Toronto: A Toronto-based art expert, originally from Laore, is trying to find common threads in the historic canvas that bind the South Asian experiences. Fourth Eye Gallery is owned by Ameena Choudhry and she is the force behind the Canadian debut of a much respected artist from India, Bajrang Lal Suthar, titled Dil Aur Asmaan. She says the exhibition aims to promote a wider understanding of contemporary South Asian art within and outside Canada.
The exhibit consists of twenty five mixed-media paintings, a majority of which are water colour and poster paint on cardstock. The pieces chosen span the beginning of his career to the present. Each painting is painstakingly rendered in the South Asian miniature style.
Suthar has a fascinating story to tell. Born in Rajasthan, India, Bajrang found himself striving against limitations after suffering physical injury at the age of eighteen, rendering him paraplegic from neck below. Challenged to reconsider every facet of his life, from his identity to his physical capabilities, Bajrang commenced an exploration of the ways in which he could continue to engage the world and express himself within it. With remaining mobility in two fingers on his left hand, he evolved a skill for painting, finding new means to roam and experience the world imaginatively. One piece often takes two to three weeks to complete. It will stay open from Jan 26 till May 4 at 438 Parliament Street in Toronto.
Ameena explained her motivations to Voice in an interview. “My experience for a year at the National College of Art (NCA), one of the premiere art institutions in Pakistan, coupled with hands-on research at the Lahore Museum, helped me understand what informed our artistic history and the resulting contemporary movements of today. I moved to England to complete a degree in the art history and archaeology of Asia focusing on ancient Indian art, because I felt it was necessary to understand the shared history of Pakistan and India.” Ameena is not sure if there is a space for a commercially viable South Asian art gallery to survive, but she says, that young artists from South Asia have often told her that their works reach the US, but not Canada. She says, “Currently, my focus is just on providing a space for South Asian contemporary artists to be viewed in Canada by an audience that has had limited exposure to these cutting-edge reflections of socio-political and innovative expression. I’ve received an enthusiastic response to the upcoming exhibit which is indicative of a receptive audience for future shows.” Ameena is full of admiration for the work of Suthar who she points out has an “ability to speak on a deeply personal level, regardless of physical limitations”. She adds, “Despite his debilitating paralysis he paints with concentration, his art providing him with an outlet he himself never thought possible, for he remained confined in a rural village in Rajasthan. His confident use of colour and original subject-matter provide us works of art that are individual and movingly incomparable.”