The Life and Art of Piraji Sagara

The art of celebrated Modernist Artist and founder member of Kanoria Centre for Arts, Piraji Sagara, is relived at Art 17 this March. Know about his life and creative journey through the words of his friends and family BV Doshi, Urmila Kanoria and  Sharmila Sagara.

In the 60s, at a time when celebrated artists were emphasising heavily on portraying rural elements and poetic expressions of life forms within their artworks, it was Piraji Sagara who revolutionised the contemporary art scenario by portraying the same subjects through vivid and bright-toned palettes in his masterpieces. His Rajasthani ethnicity contributed towards the bright colours that were to become integral to his painting forms, which captured within them daily life situations. Hailing from a humble family background, and residing in the city of Ahmedabad, Piraji Sagara pursued his Masters in Art from Sir JJ School of Arts. His creative ideas were always encouraged by his mother and, from her, he adopted the habit, early on, of being friends with family members; with this practice soon evolving in time to include students, whom he treated as family too.

At Kanoria Centre for Arts, we had the wonderful opportunity to talk to Sharmila Sagara, daughter-in-law of Piraji Sagara, who revealed some fascinating facts about the artist. Also an artist by profession, she explained Piraji Sagara’s aesthetics profoundly, “As an independent artist, he was always inclined toward using traditional junk materials as part of his medium within collages. The junk wasn’t used only as a decorative backdrop. It was utilised for creating the primary forms and elements of the artwork. He used metal, aluminium, nails, wood and burnt wood as his major materials, and his work has always been like a flow –never ending.” While observing the artworks of Sagara, one can notice hints of his previous works in every painting, suggesting that his inspiration and creativity have always streamed without much disturbance. When we talked about the sculpture aspect of Piraji Sagra, there was a beaming smile on Sharmila Sagara’s face as she explained them saying, “Piraji Sagra was an imaginative human being. He depicted fantasies of creatures within his sculptures. Each carve, every curve of the sculpture could elaborate an individual story of its own. He believed in independence and keeping an open perspective for viewers, thus it isn’t necessary to draw a single conclusion with his sculptures.”

Piraji Sagara, Collage, Art-work
Photo courtesy: Rajesh Sagara

Piraji Sagara was the founder member of Kanoria Centre for Arts, and he taught at the School of Architecture, CEPT University, since 1963. His friendship with Urmila Kanoria, founder of Kanoria Centre for Arts, went a long way. In Sharmila Sagara’s words “History says their shared zeal for developing a sophisticated studio for art lovers and learners in the city of Ahmedabad resulted into the great space that is Kanoria Centre for Arts”. As one of the pioneering modern artists of India, Piraji Sagara was also the founder member of the Progressive Painters group. During the span of his career, he won numerous accolades including the National Award of Lalitkala Academy, Vishva Gurjari Award, and the prestigious Ravishankar Raval Award in 1992.

Piraji Sagara has been a renowned name to emerge from Gujarat. In 1975 when his artworks became frequent exhibits in the galleries of Mumbai and Delhi, his aesthetics soon escalated towards international art lovers in Tokyo, London, Brazil, France, USA and various other countries. Even today, there are many unsold works of the legendary artist, including, paintings, collages and sculptures made in different mediums.

“Piraji, a prolific reader, enjoyed conversing with students;  he hardly went out on evening socials, focusing his entire time and energy on his work. His indifference to publicity, is what endows a certain quality to his work, which is rare in the modern era. That is the reason a viewer would want to look at his work again and again”, reminisces Architect BV Doshi, Founder-Director of School of Architecture. Almost in a similar vein, Urmila Kanoria, Founder of Kanoria Centre for Arts shares, “Piraji was a simple man, the way you would expect an artist to be”. It is a huge effort on part of the Kanoria Gallery for Arts to put together this never displayed before works of the master artist.

Kanoria Centre for Arts is giving a tribute to the celebrated artist at the Art 17 festival where his artworks will be displayed,  from 17th March 2017 till 29thMarch 2017. The exhibition has been titled as Remembering Piraji, allowing one the chance to explore many facets of the artist’s life by simply looking at his many masterpieces. The show comprises of 18 sculptures and 22 paintings by the master.

Truly a rare privilege for Ahmedabad.

Cover Illustration: Panachand Lunechiya

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