“The amazing light of Venice is its most endearing quality. A clear sky, a mischievous cloud, a tantalising darkness... The quiet of the afternoon is suddenly broken by the pitter-patter of rain. Everyone runs for cover. The next moment sunlight sparkling on raindrops transforms the now deserted St. Marco Square into an impressionist painting”
– Paresh Maity
It was in 1993, full twenty years ago, that Paresh Maity discovered Venice, a city that has since haunted him. Not unsurprisingly, Venice has been the source of inspiration for artists since the Renaissance, and Paresh Maity could have been simply one more artist motivated by the water city of the Medicis, except that his passion would probably have overwhelmed them. In the score of years since, he has returned nearly as many times, drawn by its incredible light, to paint by its waterside. His Venice landscapes have been avidly collected, as a result of which they are more likely to have been seen in his books than at any exhibitions outside of his Venetian Odyssey that travelled to Delhi, Bombay and Berlin.
The return of his Venetian Odyssey, like a sequel, is therefore both welcome as well as surprising. Welcome, because Paresh Maity has made Venice his own particular muse, and to see his reflection in his works of the city he loves and magically transforms into art is a joyful, almost spiritual experience. And surprising because, in a break from the tradition of his watercolours, this edition of Venetian Odyssey Through the Lens of Paresh Maity consists not of his paintings or watercolours, but of his photographs.
Paresh Maity has always been a serious photographer, even though he may not be associated with photographs. Not that he hasn’t exhibited his photographs before, but Venetian Odyssey Through the Lens of Paresh Maity is his first complete series and an exclusive photographic exhibition, and it serves to highlight his treatment of light and reflections which are critical elements in his watercolours.
In so many ways, the Venice that Paresh Maity captures – whether by brush or through his lens – is the Venice all visitors encounter: the waterfront and the canals, the gondolas and the reflections or silhouettes of a medieval city of trade and culture. What transforms it is his unique vision and his relationship with light that captures and turns it into enchanting glimpses into a magical mirror. The aching, impossible blue of a sky, the myriad colours of the waters on which the light dances a tango, the stark shapes of black-and-white images of a reality that can be seen all around but which, through his eye, becomes a cherished moment…
In using his lens like a brush, Paresh Maity brings to it the same sensibility, as indeed sensitivity, that marks all his forays in art. This ability to transcend mediums but retain the essential thread of a common dialogue is what marks his excursions to Venice – now no longer as a painter but essentially as a photographer. If there are commonalities that strike you, it’s because the artist, like the photographer, remains as much in love with Venice as with its enchanting light.