‘Years of exile from Kashmir have created a void in my soul’

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AK Raina,70, Artist Photo Courtesy: Dhoomimal Gallery

What is your latest exhibition Exile-23 Years based on?
My main inspiration is the place I belong to — Kashmir. I have Kashmir in the backdrop of all my paintings. The colours, the textures, everything is Kashmir. Thoughts come to me in the form of waves and I paint them on canvas.

What inspired you to become a painter?
As a student at the School of Arts in Kerala, I learnt wood and ivory carving. When I went back to Kashmir, I gradually developed my form of painting. Unfortunately, I had to leave because I was being threatened. I had to leave my beloved hometown, my library, my paintings, everything. You can make money and buy things for your household, but you can’t buy another home. You cannot buy history. I lost everything. I had to create a new identity from 1991 onwards when I came to Delhi. That informs my work.

How do you view religion, spirituality and the divine?
Religion is discipline. That way I am a disciplined man. My God is within me. That’s how I’m alive and I breathe. I don’t have to find God elsewhere. Spirituality enriches your soul.

What has been your greatest moment of distress?
When I was told that I could never go back to Kashmir. It has been 23 years, and all this time has created a huge void inside my soul. I was born there, I grew up there, got married, and after spending half a century of my life there, I was thrown out. It is the saddest thing in my life.

What was your biggest moment of exhilaration?
I’m yet to decide that. Happiness has always been at a distance. When I paint, that’s the closest I can get to exhilaration. I forget everything around. It is a way for me to search for my own self. At this stage of my life, what other people think of my work does not matter much to me. I seek to satisfy my inner self. I paint through my soul, not for the others. Painting more helps me learn more and discover myself.

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