During the exhibition at Jehangir, the painting that got 'most
talked about was that of a Pregnant Nun, mostly for its rather
radical form of expression.' -so said most of the papers.
Every person who walked into the gallery would come and ask
me why I have painted a nun, pregnant. They would look at the
painting, come back, then walk back to it and then come and
ask me what it signified. The first three days I went crazy
explaining. The explanations got lengthy, tired me out. Finally
I decided to write down on a piece of paper and stick it next
to the painting. After that people would walk up to the painting,
read my words, look at me, and go back to the work. There was
curiosity and lingering around the painting, but there was no
One day a nun walked in. I saw her looking
at the painting. I was a little alert. She did not speak to
me. I don’t think she was terribly offended or anything.
She read my explanation, she looked at me, and then said, ‘Nice
I have always wanted a work to be interpreted in which ever
way the viewer would like to interpret it. That way I don't
limit the viewer's mind with my own thought process. But I guess
certain works cry for explanation.
Actually there are three versions of the pregnant
nun. First came the 'Black & White study for nun' - without
a face. . After that I painted another canvas called 'Blue Nun'
- again pregnant, and again without a face. Both these canvases
were lying around to dry. When friends walked into my studio,
they'd exclaim 'Wow! Pregnant nun!', and smile with a spark in
'No!' I'd go - 'that's not what I meant!' But
they'd continue to griin.
This really bothered me. I hadn't intended it to be a sensational
image.. Obviously the painting was scandalous, but I was trying
to express a disturbing element in my own personality. How come
no one is able to go beyond the 'nun-who-went-behind-the-bushes-and-got-herself-pregnant'
I thought I'd never be able to convey what I
intend to, unless I painted her as a self portrait. So finally
the third canvas came about - 'Self Portrait As Pregnant Nun'.
After that, the reactions were different. It made people think.
'Why do you see yourself like that?' they'd ask, concerned.
The thoughts that have gone into the making of
the Pregnant Nun - actually there are various interpretations.
I was working in my garage studio at the time.
A friend, nine months pregnant, walked in.. I looked up and saw
her leaning against the door, and I thought to myself - 'When
a woman is pregnant, she can look so pure, so untouched, almost
saintly, like a nun...'. an oxymoron. I picked up a raw white
canvas, squeezed out some black paint and started to draw lines
with my brush.
But this is only a surface interpretation.
At a deeper level, there was this conflict that
I had been going through for some time now - wanting to move away
from everything material, to give it all up and go into oblivion.
But at the same time, I felt a strong compelling urge to embrace
life all over again, to live fully. Pregnancy to me signifies
the fullness of living, while nun-hood, is 'giving up' and moving
towards the spiritual path. This terrible conflict, of wanting
these two opposite things, passionately, at the same time, made
me paint the Pregnant Nun.
There's another way of looking at it. We all
have contradictions. I do. I have terrible contradictions in my
personality. You live with a self image - someone you like to
believe you are, and then, there comes a time, when you go right
ahead and destroy that image by doing something completely contrary,
shocking even your own self.
Finally it is simply rebellion! Rebellion againt