Interview with Bijay Biswal: The Artist Who Continues To Check Train Tickets On The Side
When you see a divine figure rising up from the pond in the form of a lotus, eyes closed, shinning on a misty over-shadowed day, it makes your mind numb with serenity. You stand back and admire the beauty of nature and then think about the artist who created such an enigmatic piece of artwork.
Hanging from tree trunks, jumping in the river, playing in the mud; everything about nature was fascinating. As a young kid, growing up in a small town in Orissa, right from the beginning, Bijay learnt the essence of nature in ones life.
He says, "Without nature there is no creativity and without creativity there is no life"
Here is our interview with Bijay Biswaal, whose fascination with nature got us fascinated.
An Unusual Profession for an Unusual Artist:
As a child he used to be a chalk addict; all the walls and floor in his house were covered with drawings made with chalk. He didn't care much for a canvas or paint, the walls gave him a bigger surface to express his emotions and the chalk gave him the fluidity.
This didn't make his parents to happy, but they lived with it. They wanted him to have a government job; art was always treated as a hobby. His parents persuaded him to find something more stable, so he could support his family.
While his brother became a doctor, he knew he could not live without art. He takes his art very seriously, and he believes he is as good at his profession as anyone else is in there profession. But, in order to make his parents happy and still find a profession that would help him with his artwork was going to be a challenge.
Finally he found the perfect job; it might seem unusual for an artist, but he started working with the Indian Railways as a ticket collector.
Getting paid while he looks for his next idea:
"When I got the job with the railways, people said I would have to sacrifice my passion, but I was sure about one thing - I had to choose between art and my job, I would quit my job. But I never had to. The job was just perfect."
Bijay has a touring job, where he checks ticket on the train. He says it's not about the money for him. This job gives him the opportunity to meet new people and go to different places. All paid for by the Indian government.
"It helps me get inspiration, find new stories, get new approach to my art. The best part, at the end of the day, I get enough time to paint, especially on my off days."
Well, where else would you get paid for going around looking for ideas?
To make what does not exist:
"To paint color and to create something new, is divine. Every day I get good vibes and feeling. Everything about the process of art making makes me feel alive"
Bijay loves everything involved in the process of paintings, right from stretching his own canvas to getting appreciation from people. The smell of paint, mixed with freshness of the canvas is like a heavenly concoction that helps him connect with his spiritual side.
He says, "During a painting you experiment a lot, you make something which does not exist. And, that feeling of being able to create, makes you keep going."
Hanging by the roots of the Banyan tree:
Revolving around interesting concepts that he creates, Bijay's work usually reflects his signature style of roots.
But where did these roots really come from?
"Somehow, as a child I was very insecure and shy, and the roots are the medium with which I find a connection to my childhood. As a kid we would study under a banyan tree that had long roots. That tree made a huge impact on who I am, and I cannot get it out of my mind. Those roots have become my views and they help me to connect to earth and get sense of security."
Via his artwork, he wants to show the connection we all have to nature, where the roots extend to bind us together. While you would see the roots make its way into most of Bijays work, his style usually revolves around figurative/realistic art. His work is an interplay of abstraction and realism. He feels that "besides looking beautiful, the artwork should have a message. If I can transfer what's in my heart on a canvas, I am the happiest person in the world."
Be Open to Learning:
"As a kid, my favorite class used to be the art class. I wanted all my classes from 9 to 5 to be just that. Besides just doing my own artwork assignment, I used to do it for the whole class. People used to come and pile their notebooks with me and I would happy do it."
A curious little child, fascinating with sketching and drawing, went on to do his BA and MA, but art followed him everywhere. He continued to make caricatures of his professors, teachers and students.
As a self-taught artist, Bijay just loved to paint and was getting recognition and that was more than enough to keep him inspired. While he continued paintings, his big break came in his early 40's. He got a national award, followed by an international award.
With more people liking his work, he felt that he could do art professionally, just like any other trained artist. But, besides practicing, he continuously reads books on art, studies artwork by renowned artists, and supplements it all by staying in tune with the trends on the Internet. He says, "I always keep my mind open to learning, form even a child. Whenever I get a chance to learn, I definitely do not miss it. That's the only things that's important for me."
The Train must go on:
"Sometimes I get passengers, who ask me "Are you the artist Biswal?" and they get a shock of their life. They can't believe that an artist could be working in the train collecting tickets."
For Bijay, keeping his job is a luxury. While he gets to discover and travel, it also has allowed him to be in a relaxed state of mind. He does not have to worry about his financial needs. This gives him the freedom to paint what he likes and feels.
"But, if I left my job, I would have to do commissioned work, which would force me to do things that I might not like and affect my style. Right now, now no one can dictate what I must and should do. So I have the luxury of experimenting."
For, Bijay, the 'Train ride must go on', as he finds new places, new people and new inspirations.
We look forward to seeing new artwork from Bijay and wish him best of luck.