Sudipta Choudhry, better known as Bubbly to family and friends, is an artist whose many travels are reflected in her canvases. The daughter of a military man from Kolkata, most of her childhood was spent moving around India depending on where her father was posted. Married life brought her to Oman, and art took her to Berlin, Paris, and most importantly, for an artist, to New York City.
"A lot of my travel is not shaped by me, but other people and destiny. I've been doing it since childhood because my father was in the army. Every two or three years we moved. Sometimes I like it, and sometimes I'd rather be by myself meditating and painting," she says, sitting in her home in Muscat, surrounded by art, both hers and other artists'.
The places she has been have a lot of influence on her work. India's brilliant, diverse colours fill the canvases, complemented by the light and culture of Oman. She says some places are less inspiring than others, but she finds many things in the Sultanate, her home for almost 30 years, to kindle her creative fire. Omani subjects like the light, forts and castles, doors, archways, coffee pots and old men's faces provide inspiration for her work in realism, while the landscape, shapes and colours influence her abstract work.
"I love the doors. I love the coffee pots. They fascinate me. And the old men. I love their faces. The lines, the character. I love the desert light. It's so crystal clear. I've gone on a lot of solitary walks on Shatti beach. That light at sunset ... and the desert light is something you can't describe.
It's been my best friend. And I like the arches. They beckon to something unknown. That's something very true of my life. They are almost autobiographical. I connect with them deeply. Whenever I see something with an arch I go back to it," Sudipta says.
Sudipta paints two main subjects, abstract expressionist art that is inspired by her thoughts, philosophy, life experiences, her subconscious, and Omani culture, which she captures as realistically as possible. Her paintings of doors, castles, coffee pots and other symbols of Oman are sought after by local art aficionados, and they have been shown regionally, while the abstract work tends to meet with great commercial success in the galleries in New York, Europe and India.
"Two lines is a better way of connecting with the viewers," she says of painting in two styles, but she also admits a preference for abstract art. "You have to be true to your work. I'm not sure why I prefer abstract … but it's an inspirational strength."
One of her favourite pieces, which really seems to define who she is as an artist, is a colourful abstract canvas in which the Hindu deity Ganesha, identifiable by his elephant head. It's appropriate that Ganesha inspires her so much, as he is considered a patron of the arts. The canvas also reflects her maternal instinct and connection with her children, the travels that have shaped her life, and Oman's influence on her work.
It is pieces like this that have taken her from Muscat, where she had her first solo exhibition in 1991, to New York and galleries in Europe. In 2001 she submitted a photograph of one of her paintings to the American arts magazine Art News, which was asking international artists to submit their work. To her delight it was published, but then she didn't give it much thought as she was busy with her work and children. "Then about four months later I got a letter from the Monserrat Gallery (in New York City) offering me a show. I called the curator … and said 'You've just seen one photograph. You haven't seen my portfolio.
How are you offering me a show?' She said 'Your strokes are such that I know you can take bold steps in life. If you believe in something you can go the distance'," Sudipta explained. She had her first solo exhibition in New York City in 2002, and a second one in 2003. Monserrat Gallery represented her in the USA for a few years, until the Jain Marunouchi Gallery, also in New York City, offered her a show in 2006. She's had several exhibitions with them since, most recently last November.
Sudipta's success in New York City, where people judge artists on their art rather than their names, led to other international opportunities. She had participated in exhibitions in Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Shanghai thanks to curators seeing her work in New York. Most recently, one of her drawings was accepted by the Guggenheim Museum in New York, which focuses on modern and abstract art. She submitted a drawing to an open call for work asking artists to "draw freely," and within four hours, she received a response saying they wanted her drawing. "I didn't expect it! I feel good that I was selected. It's fantastic! An artists' dream is to show in the Guggenheim," she said.
From her first exhibition in school art fairs in India, to her work at the Guggenheim, art has always been a central part of Sudipta's existence, and it has taken her on a wonderful journey, one which plays a strong role in her paintings. The lines and paths in her abstract canvases are the many roads she has taken, converging and fusing. "Those are the pathways of life," she says thoughtfully, looking at her vibrant canvas. No doubt, the path ahead will continue to inspire Sudipta's art.