“Where there is a will there’s a way,” says Debajani Sahoo, who loves to capture the colours of nature and moments from human life on canvas. She is one among those who have made a successful career in art by staying focused. A resident of Khannagar, Cuttack, Debajani has already earned accolades for her work on canvas, apparel and terracotta.
An alumnus of BK College of Art & Craft, Bhubaneswar, Debajani’s works showcase an amalgamation of vibrant colours that celebrate life. She modifies the forms of figures within a balanced composition that is both contemporary and deeply rooted in the traditions of figurative art.
Born to Mandakini and Braja Kishore Sahoo, Debajani took to painting when she was in school. But her parents didn’t show much interest in encouraging her talent. Her life changed after she won a 100 metres race in the annual sports event at her school. “I received a box of colours as a prize. That is how I started painting. Later, I showed my art to my parents. Happy to see the paintings, they finally got me a painting kit,” she says.
Although Debajani did not receive formal training in painting as a child, her grasp over the medium helped her secure a berth in BK College of Art & Craft. “My grooming happened in college where I learnt a lot from my teachers,” says the painter who later joined Sir J J School of Art, Mumbai to pursue a course in interior design. After completing her course, she came back to Odisha and started working at an interior design firm.
However, Debajani had always wanted to do something on her own. After a while, she started her own venture with the help of a loan from the Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme. She started making handicrafts, paintings, wall hangings from waste materials and a variety of other things.
Gradually, her art and craft started finding a place in different exhibitions. Today, she has six employees who help her in her work. “My venture is committed to helping poor painters from rural and urban Odisha. At the same time, I am trying to take the state’s rich art heritage in the form of handicrafts to other parts of the country. I never compromise on quality, perhaps that is the reason I have won so many awards. My handmade tea trays, Pattachitra and acrylic paintings are popular across the country,” says Debajani.
She adds, “I still remember, during an exhibition in Bhubaneswar, the then Governor of the state Murlidhar Chandrakant Bhandare appreciated my work and asked me to never compromise on quality. His words still inspire me, and I work hard to live up to the expectations of my clients.”
Debajani says that she loves working on spiritual themes in a surrealist style and tries to capture human emotions. “I also try to express how to live a free life in this materialistic world. Many artists from Odisha leave the state for a better life. However, I always wanted to do something staying in Odisha. Now that people know about my work, I plan to launch an art institute where aspiring artists will be trained in different art media. The aim is to help Odias to showcase their talent in the international art circuit and help them earn a livelihood,” she says.