Call of the Wild

Sushma Jain’s earliest artworks, made when she was a child, were drawings of her teachers. “It was all fun at the time, and I used to win the first prize in painting and crafts in school. Back then, I didn’t imagine I would become an artist,” she says. The early passion for depicting the world around her remained strong through the years, and now, days before she turns 60, Jain has opened her very first solo show at Mumbai’s Jehangir Art Gallery. “Everyone, including my family and friends, would tell me that for my 60th birthday, I should gift myself an exhibition, so I guess this is what it is,” she says with a laugh.

Although Jain is largely a self-taught artist, over the years, she has completed several formal art courses, thus building a solid foundation and keeping in touch with her creative side even as she got married and raised a family. Besides completing a foundation course at the Indian Art Institute and the art teacher’s diploma at Sir JJ School of Arts, Jain has also taken courses at the Central Saint Martin School of Art and Design in London. “My family has always been supportive of my art. First, it was my father, and then my husband has been a huge support. For many years, my children have been telling me to focus completely on art,” she says.

Sushma Jain with son Harsh and daughter-in-law Rachana

Jain draws inspiration from the natural world. In fact, most of her works in the show bring together her main passion, art, with her other great love, animals. These are works she has executed over the years, as she travelled to wildlife hotspots such as the Ranthambore National Park and Gir National Park, as well as safaris in African forests.

Sushma Jain and family with Ambani family and Piramal family.

Most of the works are based on photographs that she has taken during her travels. “Drawing animals is a way of expressing my love for them,” she says, adding, “Whenever I’m painting them, it seems to me that they come alive and talk to me.”

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