THE National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC) and the Heritage Art Gallery have opted to feature the work of artist Shastri Maharaj in an exhibition entitled Aagaman – The Coming, at the Divali Nagar Site in Chaguanas. It's one of the main activities for "the month of Indian arrival."
Maharaj said Agamaan’s body of works is representative of subject matter that can be experienced throughout the length and breadth of TT. They deal with "things associated with Indian."
“I would say they are a reflection of my life experiences as a person searching for identity in conjunction with my Indian heritage, said 66-year-old Maharaj.
“There is documentation of making the ordinary…extraordinary. There is an aesthetic exuberance in the execution of the paintings. Style fluctuates… the figurative is married with the impressionist,” said Maharaj who added that the intention is to sensitise the viewer to certain rites and rituals that are part of the cultural landscape of this country.
He said it is historical in its endeavour and will now be immortalised. “I consider these paintings to be epic. I believe I have been moved by the spirit with these visual pronouncements.”
The exhibition began on May 4 and continues at the NCIC Heritage Art Gallery until June 2.
Maharaj possesses a master of education from UWI, St Augustine, and a bachelor of fine arts from the University of Manitoba, Canada.
His paintings depict a history of his ancestry from arrival in 1847, the preservation of his music, culture, traditions, in the cane fields and the various festivals, the Gods, marriage and worship.
In his 40 years as an artist, Maharaj has had 19 one-man shows, and exhibited in Delhi, Germany, Canada, USA, England, Chile, Mauritius, and the Caribbean on multiple occasions.
Asked about Agamaan exhibiting at the nagar, Maharaj said: “I thought central Trinidad especially NCIC was a very appropriate venue for the show. Many or most people south of the Caroni will now have a great opportunity to see an art exhibition of this calibre in their area…and so too people from South Trinidad. The space is very well suited and NCIC is very excited about having the show.”
Geoffrey Maclean’s foreword written in the catalogue states that Maharaj’s very first one-man exhibition was at the Trinidad Hilton, organised by Sylvia Kacal and William Gordon in 1982.
“His recent work can be described as romantic in expression, demonstrating his love of TT through its landscape and people. The relaxed and colourful atmosphere of his beach scenes, and country scenes with cattle grazing and open fields with the mountains in the background impart a feeling of serenity. His portrayal of everyday activities of bathing in the river and lighting of the fire on the river bank, are symbols of our love of the outdoors,” Maclean said.
“To complete his circle of the other aspects of our culture, Shastri has illustrated religious ceremonies and also the beauty of Divali and the joy of the ladies dancing to the drummers. He also reminds of the days of indentureship of Indians with his scene with cane cutters in the environment of the sugar factory. As he states, his intention is to sensitise the public to certain rites and rituals in Trinidad and Tobago’s cultural landscape.”
Maharaj is also an art educator, author and lecturer.
Among the places he has exhibited internationally are the museum, UWI, Mona - Jamaica; Mahatma Institute, Mauritius; Spence Gallery, Toronto; ACP House, Belgium; Sing Me a Rainbow (a travelling art exhibition) Meridian International Center, Washington; The Schoelcher Library, Fort-de France, Martinique; IFA Gallerie, Bonn, Germany; Central Bank, Barbados; and Cuban Bienale Havana, Cuba.
Maharaj’s one-man shows from 1982 to 2016 include The Undaunted Spirit, a Grain of Mustard and Pathways at Y Gallery; Into the Light at Horizon Art Gallery; Recent Paintings in Delhi, India; Praire Lands at Spence Gallery, Toronto; Fringe at Soft Box, Port of Spain; Inward Journey - A Retrospective - 28 Years of Painting and Recent Paintings at the National Museum and Art Gallery; Two Views - Gulf Coast University, Florida; the Spirit Within and Talk at Gallery 101 Art Gallery; Inheritance at Gallery 1234, Hotel Normandie, Indenture and The Unfolding at Gallery 123, Recent Paintings at Galerie Hansen, Bonn, Germany; Recent Works at Aquarela Galleries and Primal Emotions at West Mall.