Color in the paper
I want my paintings to have colour not on the paper
but in the paper. All other artists in the world have their colour
on the paper. And if you take a particular painting from a painter
and you put it in a bath tub he will scream at you. And if you do
that to me I'll laugh at you. That is the only difference. Because
I make a painting - what I do is: I start with a sketch. I do the
sketch in colour. Then I take it to the bathtub and I put water
and let all the colours flow out. Whatever pigment has been absorbed
by the paper, remains in the paper, the rest of the colour which
was on the paper is gone.
Then I sit down and I give colours to the drawing,
using all the knowledge available in the west about painting and
all the knowledge available in the east, because I don't restrict
myself to a particular thing. I use the technique of giving highlights,
giving middle tones and giving depths exactly the same way as any
western painter does. The only thing is I am not hard. I blend all
these things in such a way that you can't see any highlight very
prominent and also you cannot see any depth very prominent, they
all blend in with one another and yet, the right amount of depth
should be there and is there and the right amount of highlights
is also there. The right amount of depth also excites the highlight.
So I use the same technique and then after the painting
is finished completely I put it in water again. And then all the
colour which is on the paper washes off; whatever remains is mine.
Then I take the colours that I think will create the mood. And I
mix those colours with a little white colour and then I go over
all the painting; all painted areas, blue and red and tallow and
green. And sometimes you can feel that the blue colour is passing
right over the yellow colour. And you can think that the blue will
make the yellow green, but when I take it out and I put it in water
again, the blue can never touch my yellow and can never make it
green. That is impossible. But this is because I do the fixing of
the colours, when I put in water. After I colour it, the colours
which are there, now are fixed. And no other colour will disturb
them. Then I fill the other colour over it, the other colour does
not disturb it, and only produces a harmony inside the original
Then I put it in water again. All the colour washes
off. Then I again put in the lining as I was doing for the first
time, as if have never started the painting. Then I put it in water
again. Then I put the colours as if I have not put the colours in
it. Then I put it in water again. Then I go over the whole wash
again, so that all the colours in the painting completely hide.
Sometimes you will see that the painting is completely lost. But
after it dries up and I put it in water again all the colours come
out exactly the same way I want. Then they feel secured.
Most of the times it happens like this: I am making a painting
and it is not finished, I know. And I am working on it. And somebody comes and
says: "oh god, when did you finished it?" and I say: "oh fantastic,
it is finished. Take it." So that way I work with my eyes and with the eyes
of persons who see my painting, and through their impressions and how they feel
and if all of them feel that it is perfectly finished I will have
to feel that it must be finished, although I never feel it is finished
I never made a really finished piece in my life. Always there are mistakes that
I can see.
So this is the process of watercolour on paper, and
when I give washes I use paper. Putting in water is not washing;
putting in water is fixing. Wash is putting colours on a painting
and burning it in on tone and creating certain effects. So I do
it on water colour on paper with opaque colour and that way I make
a combination between the transparent and opaque colours, but because
there are no colours on the paper itself they are transparent anyway
and that is why it gives a different effect.
On silk I use water with soapnut. Soapnut is a nut
found in India, which has soap made by god not by man, and gives
lots of foam. It is very good for silk and we use it for hair and
things. And always I use it for fixing my paintings. I don't touch
clear water in those silk paintings. I put colours, also with the
soapnut washing and also dip it in soapnut water each time I paint;
like I do the water colour on paper. And finally I finish it and
also put it into the soapnut water and the colours they fix.
There is one difference between our climate and your
climate: we have very much light. So we don't use that much of darkness
in our paintings as we find in western paintings. Here the sun is
less and the rooms are closed, because of the climate. You don't
have open windows, open rooms and at the time when these traditional
western painters where there I think electricity was not there.
So naturally they are not having so much light. So they have more
darkness inside their pictures.
The other thing is the use of light and shade in our
technique. Your technique is much different. You use the flash of
light as if it is coming from one particular place. Or a dramatic
theatre-studio way of lighting, from the back and from the other
sides. So they always highlights spots, parts of the paintings.
In our paintings we think the light is coming out from the painting,
from the body of the deity. So our light and shade system is not
that way; coming from one source of light, but the picture has light
from within coming out. So all those parts which need light are
lighted already as if it were from within.
You have most of the time artists who have seen very
much fog in their life; very much mist in their life. So their colours
go into grey, and they are not really bright colours. Whereas we
see colours very pure and very brilliant and very shiny and we those
colours also the same way. But we use gold and silver also very
much. Well I don't use them in my wash-paintings because these colours
are opaque and I need transparency. But in my pastel colour technique,
which is my usual tempera technique in India, I use these colours
and I like them.
Texts extracted from the interview of Harish
Johari with Louwrien
Wijers, called "Shri Harish Johari talks about his work
as a painter", taken 27 oktober 1978, published in Bres.