Rajiv Semwal’s artistic expression



By Kavita Chowdhury


“Spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling”; these words of (William) Wordsworth to describe poetry, could best portray artist Rajiv Semwal’s passionate frenzy for his art. Rajiv’s trademark style, evident in his recent exhibitions has been a harmonious meta-morphing of the human form with that of a bird or animal.

At the art demonstration that he conducted at artist Sarla Chandra’s studio, he chose to focus on human sketches in his favourite mediums, ink, pen and charcoal pencil.

Looking at the brisk pace of his work, one might say that they are largely borne out of a burst of spontaneity and fed by the reservoir of long hours spent in observing people and surroundings.

So, a face that he sketches with a strong deft stroke, could be the interesting visage that he had spotted of a middle aged man while travelling in the Metro. Rajiv, thrives in the cacophony and chaos of human life; not for him is the idealized seclusion of the artist and poet.

He started off sketching with pen, on small archival paper, juxtaposing the black strokes against a brown background. He is, to put it simply, “fast”- he can complete sketching a face in three minutes. Unlike most others who draw the outline of a face and then delineate the details, Rajiv’s mastery over his drawing is so exemplary that he begins by sketching only one side of a human face and then moves onto complete the oval or round contours only at the end. In a way, he works backwards.

It is interesting to observe Rajiv at work, he holds and uses the pen like a chisel and cajoles its nib to dance and perform to his bidding. For me personally, being a journalist whose choice of weapon is the pen, (and thereby its limited use for writing alone), Rajiv’s technique appears quite unique.

He chose to display something that he had been experimenting, of late, He daubed the paper with transparent photo colour to which he had added black ink. On that golden chrome background, the black strokes of his pen work stood out brilliantly.

For the audience, it was a fun experience watching Rajiv as he challenged himself churning out face profiles at break neck speed or even doing single line drawing without lifting his pen from paper; the outcome, a majestic horse.

He then attempted to try out a new technique, dividing his paper into equal verticals, drawing a few lines in each slot and then connecting them into a harmonious complete form; the output a reclining figure.

Rajiv confesses that working with ink is an “obsession.” As he says, “I get more satisfaction doing with ink what others do with charcoal.“

Quite like writers who believe in penning down their thoughts as rapidly as possible before the creative inspiration dissipates, Rajiv too, draws with similar creative frenzy and speed. “My thought process will break if I stop,” he says.

He never conceives the complete work before putting pen to paper, he creates as he goes along. He admits to being inspired by both women and nature; women and animal forms emerge as a leitmotif in his works. The tender smile of a woman fuses with a parrot perched in a corner in the same work.

The iconic horse may have inspired a master artist like MF Hussain but the humble domestic goat seems to strike a chord with Rajiv. He would often visit an ashram in Faridabad, during those formative years when he was a rookie artist; he spent hours sketching the goats there.

Even now he says, every morning he sits outside his front door and observes the stray dogs on the street; at the demonstration he drew squatting and standing figures of canines.

Art comes naturally to Rajiv. He recalls how, even as a child, straight after school he would draw for two to three hours at a stretch without a break; feeling most happy when drawing.

The demonstration on Sunday was a thoroughly enjoyable experience as the indefatigable artist kept chiselling out his works before an audience that was riveted by his artistic skill. What made it more captivating were the live portraits that he sketched, picking up his subjects from among the audience.

A robust round of applause for Rajiv at the end, drew the curtains on a wonderful Sunday afternoon spent in the company of art lovers and enthusiasts.