They say the desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. Art is a form of creativity that provides a sort of expression to the very sensitive stratum of the society.
This creative strain becomes the strongest when an individual has no other way to vent out his or her feelings and observations. The art is not only a creative way for catharsis, it can also bring recognition and appreciation for the artist. There is a sense of achievement.
Shajee P Madhavan (pen name Shajee Chelad), a Doha-based artist and art educator from Kerala, India, can be seen as an embodiment of how art can bring both self-satisfaction and recognition.
Community talked to Shajee to learn how he became a creative artist.
Shajee, head of the Fine Arts Department at Scholars International School, does not come from a very rich or successful background. “We are six siblings; five brothers and a sister. My father was a mason but he did everything to encourage me and support my school education. He along with my elder brother supported me in pursuing fine arts studies.”
As a child, Shajee was a very keen observer. He was very good at drawings. “I used to pick the left-over pieces of chalks from the classroom in school. I use to draw with the chalk pieces on the floor of my house. I used to draw different natural objects that I saw in my surroundings. I started my practice in drawing and painting at a very young age. At the outset, it was all visual — based on the natural surroundings in my village such as lake, hills, paddy fields, grain husking yard, festivals, birds, animals, vehicles etc.
The young Shajee’s hidden potential was discovered by a writer who lived in the same village. “There is was a writer — that is all I remember about him now — in our village. He told me that I was very good at drawings and if I kept on drawing and painting, I could become a successful artist. He suggested that I study art as a subject.”
The endorsement of his talent led him to pursue art in a professional institution. “After realising that I had potential, my father and elder brother gave me a lot of inspiration and guidance. That inspiration culminated in me getting admission in Fine Arts College, Trivandrum in 1991. I completed my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1996 with first rank. Consequently, I got admission in Sarojini Naidu University, Hyderabad, for a Master’s degree in fine arts. I was, however, not able to take the course up because of my adverse financial circumstances. However, the immense support from my family and friends give me a lot of energy and enthusiasm to continue pursuing my dream as an artist. Shajee later took up arts as an educator and started teaching in different schools in India. He moved to Doha in 2012 as an art teacher and joined Scholars International School. He has now become a mature artist and taken part in different group exhibitions, both national and international.
“At present, I am mainly concentrating on surrealism and upstart type of metaphysical style. My taste is to present visuals perceived in a different perspective. Before coming to Qatar, my subjects were mainly figurative art style based on the visuals I have seen way back in Kerala, especially in my village. Fed up and conditioned with that style, I switch over to search for a new style.
“After coming to Qatar, I realised that this country has rich art heritage and promotes the upcoming artist to a great extent. Here, I have been able to witness a lot of construction and innovative works — especially in the field of civil engineering. The labourers who were working in the construction areas, the structural nature of massive buildings, the machineries used in the field in general and the social scenarios of Qatar, in particular, are some of the areas which influenced my work.”
Like any other artist, Shajee is greatly influenced by masters and contemporary artists alike. “Mainly, I have been inspired by German surrealistic artist Max Earnest, expressionists Max Beckman and Elgrecco. Indian artists such as M F Husain and K G Subramanian have also been a great inspiration for me. As well I have been influenced by some of my contemporary artists. I continue to follow the contemporary trends and art works at the same time.”
As an art educator, Shahjee believes in continuous learning and upgrading. “We need to have immense interest and continuous practice. Observing objects and things in a detailed manner, extensive reading, experiencing different aspects of life and frankness to deal with contemporary issues are some of the things that one has to do to become a successful art teacher. Continuous effort to improvise and improve one’s own style and the ability to appreciate the contemporary works of the other artists are essential for developing a visual language.”
The artist defines art as a medium of expression. “It is a creative medium to express one’s innermost feelings and emotions. It is a creative expression of everyday observations. It is like expressing your feelings in a novel way every time. It is a way of preserving your feelings and observations in a beautiful way forever. Art is my profession and teaching it to children is my passion.”
Shajee is all praise for the art scene in Qatar. “The spirit of art is infinite in Qatar. It is a country which gives a lot of promotion to the artists coming from all corners of the world.
“I am confident that this land will give me a lot of inspiration to spur my growth. Qatar gives a lot of platforms for national and international exhibitions. There are numerous organisations, which are supporting fine art.
“One such organisation is MAPS International that has given me certain opportunities. The office-bearers and members of the organisation continue to support and encourage me here.”
When asked about his future plans, the artist said: “It is my great ambition to organise a solo exhibition in Qatar soon. I am making a lot of effort towards that end. I would like to make my mark in Qatar and be known for my creative paintings.”
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