Aparajita Barai

Visual artist

Originally from Darjeeling, Aparajita began painting as a child before graduating as a graphic designer from the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad. She recalls with joy how, from an early age, she would “forget that time existed, everything stops, you forget where you are, and feel lost” while painting. Initially, her logical and sensible approach to life dictated that she needed to follow a more practical path and, as a result, she became a graphic designer. However, Aparajita quickly felt that the world of graphic design was not for her and she soon found her passion and sense of purpose in painting. Her background has undoubtedly played a role in shaping how she expresses Indian spiritual concepts using communication through symbolism.

Aparajita’s work is mostly inspired by the Madhubani folk style of Bihar. The simplicity of approach and humility of expression felt to her like a genuine and honest method that is also very beautiful. Initially exploring with black ink on white paper, over time she has expanded to add colours to her work. Aparajita’s work seeks to move beyond the ritualisation of religion, by seeking to express the symbolism held in the mythology of the stories. This allows people to connect on a deeper level with the stories and discover their true meaning. Looking at her paintings, one is awakened to the universal spiritual messages held in the mythology. Aparajita’s book explains in greater detail the mythology that underpins her artwork. This publication makes the stories and her paintings accessible to a wider audience.

Aparajita first came to Auroville in 2010 for a brief visit and immediately felt drawn to the town and its spiritual ideals. She recalls driving through the forest along muddy paths and feeling a deep connection with nature. In 2015 Aparajita returned for an exhibition where she showcased a series of paintings on Indian spiritual concepts. It was then that her professional and personal life fell into place. In 2016 she moved permanently to Auroville and since then she has focused on her spiritual journey of self-discovery through art.

Describing her work process, Aparajita talks about how each new piece is preceded by a void; that moment when one painting and story has been finished but a new thought and inspiration is yet to be born. Aparajita is open about how challenging these empty moments can be. Sometimes it feels like no new inspiration will come. However, by drawing upon her wider interests, including inspiration from her own life, Vedic interpretation, dance and music, Aparajita allows for each new idea to come to her at its own pace. Every painting takes time as it requires a personal inner spiritual journey to be realised throughout its creation. Each brush stroke contains a message that tells a part of the story so that, in its entirety, each piece can capture the essence of the spiritual mythology being expressed.

By Mukta Martens 
For It Matters

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