The Prince of Urban Tides..
“I have been painting all my life. I wanted to become an actor in fact I am a very good mimic. I can mimic nearly all Bollywood stars, but a wise actor once asked me, where is Raj More in your mimicry? These words opened my eyes to who and what I was and wanted to become in my life.”
All the world’s a stage for artist, Raj More, as he narrates his multiple stories embedded within his large scale bold canvases. Hailing from the quaint town of Akola, in Maharashtra, the first born to a government employee and a homemaker mother, Raj More has donned many masks and played numerous roles in his life. Most of them convincingly.
“In school, I was more interested in extra-curricular activities and sports than studies or art, I wanted to become a cricketer, I worked hard and was a celebrated member of the Akola Cricket Club. It cost me my 12th standard though! However, outside of Akola, few knew my passion for cricket. It was important that I educate myself in something more long lasting, so when my drawing teacher suggested to my father that I should take up art as a career, my father who had dreams of making me an engineer or doctor, ignored it. But my teacher who observed the talent of drawing and painting in me, convinced my father and I was sent to art school. In 1991 I left Akola for Pune to do my ATD ( Art Teacher’s Diploma) at Abhinav Kala Mahavidyalaya, I got admission on merit.”
This move from small town Akola to Pune was also an attempt by the artist to forward his acting dreams. He moved around the historical city, making friends, meeting theatre actors in his spare time from art school and trying to eke out some chance to perform his acting skills. In college, he was an all rounder, popular for his art, sports, drama and extra curricular activities. He did mimicry shows to support himself financially through out.
“I had the best of teachers in Pune, Prof.Vijay Kadam, Prof. Kamble, Prof Chavan, and others who helped me sharpen my drawing and painting skills. they also taught me the art of living as an artist”
But the restless mind often seeks what it wants. Raj moved to Mumbai in 1993, after having acquired a seat at the prestigious Sir J J School of Art. He chose Applied art over Fine art in spite of his work being the quality of fine art students. The purpose of becoming an actor flowered into various other film line related opportunities in a city which has the Bollywood film industry. Raj spread his wings and got ready to fly. This is where he met most of his inspirations and well known people from all walks of life. Some befriended him, guided him, advised him and Raj began renewing his dream of becoming an actor. He would gift the renowned actors their portraits and paintings which would become memories in the making. He began working as a full fledged mimicry artist while studying and it was in one of these times he met actor Sayaji Shinde. The veteran actor was impressed by Raj’s mimicry skills and encouraged him. And in that friendly demeanor, he told Raj the secret of true success was to be yourself. This stuck with the sensitive artist and he began taking his career seriously. His work has always been that unique blend of fine art and applied art and popularity could not be far behind. His work initially dealt with landscape and urban or rural scenarios.He also won the 1996 State Award for Art by Maharashtra government. In 1998 against the advice of his friends and colleagues, he had a show at Jehangir Art Gallery. It was a huge sell out show and this saw the emergence of the artist, painter in Raj More.
Another life changing moment for the artist that changed the course of his focus from acting to art was the time when after graduation from Sir J J School of Art, he applied for the Film & Television Institute of India ( FTII) in Pune. Raj could not get through the final lapse of the admission process. Though dejected by this, the artist decided that it was Art he would dedicate his life to, recognizing that Art has been his constant companion for life.
From 1999, after graduating and the setback of the FTII rejection, Raj became a full time artist and never looked back. Raj married Sangita in 2000. Sangita, as Raj reveals has been his silent and strongest support during his struggle as an artist. During one such occasion, Raj sent his portfolio to the famous theatre director and art connoisseur and patron, Ebrahim Alkazi. Alkazi was so impressed by the works of Raj that he wrote an article about it. He offered to show his works in several group and solo shows and also advised the young artist about his work for the future. Raj has had many shows, both solo and group from then on at prestigious galleries, camps and international residencies. Some mentionable ones are, his participation in the 2002 show, ‘Bombay Boys - II’ held at Gallery Beyond, ‘Salaam Mumbai’ show at Jehangir art gallery in 2006 is particularly important as this was the show where he began using some of his palette knife techniques in the works. This technique would later on become famous as artist Raj’s style of paint application.
In August of 2008, Raj had his most successful solo show titled, ‘Lifeline 786’ at the Articulate Gallery at BMB Art Gallery, Mumbai. This was one of the most successful shows of the year and it also marked Raj as a force to be reckoned with in the main stream art world of India. Some of his other well known shows were, ‘Dimensions in time and space’ curated by Ebrahim Alkazi at New Delhi, in 2010.He also winner of 2010 Asia Art Award and excellence prize by EM Art gallery with collaborative venture with Korean Govt,Seoul Korea.
Raj has also had tremendous success abroad as his work is very well received even to this day in many parts of the world. He has had a solo show at the Fine Art Gallery, Bratislava, Slovak Republic, EU in 2010 curated by Michal Matei. Raj’s works are very well appreciated and loved at the Korean shores as well, with his shows curated by Mia Jung titled, ‘Art 507’ at Seoul, Korea in 2012 and a group show in 2013 at the Busan International Art Fair by LVS Gallery, Seoul, Korea. Back home he also was much appreciated at the United Art Fair 2012, curated by JohnyML and United Art Fair 2013, curated by Peter Nagy in New Delhi.
“He also won the 54th National Academy Award organized by Lalit Kala Akademi(National Academy of Art) New Delhi.”
Recent times saw his work displayed at the ‘Rethinking the Regional’ show held at NGMA Mumbai and curated by Dr Manisha Patil.
Raj has also been part of various art camps and events like Lalit Kala Akademi, Regional painters’ camp at Chennai in 2012, and in Goa in 2013. The Symphony art and Technology National painting and Sculpture workshop at PEC University at Chandigarh. And the most unique, Cartist Automobile Art Festival at Jaipur in 2016, curated by Johny ML.
Like a prince who sails on known and unknown tides, artist Raj More brings the essences of urban and rural, the bold and the sensitive, the pain and the celebration of all that he sees and all that he is been part of.
“What makes my art different is the painterly quality and the use of the palette knife. I work very deftly on each section of the work and it is hard work. I look outside my studio window and see roof tops of slums near by. Sometimes, when I miss my acting days, I go down there, sit with them, play cricket, talk and interact with them. I see many characters, actors on the stage of life, it feels like home. An artist has to be able to adapt and accept everything around, from people, to nature, to situations, to struggles. At such times when I approach my canvas with my knife loaded with paint, the various aspirations and dreams which were left half way crop up suddenly, in the playfulness of my favorite intelligent bird, crow, in the reflection of the crowded Mumbai on a taxi or truck window, in the tiny lanes and gullies which are like blood vessels of Mumbai. My knife sees and expresses all of these sights, and none of it is shy or dull.”