Jai Ranjit, who goes by the name Zaiu in the art world, is a Mumbai based painter and photographer. He picked up the brush at 17 and has never looked back since. He has five solo exhibitions and several groups shows across India to his credit. Zaiu’s work has consistently been about pushing creative boundaries which is exemplified through his experimental photography collaborations. He has also been involved in teaching since 2009. Paintcollar recently had a chance to get inside this creative head and take a look around. Here’s what we found.
When did you decide to become an artist?
I’ve always enjoyed drawing and photography, but never found my way into art at all until a classmate and friend, Devashish Guruji (a wonderful artist himself), suggested I start painting as a hobby. With nothing to lose and wondering what to do with my life after HSc, I decided to start researching art, and what I found was unbelievable. I realised that I didn’t have to think to understand art, I simply got it. And so I started teaching myself through books, videos, gallery hops and experimentation.
Did you receive any formal training and education in art? If so, where?
I’m a self-taught artist with a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science from Jai Hind College, Mumbai University. I chose my subjects to support my artwork. The only real ‘formal’ training I received was at the hands of the brilliant Indian artist Brinda Chudasama Miller, a fabulous teacher.
How did you come up with the name Zaiu?
Three of my friends came up with the nickname Zaiu (pronounced Z-uh-you) independent of each other within three days, years ago. I loved the nickname, and so it stuck. It kind of represents me, and so I use it as my art persona which makes it easy for people to remember my work.
What media do you usually use in your art?
I am partial to acrylics on canvas, but over the past year I’ve been working more and more with woodcut printmaking and watercolour pencils on paper.
Where do you look for the inspiration behind your paintings?
Inspiration comes from everywhere, but for me it’s mainly in the objects and people around me. I study situations and experiences, and create abstract works that encapsulate moments in those experiences or times, while for the figurative works I create characters who seem to be frozen in time and portraying a particular emotion or state of being.
Is there emotion/mood involved that influences each artwork?
Oh, absolutely. Each painting or print is determined by the emotional, physical and verbal happenings and experiences I witness or go through. The artwork is then shaped by having the right kind of music played during the painting process so that the chosen experiences and emotions are amplified.
Which artists do you look up to and who has most influenced your work?
My idols and inspirations are Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Brinda Miller, Jehangir Sabavala and Akbar Padamsee among many more.
Do you do any research before starting out on an artwork?
Every painting is only executed after a thorough and elaborate research period, which includes reading up on the chosen subjects, discussing them with peers and friends, creating studies for the final works and choosing the right musical influences to go with them.
What qualities according to you define an artist?
An artist is he or she who can clearly state that creation is their purpose. They must be sure that what they do is the most important thing in their lives, and that they try every possible way to share their ideas with the world. An artist is also someone who will never bow to criticism, learning from it instead, to become a better artist and creator.
Can you tell us more about your photography collaborations?
Kolor Smeary is a group that my friends Aarti Shinde, Anay Pantojee, Rutam Rane and I formed, to create these conceptual art pieces. So far, we have created three sets of works : The Black Light Revelations, Flour Power and Art Vandelay.
With Black Light Revelations, we explored two themes : the dark, primitive side of the mind, and the magic of the ultraviolet spectrum. For this sequence of shots, in the tribal style, I painted my face, while Aarti and Anay painted the rest of my body and Rutam photographed my in various poses and actions using a UV light source in a darkened room. The second set of images in this series has me draped in several metres of string dipped in photoluminescent paints, which when exposed to the UV light source, glowed while I remained dark and unseen thereby providing a strange, invisible structure for the string to act on.
One of the main ideas behind Flour Power is to showcase a safe Holi, wherein we played with flour and added the colour digitally, thus creating a safe Holi environment.
With Art Vandelay, we used the concept of the name that can be used for a person who doesn’t exist, but you can use as a proxy to complete a false story. I embodied this person in the Art Vandelay photographs, thereby bringing to life a non-existent character.
What’s your dream project?
My dream project would be to paint canvasses of the magnitude that artists like Pollock and Rothko did, and have them put up in an exhibition that incorporates stimuli for all the senses to be engaged with.
Any advice for the emerging artists?
Don’t give up. The one thing I’ve learned and held on to strongest is this. The moment you accept defeat, you’ll never truly create anything again. It’s a tough, tough world for artists but it’s also the cause of our best creation. Keep at it, try everything once and talk to each other.
You can find Zaiu’s prints and other merchandise at paintcollar.com/zaiu