MAY 16, 2013
Aizawl bishop Stephen Rotluanga with his nude paintings
Nude figures, Mizo bishop’s tribute to God
By Sangzuala Hmar, TNN, July 29, 2009
AIZAWL: He draws nude pictures of men and women and calls his paintings “human figures created by God.” He has earned a name for himself and believes that he is showing God’s beautiful creations (humans) as they are through his paintings.
Meet Rev. Stephen Rotluanga, bishop of Aizawl Diocese, who has pledged his life to the service of God and is continuing with his good work in fine arts at the same time. For him, God is the “greatest artist” whose glorious creation are humans.
“Human figures are my favourite subject like other all-time great artists Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci,” said Rotluanga, who is also the first Mizo to be ordained as a bishop. Rotluanga’s exhibitions have been held both in India and overseas. But his works are not for sale.
“Renaissance art has always been my favourite subject. The realism involved in it is a challenge for me not only as an artist but also as a priest. Subjects involving human beings have always been my core area of interest,” said the 57-year-old priest.
Right from his childhood, Rotluanga was interested in theatre, singing and painting. After he was ordained as a priest, he pursued his studies at Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto (Canada) and passed out with distinction. Cartoons and caricatures are his new areas of interest.
“Human anatomy is the basis of arts and that’s where my interest lies. I have also tried my hand on painting scenery,” the bishop said. He added that the understanding of human figures as an artist helps him get to the roots of many problems in society.
“We try to figure out the perfection that lies in human beings, not the flaws,” said Rotluanga. He added that it’s difficult to spare time for paintings as a priest.
“I find it extremely interesting to portray life through cartoons. I have been documenting Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India symposium through sketches for the last four years,” the bishop said.
He added that some people wanted to buy his paintings at an exhibition in in Florence (Italy) 10 years ago. “I paint for the glory of God and not money. Till now, most of my paintings are with me. Enthusiastic artists and youngsters often come here to look at them,” said Rotluanga.
Consecrated in 2002, Rotluanga believes he can still be a good bishop without sacrificing his love for fine arts.
Mizo Bishop paints nude figures, says honoring ‘God’s creation’
By Rinu Varghese, Saturday, 1 August 2009
He must be definitely addicted to pornography. –Rev. Paul, Manipur
The Bishop and the nude
A priest in Aizawl paints nudes and finds God in the human body
By Kaushik Deka, April 28, 2012 [India Today weekly, May 7, 2012, page 27]
The bishop of Aizawl finds God in the naked human body. Stephen Rotluanga, the first Mizo to be ordained a bishop, celebrates nudity in his paintings as “the human form is the crowning glory of God’s creation”. The 60-year-old priest has a rationale for his pursuit of the naked truth: “God created us naked. Only civilisation clothed us.”
Two life-size canvases greet the visitor at Rotluanga’s Aizawl home, one of a semi-nude woman and the other of two naked men near the door of his study. How did the priest become an artist? Rotluanga says his mother, a vegetable vendor, coaxed him at six, perhaps to keep him occupied, to draw a person standing in the market. At school, he used to sketch his teachers. “I drew other things too, such as birds and landscapes. My father, who worked for the Canada-based Holy Cross Society, was a great influence. I was drawn to films like Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments and used to draw their posters. This is how the priest and the artist melded,” he says.
“People want to know how I felt when a naked woman was standing in front of me. Many are shocked to know that a priest does nude paintings. But I’m just a student of art and for me, the only concern was the perfection of my art,” says Rotluanga, adding that he has no fear of exhibiting his paintings. However, his works are not for sale. “This is a spiritual journey. It’s my tribute to God’s masterpiece. I can’t do commerce with it,” says the priest.
Rotluanga won first prize at a poster painting competition while he was at St Anthony’s School in Shillong. He later went to Bangalore for intermediate studies at St Joseph’s College in Bangalore in 1970 and completed his graduation from Christ College in 1972. In Bangalore, he met noted painter Balan Nambiar and began taking private lessons from him.
In 1981, Rotluanga was ordained a priest at Champai in Mizoram. In 1993, the Holy Cross Society offered him an opportunity to study art at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Canada. “It was there that I began to develop a great interest in human figures. In 1999, I visited Florence and painted with live models,” he says, pointing towards the paintings at the door. Does he still paint with live models? Pat comes the reply: “Where is the time? Since 2002, the year I was ordained a bishop, I have never had the time to do nudes.”
Rotluanga’s fellow priests aren’t as enthusiastic. “What he did earlier was as a student of art. He must not paint nude paintings now as it’s unbecoming of a bishop,” says Archbishop of Imphal Reverend Dominic Lumon.
Bishop Stephen Rotluanga
Bishop Stephen Rotluanga, CSC was born on June 8, 1952, in Aizawl, Mizoram state. He was ordained a priest on December 13, 1981, in the Congregation of the Holy Cross. He was appointed Bishop of Aizawl on November 7, 2001, and was ordained bishop on February 2, 2002. Prior to that, he served as Director of Formation, Art and Communications at Holy Cross School in Agartala, in the neighboring state of Tripura. He chairs the North East Regional Laity Commission.