Art News & Views

Let's Paint the Sky Red- A Solo Show of Late Artist Manjit Bawa

by  Mansi Dhiman

New Delhi: A recent ongoing exhibition, Let's Paint the Sky Red in New Delhi is not just a display of works of art, it is an emotive gesture on part of Vadehra Art Gallery toward a legendry and an illustrious Indian artist, late Manjit Bawa. The show opened at Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre on August 20 to August 27, 2011 and will be continuing to Vadehra Art Gallery from September 1. The exhibition comprised over fifty works, including several large canvases, paper works, serigraphs and miniatures. All the works in the exhibition are from the collection of Bhavna and Ravi Bawa.

Manjit Bawa, a modernist master of the figurative genre and also focused on the expressive and his inner need to draw sustenance from nature the transformation of line and colour into poetry and freedom and later he arrived at his present iconography. Inspired greatly by Indian mythology and Sufi philosophy he infused his work with the same transcendental quality he saw in these sources, may be the saga of the man himself has been painted time and again, a mythology of the self told and retold several times without losing any charm. His free floating, arabesque figures, both human and animal on the surface are almost like personifications of fragments of thoughts, of ideas, of words and of poetry that are introduced into a rational real world by him. Bawa's conception of space seems expansive, undeterred by the physicality of the canvas, determined only by the flat monochromatic reality of the hue that it is composed of. Bawa's practice was one that was deeply rooted in lyricism and philosophy, and more importantly his own life as a non-conventionalist, making his works both grounded and open to contemporary interpretation.

Let's Paint the Sky Red is a celebration of the sheer ecstasy that marked the art works selected from periods of his remarkably multi-faceted and eventful life that blazoned across the Indian art scene as modernism's last comet. Painted in hues and chromes of vibrant colours, figures dwelled deep from Indian mythology as well as portraits though well informed of western modernism. Figures in his canvases melt into the cool colours around urns into poetry, taking the shape and rhythm of a touching song sung by a gypsy. Although the surface quality of canvases is flat, even then it gives the perception of three dimensional qualities.

Bawa's allegorical works turn pure colour into voluminous spaces inhabited sparsely (often singly) by men, women, acrobats, animals, gods and goddesses in frozen moments of dramatic gesture imbued with a range of emotions wit, humour, elation, pathos or parody. Yet, in his thought or his work Bawa did not specially privilege either man or modernism.

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