Satish (Late 1980s)

oil on canvas, 4 x 4 ft., private collection, presently in Goa

This is the only painting I ever made of my husband and it says a lot about him. The likeness is quite perfect.

He sits there casually on the sofa and is talking on the telephone to Rajiv Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India at the time. He is very comfortable. The button of his waistband is open and the zipper is a little down. He is prepared for a long chat. He is smoking after a nice long jog. In the corner you can see his sneakers.

At the time I made this painting he was about 10 kg over his normal weight. He  was considered important, people stood in line waiting to meet him, often pushing me out of the way. I wanted to show him as quite simple in this portrait. Satish is actually an uncomplicated person who only thinks in black-and-white, things are automatically clear to him, it is either “yes” or “no”. The word “maybe” or the colour grey simply do not exist for him.

I used perspective to place focus  on Satish as the subject of the painting, all the lines slant towards him. Look at the way I painted his fingers. The tips of his soft fingers bend a little upwards as he holds his cigarette, which is typical of him.

I used very natural colours because he is not very adventurous as far as fashion goes. All the tones in this painting are very subdued, quiet and calm, reflecting the nature of the man at an exact moment in time. The background of this painting is white with a touch of silver grey which is quite unusual for me.

The paint was applied very thinly.  Here and there it even looks transparent, like for the glass table. For the trousers, I first applied ultramarine oil paint in an even coat, then I took a clean cloth and rubbed it over the paint while it was still wet, removing some of it. The result was that the grain of the canvas shows wherever I did this, emphasising the folds and texture of the jeans.

For the skin tone I used, raw umber, sienna, ochre, cream (all Rembrandt brand), and venetian red (Camlin brand).