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An enchanted space – the private world of Ganesh Pyne

Ganesh Pyne can be described as being 'an artist's artist, a philosopher's philosopher and master fantasist of them all', mentions an introductory note to an exhibition of some of his finest creations, which are on view at CIMA Gallery in the capital city of Bengal, where the artist's creative faculties were nurtured and shaped.

The show, titled 'An enchanted space ' the private world of Ganesh Pyne', continues at CIMA Gallery, Kolkata till the frist week of February 2006. It features 57 works of the artist, mostly recent ones.

One of India's foremost contemporary painters and one of the finest exponents of Bengal School of Art, in demand with art collectors and connoisseurs. Ganesh Pyne is known for his small tempera paintings, rich in imagery and symbols. The lines are bold, precise, controlled and the drawings that emerge are potent both in form and content. Stripped of color, they convey the architectonic quality in the structuring of the images. In the Indian miniature tradition, Pyne's paintings should be savored slowly and at leisure.

Reconfiguring motifs and themes from religious rituals, myths and legends, Pyne constructs a deeply personal network of signs. In his work, traditional symbols of death and mourning are turned into vehicles for the manifestation of an enduring spiritual reality. His images may be offshoots of an idea that may have flitted through his mind or may resonate lines from poems that may have made an impression on his mind.

Since the mid-'60s, Pyne turned to gouache and then tempera from watercolor. It is at this point of time one notices a change in his figuration and palette. A skeletal element was introduced into the figures while animal showed their fangs and claws. They were portrayed either as predators or victims. Dark shadows dominated his canvases offset with the use of a golden umber.

He acknowledges the influence of great painters like Abanindranath Tagore, Hals Rembrandt and Paul Klee. But he says that his exposure to Walt Disney's cartoons and his own experience as a young animator, in Kolkata, finally liberated him and helped him develop two important stylistic features - distortion and exaggeration. He uses these to explore the deep recesses of his fantastical imagination to create uncanny images of disquieting creatures.

Ganesh Pyne draws his inspiration from Bengal's rich storehouse of folklore and mythology, stories that his grandmother told him in his childhood. The painter blends romanticism, fantasy and free form and an inventive play of light and shade to create a world of 'poetic surrealism'. The artist's love for Bengal's folk culture is articulated through the images such as "Street Singer". The old Kolkata is an intrinsic part of his life and his art.

'Thirst of a Minstrel : The Life and Times of Ganesh Pyne' a book authored by Shiladitya Sarkar (New Delhi, Rupa and Co., 2005) explores the artist's mind, myths and metaphors. It brings out incidents and factors that had a bearing on Pyne's developing personality and more importantly, on his work, which persistently retains an aura of brooding sadness and nostalgia. Indeed, Ganesh Pyne's signature style is shaped from his experiences of solitude, alienation, pain, and moods of tenderness and serenity.

This enigmatic artist has once stated: 'Life has acquired a feverish pace. I am a recluse by nature and can never be a part of the rat race' I prefer the lonely road. I shy away from the crowds. I like to be by myself.' The quote sums up his artistic philosophy.

"The Insect"(tempera on canvas), "Drawing" (crayon on canvas), "Jotting" (mixed media on paper), "The Temple" (ink & crayon on paper), "The Head" (crayon on paper), "The Mask" (tempera on canvas), "Before the Lamp" (tempera on canvas) and "The Profile" (ink & crayon on paper) are some of the exquisite Pyne creations that are being showcased.

One of the untitled jottings in mixed media on paper is a brilliant example of splitting the space on a graph paper into structured zones. Another jotting expresses the inability of the urban man to see the splendor of nature's midnight.

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