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A heart surgery drew lawyer Suril Desai to art; now Big B, Rahman among fans

Desai is showcasing his artworks, along with wildlife pictures by his doctor, in Mumbai.

ET Bureau|
Updated: Oct 02, 2019, 08.02 AM IST
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The Big Bin a letter to the artist, wrote, "Suril has found the strength to inspire others with his talents — poetry and painting." In Pic (clockwise from left): Suril Desa, Amitabh Bachcan, AR Rahman.
Mumbai’s emerging abstract artist Suril Desai’s ‘Soul to Soul’ exhibition of 40 works begins today at the Asian Heart Institute, BKC. Exhibited alongside his art are a selection of wildlife photographs by cardiac surgeon Dr Ramakanta Panda — the man who operated on Desai in 2017.

“There is nothing more gratifying than to see a young patient recover and flourish,” says Dr Panda.

After a heart surgery at the age of 37, Desai, an established lawyer with an international management degree, suddenly found himself confined at home. This is when he picked up a paint brush and started to express himself through art, guided by his mentor Kisalay Vora. Desai’s ‘Soul to Soul’ series has travelled to Rome and Madrid before its third showcase in Mumbai.

One of his early works features the Arab spring and the enraged fruit seller in Tunisia who set himself on fire. Nandita Das, who will inaugurate the exhibition, said, “Suril’s work is like him — spontaneous, sensitive and free-spirited. He plays with colour and form with abandon to create works that express his inner self. And that is why his work speaks to everyone.”

​An artwork by Desai​.
An artwork by Desai.

Congratulatory messages have started to come in from other well-wishers too. “The strongest people I have met have not been given an easier life; they’ve learnt to create strength and happiness from dark places. Suril has found the strength to inspire others with his talents — poetry and painting,” wrote Amitabh Bachchan in a letter to the artist. AR Rahman said, “Art is the best dialogue for change.”

Excerpts from an interview with Desai:

Tell us about ‘Soul to Soul’.
‘Soul to Soul’ is a series of exhibitions — thus named because of my collaborations with reputed local artistes. In Madrid, I partnered with the genius master Piro and in Rome, it was Tancredi. I prefer this format because it brings artists together and makes us aware of each other’s culture and compunctions. In Mumbai, I’m fortunate to partner with Dr Panda, the man who saved my life.

'​Purple Sunbird' by Dr Panda.​
'Purple Sunbird' by Dr Panda.

What inspired you to become a painter?
I am not a trained artist. What started out as a therapy post heart surgery soon became a new-found passion. Today, art is meditation for me. I also see it as an effective vehicle of self-expression.

Who are the artists you look up to?
I find street art quite visceral and expressive. Banksy, an England-based street artist, is one of my favourites. The work of Okuda San Miguel, a Spanish painter and sculptor known for his distinctive style of colourful geometric patterns that portray animals and religious iconography, is admirable too. I also look up to the mythological art of Pune-based artist Harshvardhan Kadam.

What next?
I am thinking about a code that could be em-bedded into the work of artists, which would help track who bought our paintings over time. Suril Desai’s exhibition will be on display till October 6.

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The Art World

25 Jun, 2019
Earlier this month, a missing part of British monument Stonehenge (representative image) was returned to the historical site after 60 years. In the art world, however, once an artefact is stolen, it’s rarely found again. (Text: Viandra D'souza)
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