Unlike his previous exhibitions, which focused almost exclusively on architecture, Dialogues will present a mixture of paintings featuring both buildings and figures. Bhujbal paints people much in the same way he paints houses, apartment buildings, factories, storefronts, and streets: he repeatedly layers simple, largely rectilinear forms in brilliant colors to achieve representations that are at once highly essentialized and extraordinarily nuanced. Within Bhujbal’s matrices of tightly interlocking shapes, glimpses of vibrant undercolors, unhampered drips of paint, windows that obscure views in, and abstracted facial features all work to suggest something more complex and enigmatic.
Although Bhujbal had wanted to return to the figure for some time, he lacked the inspiration to do so until a 2011 trip to Cat Island in the Bahamas. According to Bhujbal, life on Cat Island is quiet, simple, and blissful. The people he encountered spent the majority of their days fishing, preparing the fish, and cooking meals, as documented in Had A Good Day (2012). Since there is no television or internet, people tend to gather together on the beach under brightly colored, corrugated metal structures, enjoying each other’s company and the cooling breezes that roll in off the ocean. This relaxed, meditative lifestyle reminded Bhujbal of his experience as a kid in India, a country where the culture has by and large become, he observes, fast-moving, less spiritual, consumed by brand names, and plagued by a directionless desire for everything. Just as buildings are replacing buildings across India—as evidenced by modernity’s demolition and appropriation of the old in favor of the new that Bhujbal chronicles in a number of paintings—so too are people replacing people. In Cat Island, the artist found something he thought he had irreparably lost.
As few people where Bhujbal stayed on the Island spoke English, very little information was exchanged verbally. But this suited Bhujbal just fine; in fact, his inclination to observe and listen without actively participating is central to his love of buildings. As silent witnesses to history, buildings often harbor astonishingly rich stories. And yet they cannot talk. Despite this, Bhujbal finds that something ineffable is exchanged when he takes the time to pause and absorb a scene: “When I see a building that strikes me, I suddenly stop and find myself standing and staring. Sometimes I feel something is happening. Even though the buildings cannot talk, I feel it is saying something to me.” In order to tell their stories, Bhujbal approached the people of Cat Island in a similar way.
Bhujbal emphasizes the power of non-verbal communication in Hanging Out and Hanging Out # 2 (both 2012) by showing two companions enjoying each other’s company without engaging in conversation. There is something relaxing and familiar about the scenes, as if one could easily project him- or herself into the paintings. Bhujbal’s buildings have a similar calming effect: big and sturdy, they presumably offer shelter, comfort, and respite. They are also easy to anthropomorphize, marked as they are by human characteristics such as age, wisdom, even glory—A Quiet Town #110, for instance, is bathed in the warm glow of refracted sunlight. They are safe and reassuring, rooted in history even while in the grip of change.
Suhas Bhujbal was born in Narayangaon, India in 1977. He moved to San Francisco in 2001 to study for his MFA at the Academy of Art University. His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, including at the de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara, CA; the Art Museum of Los Gatos, Los Gatos, CA; and the Palm Springs Museum of Art, Palm Springs, CA.