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I am going totally against what is happening, doing my own thing, otherwise I would go mad: Amit Ambalal

Veteran artist Amit Ambalal tells the Pothi team how he is coping with the pandemic situation by following his own bliss. 

With the pandemic raging all around us, we need to redraw the lines of our lives and figure out how we can continue doing art. Amidst the mayhem, artists have to find a way to document the history around us. So, it was only natural for us to reach out to veteran artist Amit Ambalal for inspiration, as he keeps working every day. He lives his life through his art and finds a way of coping with the pressures around him.


We asked him how the pandemic and the lockdown affected him and he appeared to have a Zen method of looking at it. “Actually, in one sense I am not unhappy. Of course, I am worried a lot because of all the bad news that is coming in. But I am okay remaining in the house. It does not disturb me at all. I am totally relaxed in the sense I am able to paint daily. I enjoy my painting.  The only thing that I cannot do is that when I decide I don’t want to do paint today and I want to go visit a museum, I cannot do. So, that way I only enjoy my work in the quiet of my studio,” he says.

He follows his routine religiously and conducts his work like he generally does. “Daily I go to the studio at around 9.30 am to work, and if the work has begun nicely, in a way I like, then I want to finish that and I am in the studio again in the afternoon. Then, maybe afterwards, I sit in the garden and watch the birds. It’s a very satisfying time for me in that way,” he adds.

Continuing on the way the pandemic has overtaken our lives, he says, “If I think of the pandemic, it’s absolutely scary. I consider art as a good escape from that thing. So, I don’t do anything related to this tension, and the agony of the pandemic. I think of happy moments and the happy hours in my life. And my paintings are related to such happy memories. I am in that sense going totally against what is happening, or otherwise I would go mad.”

His advice for young artists is simple. “If you are not well or you are struggling, I would advice you to keep a small sketchbook and whatever ideas you get, make drawing of it. You must play with that sketchbook. That way your mind will be focussed in another direction. Otherwise, all the while you will think about the problems around you. Instead of just thinking about all the bigger things, it is better to think of smaller things. Keep drawing or even do doodles. Keep working in some small way,” he says.

“I know that you cannot ignore the pandemic. But that is what is happening and you have to face it. Read, listen to music and you have to divert your mind whenever you can. For instance, I sit in the verandah and listen to the birds. I know that tomorrow anything can happen to me. So, by thinking about it I might just be inviting disaster. So, it’s better not to think about all of this,” he adds.

Ambalal does not believe for painting the online space will work in the long run. “There is no way out for the art world right now. For example, gallery Espace is doing an online show mine online. Galleries are also having online discussions. Personally, I am not comfortable with this way of looking at art. The medium of painting cannot be comfortably seen online. It has to be a physical. Even talking to an artist. This is my belief but I know that there are younger people who probably do not think like this,” he says.

So, what is Ambalal doing right now? “Currently, I am working on some early memories. It might not be some special project , but I am working on my memories of Mount Abu and Mathura, and all those funny things like how the monkeys would behave and the birds… fear of the bear… these childhood memories. I have started my work, and I do not know where I will reach.”


Going back to his childhood and his tryst with painting, he says, “My mother would paint and I followed her. I get the help of my sixth sense only in art, not in anything else. I did not get any formal training in art. Of course, Chaganbhai Jadhav used to come once a week and teach me a few things. He was a well-known artist of that time. So, fortunately I have no real training that way. I followed my own freedom. Even Atul Dodiya would be surprised by what I would do, but that was because I did not know certain things. For instead, I would use pen with crayon. Academic training may hamper your progress. But, of course, it depends from person to person.”

As for the West being a reference point in a lot of art, he seems to have a global out look that is based on the personal. “I do not mind people getting aware of various things that are happening in the West. But when you make a derivative effort then it’s a problem. If the theories help you, it’s fine. But in India many things appear around you and you can take inspiration from that. But of course, the world is out there and it should be your oyster,” he says.

As we end our phone call, we cannot help but see the simplicity of the man. It is perhaps his most endearing quality. His words give you glimpse into his charming world of witty occurrences in the natural world.

(Featured image courtesy Archer Art Gallery)