Paresh Maity unplugged

Ambitious and restless, Paresh loves being Paresh

Artists see things differently. Thanks to that special gift, the world also begins to see and appreciate the vision of the creator. My attitude towards the prickly jackfruit changed forever when Paresh Maity immortalised it in bronze. A gigantic version of the fruit was on display at Bikaner House in Delhi (2022) at Paresh’s solo exhibition, titled Infinite Light. The jackfruit was described as India’s largest bronze sculpture. “The structure of the fruit depicts life in the city,’’ Paresh said. He saw what most of us didn’t! That’s what makes Paresh, a Padma Shri award recipient, a sought-after artist, acquired by galleries and collectors who dote on the Delhi-based, beret-wearing artist with a master’s in fine arts from the College of Art, Delhi. ‘The Force’ is his most iconic sculpture, made of 8,500 bells. But it is his vivid water colours I lust after. Paresh says watercolour is the most difficult medium in the field of art. Well, recently I discovered Paresh’s absolute control and mastery over the medium, at a wonderfully organised retreat in Gangtok. We were a group of approximately 40 people invited by Harsh Neotia to experience a delightful Easter weekend at the exquisite Taj-managed Guras Spa and Resort, carved out of a rocky hill in Gangtok, with Danny Denzongpa and Bhaichung Bhutia as neighbours. During our two short days at the gorgeous property, which has glorious views of the majestic Kanchenjunga, Paresh was busy translating his vision into watercolours of immense beauty, while the rest of us chit-chatted over second flush Darjeeling tea.

Paresh Maity Paresh Maity

I don’t own a Paresh, alas. But each time I pass through Delhi, I stop to admire his gigantic work at the T3 Indira Gandhi International Terminal. I have always been an admirer, but this was the first time we both had the time and leisure to connect and chat. Paresh is a dandy. His meticulously selected outfits are a reflection of his personal aesthetic. He says he is a follower of the “less is more’’ philosophy, but his fashion choices are anything but minimalistic. When he walked in for a formal farewell dinner at the resort, all eyes were on the man in a zari embroidered black achkan bearing his signature motifs woven in gold thread, a heavy silver choker, and tan shoes. The trademark black beret was firmly in place. Paresh is a photographer’s dream I discovered, as I shot his portraits in the resplendent gold embroidered achkan. He posed like a pro, and took directions unfussily, while Jayasri Burman, his partner, an accomplished artist herself, watched on. Soon, it was my turn to pose for Paresh. Not only did he click the most flattering portraits, but within seconds, he had cropped and composed the perfect shot. Prolific, gregarious, ambitious and restless, Paresh is a man who loves being Paresh. That’s such a refreshing change from artists who pretend to play modest and claim they are embarrassed by attention. Paresh is unabashed and upfront—a man who enjoys being in the spotlight and has the distinction of holding the biggest solo exhibition by any single artist in India, spread over four cities and five months.

As for me, I shall cherish my Paresh-shot portraits and frame them for posterity. I cannot afford a Paresh watercolour, which runs into several lakhs. But how many Paresh collectors have been lucky enough to be photographed by the artist? Ha! I win!