Speaking with Rajesh Kargutkar

Mumbaikar Rajesh Kargutkar is an artist of substance. Having earned his BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) and MFA (Master of Fine Arts) from the J.J. School of Art in Mumbai, his works have been displayed at Kunst Zeug Haus Museum in Switzerland, the Singapore Art Fair and the Bodhi Art Gallery in Mumbai among many other known exhibitions of artistic interest. His solo exhibition titled ‘Common Space’ was showcased at The Luxe Art Museum in Singapore in December 2013. He is a recipient of the Lalibai Dharmdas Bhambani Scholarship awarded to young artists by the Bombay Art Society, the Maharashtra State Award, the Shri Bhim B Purohit Memorial Bombay Art Society Award, the National Scholarship (visual arts) given by the Indian Ministry of Culture, the Bendre Foundation Award, and the Indo-Swiss Student Award from the Consulate General of Switzerland. With a passion for research and to create the living out of the abstract, Rajesh Kargutkar is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest artists of our country.

Rajesh Kargutkar

Ananya Dhawan: Tell us how art has affected your life.
Rajesh Kargutkar: I would say that my life and art are strongly interconnected, in the sense that they always reflect each other. For instance, in my current (December 5 to 22) solo exhibition in Singapore titled ‘Common Space’, my works show two kinds of visuals, what is commonly defined as figurative on the ground floor, and abstract on the first floor of the gallery. When I was offered the opportunity to showcase my work in The Luxe Museum Gallery, and saw the two floor spaces, I immediately accepted the chance. I wanted to use the ground floor for physical space and display part of my ongoing 2007 project which documents the small house I live in – a 16 feet by 10 feet space utilised for my five family members. It emphasises how chaos and control are essentially two sides of the same coin, dialects of a common language. Art gives me the tool to discover systems and structures in the chaos of day-to-day life.

AD: What role does an artist have in the society?
RK: A vital role is played by both artists and the society, in that the artists transfer their sensations, feelings, intuitions, views to society and receive all the important inputs by society. It can be an inspiring instrument for society to comprehend reality collectively. An artist’s role is to express his or her own viewpoint freely, with the appropriate resources and media. The role is important to find out the mutual device within diverse judgments. It can be the documenting of contemporary existence. It actually varies based on individual perspective.

AD: There are a number of laurels to your credit. How does it feel?
RK: It feels good when you receive a recognition you have worked hard for. Recognition of my work is a great satisfaction for me as it brings happiness which I share with my family and friends. I work with determination and commitment to express what I feel – I am interested in and have great concerns about my surrounding, the environment I live in and how consumption is fast changing our way of living.

AD: What subjects do you like to paint the most?
 I like to express myself through paintings and videos in order to show a “hidden space” within the mundane or the routine. This is an attempt to find patterns that the subconscious forms within the monotonous, ordinary space. It is about the existence of the middle class in urban India. My research area is specific to everyday moments in which the consumer world repeats itself. In my process I use the idea of construction, deconstruction and reconstruction of space, in a way trying to reduce the complications of visualising my work and a fusion that creates its own unique vocabulary on urban living.

AD: How imperative, do you feel, is imaginative power for an artist? What qualities make a successful and a well accepted artist?
RK: Imaginative power allows an artist to think commonly. I don’t really know what makes a “successful artist” or “a well-accepted” artist. I admire any person from any walk of life, who gives his or her best to society by expressing the imagination, thoughts and what they feel about the real world. It is all about what you feel and your concerns. I think art is also about expression and reflection of your surrounding; it is not about particular styles or categories.

I admire any person from any walk of life, who gives his or her best to society by expressing the imagination, thoughts and what they feel about the real world.

 Watch the exhibition “Common Space”

AD: Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
RK: From the fifth grade, I started thinking about art, which I believe is something that mentally and physically stimulates people bringing emotions, which I consider important for the wonderful sense of calmness and peace. Art gives the possibility to break through from the day-to-day life. In Sir J.J. School of Art in Mumbai I started my academic path that has been of invaluable help in building my skills. I started to experiment with painting, photography, sculpture and video. A choice of media for particular ideas has been essential in the process of my work.

AD: Tell us something about your family.
RK: I live with my mother, father and brother. My father is a government civil servant, mother is a homemaker and my brother is in his final year of BFA in Sir J. J. School of Applied Arts. I was brought up in a simple working class environment and I owe it to my parents to have instilled in us simple and effective values, honesty, integrity, simplicity and to always be yourself – never hiding the limits and the capabilities.

AD: How supportive are they of the work you do?
RK: All my family members are very supportive and incredibly kind to me. Especially my mother; she gave me the positivity to go ahead, making me happy instead of forcing me to choose other fields of education. I was fascinated by art because my father used to make sculptures with clay; the manual skill and the finished product were remarkable. My enviable support comes from my younger brother who takes charge of the many chores I am responsible for, thus providing me with more time to dedicate to my researches and work that I am entirely fascinated by.

AD: Is there any particular artwork in ‘Common Space’ that you are most proud of?
RK: I have an ineffable attachment to every work I produce. Each has its own story, feeling and message. Presently, I am stimulated by the painting titled ‘In the MID night (Eve & Adam)’ in which I have portrayed figures of my mother and father from a bird’s eye view.

AD: Which artist(s) do you admire the most?
RK: There are number of artists I admire, like Tyeb Mehta, Atul Dodiya, Gieve Patel, Marina Abramovic, Joseph Beuys and Erwin Wurm for their artistic abilities as well as their personal qualities and philosophy.

AD: What would you tell other aspiring artists? Any advice?
RK: I am still in the process of creating, so I may not be able to give proper advice, but I am willing to share my thoughts with aspiring artists. Always work having in mind that you are a unique individual, believe in yourself, be transparent, be honest, be innovative, work hard and have a vision and aim towards the highest level of art that you can achieve. Experience is a pre-requisite for any stage of success. Seek to find which tool best serves your expression.

Rapid Five

1. The most embarrassing moment.
At a super market in Switzerland, the counter lady didn’t know English and I didn’t know German so we understood each other by way of sign language. This circumstance brought about a long queue of customers who were very upset about me taking so long!
2. Any silly obsession?
Comfortable, elegant and well designed shoes!
3. Your dream car.
Aston Martin Gauntlet
4. Your favourite gadget
Any Apple gadget !
5. Any other passions(s), besides art.
Visit new places and meeting new people.


  • Ananya Dhawan

    Features Editor

    Location: Dehradun, India

    Ananya is an avid reader and writes poetry and stories in her spare time, which reflects her deep fascination for Literature. She has a cheerful disposition, believes in living each moment to the fullest and shows keen interest in the sensitive side of life.
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