Shanti’s exhibition of some of his work.
I remember as a child, when I was maybe just five or six years old, my mother took me by the hand to a primary school in east London. I was led into a room where some children were busy painting a nativity scene on a wall for Xmas celebrations and a very kind lady asked me what I would like to do. I looked at the wall, pointed at it and said “that” – that’s what I wanted to do. I was given some brushes and some powder paints and something to stand on; I became lost in the painting and the magic of this character called Jesus. My mother had no trouble leaving me in this strange place – I didn’t even notice her leave – and to this very day nothing has changed; brushes in my hand, a pallet full of paint – and I am lost in time.
I have always loved painting people, people in different situations. I remember again as a child all the homeless vagabonds and tramps that lived on wasteland, drunk on any form of alcohol they could lay their hands on. Behind the scarlet-purple, wind-swept, scraggy, unwashed faces of these outcasts were real people. Such characters, some from rags, some from riches, tinkers, tailers, soldiers, sailors; they were all there. I wish so much that I had a camera then because I would love to paint them now, resurrect their souls in art! Picture reference for these drop-outs is now very hard to find.
I have never been an abstact painter but I believe there is more to painting than just religiously copying something no matter how technically apt you may be. As Picasso said, “If that is your aim, get a camera.” In fact it was Picasso’s painting ‘First Steps’ that built a bridge for me to look into the ‘other’ world of art; in his amazing cubist style, bold brush strokes, and brash colours he composed a melody of shapes and gestures that ‘loved’ and ‘longed for’ and ‘cried’ and ‘laughed’ all at the same time. This to me is as powerfull as Caravaggio’s ‘Supper at Emmaus’ or Theodore Gericault’s ‘Raft of Medusa’. Unfortunately for me I have nearly always painted on request as I do it for a living, sort of a ‘brush for hire’ – but I’m hoping one day soon, while I’m still wrapped in this mortal coil, I will be in a position to paint just what I like and not to someone’s dictates.
I think that what I am now aiming for is what I saw in those tramps many years ago as a child; painting the spirit of the person, the soul, the stuff that lies beyond and beneath the grime and dirt that this world sometimes throws at us.
John Keats wrote,
Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.”
Shantideva (aka Gerry Kinch) grew up in London’s rough East End. His first mural he painted in the nursery. As a grown-up he founded his own sign company that specialised on traditional, hand-painted signs for pubs. While travelling with his son in Brazil to find a cure for cancer he came in contact with a sannyasins – and the world of Osho. In 2012 he took sannyas during a mantra singing workshop with Deva Premal and Miten in Corfu. This deeper connection with Osho helped him overcome the difficult times he had gone through after his beloved son died.