Wildlife artist Pooja Anant Bajaj is all set to launch her debut art show titled ‘Unleashed—Defining the Abstract’ releasing from 10-16 October, ’22 at the prestigious Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai. Currently, her apartment is packed with her collection of artworks—all bubble-wrapped and carefully kept aside to be opened on the D-day. The exhibition is dedicated to her late husband Anant Bajaj, son of Kiran and Shekhar Bajaj of the Jamnalal Bajaj family. The slogan goes as this: ‘To the man who brought wildlife into my life!’
Discussing her love for wildlife art, Bajaj says, “My artworks revolve around horses, tigers and elephants. It all started with my husband Anant’s love for wildlife and nature. Post-marriage, we used to travel widely to wildlife sanctuaries and nature parks. He was the one who introduced me to wildlife and look, now I ended up painting all his favourite animals.” While Anant’s love for wildlife became Pooja’s own genre and inspiration, it was her seven-year-old son Vanraj’s Art Appreciation Course during the pandemic times and encouragement from his art teacher Anoushka Tejuja that prompted her to follow her passion for art.
Dabbling with paint brushes and colours gave Bajaj the peace and happiness she was striving for. Wildlife art came to her naturally as she poured out her expressions and went along learning different styles. Soon, her art canvas was full of sketches of tigers, elephants and horses. “One day, my in-laws spotted my sketches and asked me where I had this talent hidden all these years. Having learnt that I had painted them myself, they insisted that I must try for a show and here I am,” she muses.
The next few months, she was engaged in making more of those artworks and was soon ready with a collection of paintings. “My search for identity prompted me to apply at Jehangir Art Gallery. I was shooting in the dark but, to my surprise, I was selected. The gallery’s committee found my work interesting, and I bagged my first solo show!” she observes.
A collage of wildlife art by Pooja Bajaj
EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEW
Tell us about your first solo art show and the theme.
The show titled ‘Unleashed—Defining the Abstract’ defines the abstract beauty of nature and revolves around the valour of the horses, tigers and elephants. It is a combination of a few mediums—primarily watercolours, and a few pen-ink and acrylic pieces. I also love knife painting as it brings out the rustic and vivid play of colours. The inspiration behind what I paint is my late husband, Anant Bajaj.
What inspired your love for wildlife art?
The love for wildlife was inspired by my husband Anant and to follow my passion for art was pushed by my son. I always say, ‘Anant was the man who brought me to paint what I paint now, and Vanraj is the child who pushed me to take up my passion and took me forward by always encouraging me’.
Tell us about your initiation in the art world?
Well, growing up in my schooldays, I developed an interest in art like oil-ceramic and glass painting, which led me to participate in various art programmes. But the real love for painting was ignited much later while engaging with my seven-year-old son Vanraj in an Art Appreciation Course during the Covid lockdown phase. I would sit with him through the class and his art teacher Anoushka Tejuja, the Founder of Budding Artists Studio, saw me as far more interested in learning and always wanting to paint along with my son. She guided me into art and I went flowing along with the colours, learning different styles and painting different artworks. The hunger to learn more only kept growing.
What kind of direction was given by the art teacher?
My art teacher Anoushka has played a very instrumental role in getting me seriously interested in art. She identified my interest in art as I was oblivious about the idea that I could paint. She had more trust and faith in my art and always pushed me to do better. She encouraged me to learn Zen tangling with pen and ink and progress to watercolours and acrylic. She fuelled my creative direction and allowed me to paint without boundaries. Now, of course, she is more of a friend than a teacher to me.
You seem to have a love for nature. What do you express through your wildlife art?
I naturally enjoy doing art around nature as it leaves me in awe that it is so simple and self-sufficient. It also taught me the following things in life: Be humble, Focus on basics, Trust your instincts, and Live in the moment.
What inspired you to do this solo show at Jehangir Art Gallery?
My search for identity and self-validation made me apply to Jehangir Art Gallery for the show. Initially, I was scared and couldn’t muster the courage to apply. Then, I thought it was okay to try and fail rather than fail, for not having tried at all.
Tell us about your late husband Anant Bajaj, to whom you have dedicated the show.
Anant, fondly known as Antobee, had various shades to his vibrant personality. He was a patriot to the core, nature-art and music lover, tech and innovative thinker and a dreamer! He loved forest trees and strongly supported environmental causes, and always thought of ways to protect and sustain Mother Earth. He was influenced by Gandhiji’s philosophy and focused on truthfulness and simplicity in life.
Art apart, what hobbies do you pursue?
I love fitness in different forms—swimming, walking, playing badminton or going for cardio fitness training—and also travelling.
What do you look forward to in your art journey?
I look forward to painting and learning more styles in art. I want to progress to more abstract work as that is what I really enjoy. I want to commission pieces for those who like my work and maybe work towards another show. Painting gives me peace and happiness and a place where I can be ME without bothering about getting judged!