Monday, February 9, 2015

Pragati Sharma Mohanty (Featured Artist)

“Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.”  - Oscar Wilde

Artists - a whole different species according to me....Why? Because they perceive and interpret things differently from the non-artists, they find inspiration in the simplest of things that life has to offer and live to create beauty. An opportunity to understand and explore an artist’s psyche and their creative journey is fascinating to say the least and does not come by often. When  a possibility presented itself, to connect with the remarkable and  gifted, Pragati Sharma Mohanty, I was truly excited!

One of the most promising New Age Indian artists, her oeuvres are characterized by saturated colors and elaborate compositions that are visually introspective in value. Every painting is a celebration of color and is a mirror that reflects the artist's patience, dedication and honest depiction of her creative soul. Pragati draws heavily from her Indian origin but also blends her knowledge and understanding of the diverse cultures that she's experienced by living in different continents. With a Masters in Product Design from the prestigious National Institute of Design (India), the architect and product designer turned artist has exhibited her work in India and the US on numerous occasions. Some of the most note worthy exhibits being at Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Research Center and at the University of Connecticut Health Center. Pragati was one amongst the only 3 artists selected for a Habitat for Humanity public art Project in Vancouver, Canada. Her creations have also been selected for CRY (Child Relief and You) and have been showcased at the world famous Times Square, New York City !

"Vrshabha" from the Animal-People Series
TECD: Hello and welcome to TECD, Pragati! I did take note of the fact of how you have highlighted the word ART in your name. Let’s begin our conversation by asking you what the word "ART" means to you?

Pragati: “Thank you for having me on TECD, Sruthi. My art is me and I am my art. It’s a way of life for me. The way I dress, cook, travel, sing, my vision and my choices in life - they are all in sync.”
A favorite of mine, "The Bull" from the Mitra series
TECD: Inspiration is what drives an artist to create. It’s no doubt that every creative individual gets asked the question about their creative stimulus in the hope that we too can draw from this piece of knowledge. What spurs your creativity?

Pragati: “I was brought up in a very culturally rich environment. My mother is a poet, a singer and an expert of Sanskrit and astrology. My maternal uncle was a sculptor - I got exposed to the studio environment very early on in life. I have strong memories of him working on huge clay statues, the smell of multani mitti & paper mache, and his engrossed expression while carving those beautiful faces and his gratified smile when the desired result was achieved.
I started learning classical music and dance when I was 5 years old. As a kid, I was fortunate to meet artists like Zakir Hussain, Hari Prasad Chaurasiya, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Kishori Amonkar, Shiv Kumar Sharma and many more through Spic Macay. My cousin introduced me to oil painting when I was 6 years old and my dad always told me that I have to be the best in whatever I choose to do in life. With such profound influences in my life it was hard to not get inspired. I have always had this hunger for “something else”, “something more…”

TECD: Each of your series is visually captivating. Tell us more about your creative approach and the time frame it takes to complete something as elaborate as the works that constitute your portfolio? 

Pragati: “My latest series is about animals and their significance in ancient cultures and world mythologies. Animal-people is my latest favorite subject. The way I approach a body of work is in some way similar to how I would approach a design problem. If something catches my fancy - I read up a lot about it and come up with ideas to build my story on. My art offers something more than the face value to its viewer - some deeper alternative meaning, a story or may be a mystery. It also has to abide by the principles of aesthetics, pleasing to the eye.

The Egyptian Cow Goddess - "Hathor. The attention to detail and the kaleidoscope of colors is Pragati's forte. 
As for the time frame, sometimes a painting takes months and sometimes I get so much into it that I forget everything else to finish it in a few days. When I am working on a theme I start multiple paintings simultaneously and keep hopping from one to the other. For example the Mitra series - The idea struck, I stretched five canvasses, did the drawing on all five, then the base coats, painting, detailing, finishing etc. was all done in 3 days, phew!! My back, eyes, wrist and neck did hurt a bit later - but the reward of seeing the finished work was very fulfilling. 
From the Royal Sawaari Series 
On the other hand I have this painting called ‘Samahita’ 48”X48” - that I started working on 3 years back and I am still adding details to it. Its like my studio buddy that keeps evolving with me…”

TECD: Your work has strong Indian references. Having lived abroad, I’m curious to know how has the western world influenced your work ?

Pragati: “Living abroad has given me confidence, taught me to be more disciplined and sincere. It has opened up a plethora of materials, techniques and possibilities. 

