Harish Saluja Shares His Take on Mixing Hinduism, Buddhism

Article excerpt

After a long detour in the world of cinema, painter and filmmaker Harish Saluja has decided to share his latest paintings in the show "Mandalas and Deities," which is currently on display at Mendelson Gallery.

As visitors will see when looking at the 20-plus paintings by Saluja, his work falls directly under the abstract expressionism discipline, but incorporates themes adapted from Buddhism and Hunduism.

Apart from painting, Saluja's creativity has explored literature, music and film. He directed, produced and acted in several movies and plays, including the film "The Journey" (www.newrayfilms.com). He also co-hosts one of the longest-running Indian music radio programs in the country, Music From India, on WDUQ Pittsburgh.

Since 2005, Saluja has been running Silk Screen, a nonprofit Asian arts and culture organization. But over the last year and a half, he has managed to find time to paint more than 30 paintings.

Now in his 60s, Saluja has been painting and exhibiting since the age of 18. He started with traditional realism, landscapes, figurative and portraits.

"I did this for seven years and changed to abstraction at the age of 24," he says. "Abstract expressionism has always appealed to me and I did interpretations of poetry, music and philosophy in that style."

Paintings from his early "Raga" (based on Indian music) and "Jazz Series" were very popular. Then, at the age of 50, Saluja says he decided to change direction.

"Although my paintings got excellent reviews and sold well, I wanted a new direction," Saluja says. "I struggled for five or more years before finding a comfortable and exciting place in my art, which is where I am now ... abstraction but with some structure, some figurative work."

In his "Mandala and Deity Series" paintings, his latest set of works on canvas, he has started incorporating figurative and semi- abstract images with abstraction. The result is a sumptuous, almost- erotic celebration of joy.

Mandala is Sanskrit for circle, polygon, community and connection. It is a symbol of man or woman in the world, a support for the meditating person. It is often illustrated as a palace with four gates, facing the four corners of the Earth. Before the meditating person arrives at the gates, he/she must pass the four outer circles.

Mandalas and images of deities have been painted for centuries. But almost always these have been quite well-structured, precise and representational. "I have attempted to give these formats a new look of abstract expressionism," Saluja says.

Most of his work can be defined as "freedom within boundaries," Saluja says, that is taking liberties within a structure. There is a homogeneous quality to each work, a wholesomeness. …