have used blue. There is one where I think I have used a bit of yellow. That’s about it in this series. To put it in very simple terms, in the Indian tradition white is considered as sattva as purity, red denotes rajas which means dynamism and black represents tamas which means inertia. When it comes to blue I got interested in it because in the Sikh tradition blue is used as a colour of valour, to express heroic sentiment.

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Is there any target audience for your work?

The works themselves are a byproduct of the interest in Aghor, and I want to introduce Aghor as a point of generating interest. In the catalogue, I have provided translations of authentic Aghora texts along with the images to generate interest in the actual tradition of Aghora and not what it is made out to be by pop culture these days.

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What do you want people to walk away with after looking at your work?

I do not have too much ambition entwined with this project, rather it’s just an introduction to the calm aspect of the Aghora. It has the Rudra aspect, mind you it is not the absence of fear but overcoming fear by facing it. What I feel is the Aghoras who indulge in heterodox practices like smearing themselves with ashes and stuff like that, that is done to obliterate the notion of impure and pure which is a duality. They go beyond these dualities by indulging in these extreme practices. It is about transmuting the energies. In this exhibition, I have made a very humble attempt to present to people the calm aspect of the Aghoris.

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