Art does evolve as one grows as a person. We learn a lot from our environment and direct influences. My themes are deeper and more subtle now, not merely superficial. I had to paint the Radha-Krishnas, Buddhas and Landscapes like any other Indian artist to find my real domain. It’s like a bridge that I had to cross. I am a self-taught artist and in a way thankful about it as I passed the unlearning phase very quickly. Dividing my time between US and India helps me to get the best of both worlds.”
Buddha and the Universe

TECD : While we are on the topic of influence and inspiration, are there others artists whose work you admire ?

Pragati : “Gustav Klimt is my favorite. I am madly in love with his works from the ‘Golden Phase’ where he used a lot of gold leaf, intricate patterns, radical themes and innovative material. My other two hugely favorite artists are Mark Rothko and Saiyad Haider Raza. The most mature works by both these artists are strongly geometrical, balanced and color centric. Rothko drew a lot from mythology and hence believed that ‘without monsters and gods, art cannot enact a drama’. I read about these artists much after being miserably attracted to their works. I unknowingly was treading the same path, philosophy-wise. I can go on and on about them…but what’s true is my heart skips a beat when I see their works. My list would be incomplete if I did not mention Frida Kahlo (my Art Goddess) and Charley Harper (the father of modern illustration, a huge inspiration).

Now when I get attracted to a work of art I read about the artist to try to figure out what was going on in their minds. And more often than not there is some synergy with my perspective towards life & art."
“Fairies and Deer" from the Landscape series

TECD: As an artist, how do you propose to contribute to the community through your art?

Pragati: “I feel that my art has a meditative quality to it. It brings strong positive vibes to the environment around it. I got invited to do two back to back shows at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital because the people who saw my works at earlier exhibitions felt that it has a positive, enriching kind of quality to it. Later I did a solo show at University of Connecticut Health Center and got great reviews. A recent contribution in the effort to improve the quality of environment through public art, I painted a mural titled 'The Prakriti Mandala: the infinite reservoir of creative energy'  for the City of Hartford, CT. I am very organically and naturally going towards ‘Art for Healing’ and that’s going to be my career path in 2015.” 

Wall Mural - "The Prakriti Mandala: the infinite reservoir of creative energy"
TECD : We at TECD admire strong willed women who follow their dreams. But we also know that the path is filled with challenges. What were the challenges that you encountered along your creative journey?

Pragati : “Convincing my husband that I can make a career out of my passion :) Isn’t that a universal thing though? 

I think commissioned works are the most challenging. When you are working for someone there is a fear of not being able to visualize the given brief. My latest commission was for a film-maker friend and it gave me several sleepless nights. Very nervously I presented it to her and thankfully she liked it." 
Commissioned work  titled "Gallop to Paradise "
TECD: Armed with your qualifications of a Bachelors Degree in Architecture and a Masters Degree in Industrial Design, do you plan to venture into other areas of design other than art?

Pragati: “As a creative person, my design education and my career as an artist are not two separate things to me. They are interconnected - it’s a symbiotic kind of relationship. I draw from everything and my work draws from me. Because of some constraints I only paint now. But eventually I do want to get into accessory design and interior design, where I can design from lifestyle products to enriching experiences. I want to be able to beautifully mess around with all the tools at hand. I have a lot of ideas waiting to be created.” 

“Annahita  and “Bhumi” from the Goddess of fertility series
TECD: You have had the opportunity of living your dream. We would love for you to share with us on how it’s never too late to answer one’s creative calling?

Pragati: “I feel that it's human nature to remain in one’s comfort zone and make excuses to not take those baby steps towards our dreams. One should be so passionate about one’s dream that there is no way around not following them. Be sincere in your efforts and be consistent too. There will be some initial glitches but the satisfaction that you get treading on ’that’ path is worth everything. Ignore the people who disagree with you a lot and embrace the motivators.”

With that we come to the end of our engaging conversation with the artistically endowed, Pragati Sharma Mohanty. If you would like to own one of Pragati's vibrant and thought provoking artworks, you could contact her via her FB page or visit her website. I thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with Pragati and would like to wish her all the very best in her creative voyage.

Image Credit/ Copyright :  Pragati Sharma Mohanty


  1. Such wonderful pieces of Art. Amazing job Pragati, good luck to you and thank you Sruthi for bringing up colourful posts!

  2. Spectacular and inspiring. Week done

  3. Really beautiful artwork. Vibrant colors are so appealing

  4. Wow!! This is stunning. I love the layers of patterns and color!


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