Piraji Sagara

Getting to Know:

Piraji Sagara

1 February, 1931 - 23 January, 2014

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Piraji Sagara was a Gujarati painter and sculptor working in the latter half of the 20th Century. Sagara was skilled with many materials, but was best-known for his ‘wood collages’ - works using burnt wooden boards which were then carved into and adorned with found objects, paint, beads, and embroidery. Regularly-occurring themes in Sagara’s work included man’s relationship with the world around him, order versus chaos, and the awe-inspiring power of nature.

The artist was prolific between 1950 and 1990 and created works which were profoundly inspired by Gujarati folk traditions. His move away from traditional materials and his general disinterest in the marketing-side of the art-world has meant that Sagara has sadly been overlooked by much art historical scholarship and did not reach record sales values during his lifetime.

The artist was born in Ahmedabad, India, in 1931. He attended Sir J.J.. School of Art in Mumbai for two masters degrees - one in drawing in 1957 and another in the arts in 1960. His brother Ishwar Sagara also became an artist and was taught by Piraji. Sagara taught at the CEPT University in Ahmedabad from 1963, having been invited by the architect Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi (who founded the University) to take the position. The basement of the Faculty of Architecture would later be named after Sagara. Doshi and Sagara were good friends, and in an interview following Sagara’s death, the architect emphasised what an important role daily “long-distance walks” taken “in complete silence - contemplating and meditating” had played in Sagara’s life. 

Sagara’s works have been shown around the globe - including France, Brazil, and Japan - and won him several awards including the National Lalit Kala Akademi award in 1963, and two Kolkata Fine Arts Academy medals in 1960 and 1961. The artist was also awarded the Sahitya Gaurav Award and the Kala Ratna Awards during his lifetime.

The artist died in January of 2014 in Ahmedabad. He was honoured in 2017 with a multimedia exhibition of his work entitled ‘Remembering Piraji’ which was co-curated by Sharmila Sagara, the late artist’s daughter-in-law.

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