17. Path of the Artist: Tarak Garai

by Tarak Garai

My Passion:

My passion is to portray the beauty of the tribal lifestyle, especially the relation between mothers and their babies in the various mediums of Art: either painting on paper or canvas or sculpting in wood, stone, terracotta or in bronze… my favourite medium.

I grew up in a small village and I was always very attracted to the mother-child relationship. I was fascinated by the way tribal mothers balance the work and kids' upbringing.  Despite having a busy, hardworking life, they always keep their kids close. When I moved to Kolkata, I started painting for some of the rich & famous families. I noticed how strikingly different the mother-child relationship in that society was. Mothers barely spend time with their kids, almost as if the upbringing was a duty, that somebody else is responsible for.


That grew my conviction to make this topic a key focus of my work. Many of my paintings and sculptures depict how tribals take care of their kids -- mother with a baby tied to her waist, mother imitating a horse with a kid on her back or playing with her kids in the little time they have during lunch breaks.



Discovery Journey

In India, most festivals use idols of Gods and Goddesses made of clay. When I was a kid, I wanted to have such an idol. My farther made one for me with a beautiful folk look and feel. I still can see it when I close my eyes. Later, with encouragement from my father, I started creating such idols myself and with time I expanded to other form of art. One of my first achievement came during my school years, where I was given the responsibility of painting a 30 feet wall magazine. When I finished my secondary school, my father wanted me to become a professor (he was a teacher himself) to secure my future financially. So he forbid me to paint and sculpt, yet I was secretly doing it during the night. Once I visited an art college near my village and I went completely nuts seeing all those people painting, sculpting. I knew I belong there. With a bit of a fight and support from one of my older cousins, my father accepted me going to Shantiniketan (Visva Bharati - Kala Bhavana - University founded by the great poet Rabindranath Tagore) under the condition that the moment I finish my studies I need to be independent financially. So I accepted the challenge.


 Student life clay modelling, portrait study in 1970


This is it

When I decided that I’ll become an artist I knew and accepted that I will have to go through struggles. The turning moment was when I graduated. I had 300 Rupees in my pocket and with that money I went to Kolkata. I had no clue what I would do or where to stay. The members of ‘The Canvas Artists Circle’ allowed me to stay in their club. Throughout the day they held their meetings and other activities and at night I slept there. They were surprised to hear I took such a risk without even knowing anybody there. With their help I started my first job at an Interior Decoration company. I was really successful there, my salary grew 500% to the level of senior artists' compensation during the first year. And although I learned a lot there, I felt my creativity is limited.


Throughout my career, I got many good offers, whereby I could get more money in less time. But then I realised that if I do it, I would never be the artist I want to be. So doesn’t matter how difficult it was, I kept on freelancing all through my life. I was determined not to do any service. That allowed me to spend time on what I wanted to do, for example: I start with an idea in my mind and I sculpt it. While in the midst of it, I figure out that this might actually work better in terracotta. Then I might switch to dokra art form. If I’m still not satisfied I would try stone. I work with all possible materials. This allows me to express the idea in the right medium. My favourite though is bronze. It’s the only material that survives thousands of years without any deformation. 


tribal mothers


Ultimately, the freelancing approach helped me to achieve more. As bronze is my preferred medium, I’ve done quite a lot of research on it and developed a method to simplify the casting process. Although my technique combines the different casting processes (traditional, Italian, lost wax), it is much quicker and more efficient than any of these. A large bronze sculpture is typically made by welding together several smaller sculptures. The process I developed allows you to do the entire sculpture at once and in one piece. There is a technical challenge to make sure that metal flows in all places uniformly during the casting process. As otherwise, it creates weakness in the sculpture. So I created internal channels, gas pipes in such a way that metal flows uniformly in the mould. There is no need of welding at all. This was a great achievement for me. The Cultural Dept of the Govt of India awarded me the senior fellowship for my research on bronze casting, twice. 


Try it

I think the easiest way is to attend a workshop to figure out whether you like it or not.


I’ve run such workshops myself, where people ranging from beginners to established artists wanted to learn how to work with bronze. I would demonstrate both of the processes: the traditional one, where you make the sculpture with clay, then you mold it, cast it in wax and transfer in metal at the end and the one I’ve invented. I use wax plates (around 5mm) and join them together to give shape, so you bypass the clay part. It’s quicker. With this you can technically build a sculpture within a day.


Tarak Garai's workshop 


I truly believe that if you want to be an artist, if you work hard and put all energy and creativity into art, it will never be a failure, regardless of how unconventional your stream is. There have been many instances when I conducted workshops or delivered speeches in universities, in turn, inspiring many people to take the risk and go for what they are passionate about. It’s a positive change that I managed to bring to people’s lives.  


Find out more about passion of Tarak Garai on his FB page


Read more stories of passionate people

1 comment

  • Comment Link Sarala Rao Tuesday, 05 April 2016 18:37 posted by Sarala Rao

    Mr. Tarak Garai. You are a Wonderful Genuine Sculpture. You have invincible passion for your Arts. It is obvious in all your works. Your works are Ethnic, Solid and Expressive. Wonderful to know you.

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