Raghunath Sahoo’s paintings reflect real life. The Bhubaneswar-based painter captures images from rural India in watercolour and they range from landscapes and children to people from different walks of life.
Born at Dandamukundapur in Puri district, Raghunath’s works have been exhibited in places such as Hyderabad and Kolkata and in cities abroad. Raghunath took to painting at an early age. “I would spend hours painting and try to make my works as life-like as possible. I wasn’t very interested in academics. My mother spotted my talent and advised me to take proper guidance if I wanted to take up painting seriously,” he says.
After completing his matriculation, Raghunath enrolled in BK College of Arts to pursue a degree in fine arts. “My teachers and well-wishers would continuously encourage me and appreciate my works. I was never interested in a nine-to-five job. Instead, I wanted to make my passion my profession,” says the painter.
For close to 20 years Raghunath has been working as a freelance artist and has created thousands of art works. He was the first artist to be invited to Moscow to attend a watercolour workshop and interact with Russian painters. His creations showcase the myriad moods of human life.
Raghunath says that it isn’t easy to pursue a profession in arts, especially in Odisha. Despite that he decided to stick to painting without moving out of the state. “Initially, I moved around looking for platforms to showcase my skills. Unfortunately, there weren’t too many. There are dance reality shows, singing reality shows, and acting reality shows but nothing for artists. However, after the social media boom, I started using the digital platform to showcase my works. Posting my works regularly on Facebook helped me attract a lot of attention,” he says.
Raghunath’s works caught the attention of a few curators, which helped him participate in a few art exhibitions. Today, his paintings are also featured on various websites.
Raghunath says that unlike most painters, he has always been more inclined towards watercolour. “Not many painters in India choose to work in watercolour. They like oil on canvas or acrylic on canvas. When I was in BK College, I tried to develop new shades with every colour. However, when I noticed that very few people showed interest in watercolour, I started acrylic on canvas. I chose acrylic because oil painting takes more time, yet the final product looks almost the same,” he says.
However, social media made Raghunath change his mind. “I saw an artist who had uploaded a watercolour painting and had received hundreds of likes. I decided to give watercolour a try once again,” he says. He continued uploading his works in watercolour on social media and accolades started pouring in from all corners. Gradually, his works began to be noticed by people abroad.
“We all know how fluid watercolours are and once they are laid on a piece of paper or canvas, they are very difficult to manage. One needs to have complete control over the medium to work with watercolour. That is why watercolour is tried by fewer artists. But I wanted to try something that most painters seem to avoid,” adds Raghunath.
He continues, “I love painting things from daily life that miss the eyes of people. I like painting moments from the lives of people who are ignored and deprived. Most of my works centre on village life in Odisha.” Raghunath’s works on the rural life of the state have earned him a lot of accolades and many of them have been exhibited in cities abroad. Also, his series on Lord Buddha is popular among art lovers.
“My works were exhibited at the Fabriano Watercolour Exhibition in Italy in 2017. It was one of the best moments of my life,” says the painter. Besides, his works have also been exhibited at the Master of Watercolour exhibition in Bangkok. His works were displayed at Bharat Bhawan, Bhopal, Rabindra Bhawan, Kolkata and Samanvai Art Gallery in Jaipur in 2008, 2010 and 2011, respectively.
“2012 was a big year for me as my works were exhibited at the prestigious India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. I have participated in more than 100 exhibitions in Odisha,” says Raghunath, who also loves playing the Mohan veena.
“I have always been inspired by the works of the legendary Odia painter, the late Muralidhar Tali. His paintings are sheer magic on canvas. Although I closely follow the works of many international artists, Muralidhar Tali continues to have the biggest influence on me,” he adds.
BRATATI BARAL, OP