The Wonder of it All

The latest retrospective of Sakti Burman’s work, titled ‘The Wonder of it All’, is a travelling show which opened at the Lalit Kala Akademi in New Delhi before moving to Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai. The exhibition, which is currently on view at the Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata, includes a range of works on paper and canvas as well as sculpture, dating from Burman’s early period in the 1950s, when he was inspired by both his home town, Bidyakut in West Bengal, and by his new home in Paris, to contemporary times. The main theme of the retrospective is the relationship and cultural exchanges between east and west, reflected through the artist’s personal experiences. The works on display thus represent a journey through his life.

Burman was born in Kolkata in 1935. His works are neither typically Indian nor typically European. They symbolize a unique blend of the two cultures, and thus enjoy global appeal. In Minister of Culture of India, Kumari Selja’s words, “Each of us is familiar with Sakti Burman’s work. Each of us loves his work. Each of us is proud of his work.”

The artist moved to Paris in the 1950s, but never lost track of his Indian origin and upbringing. The European influences on his body of work were an addition to the artistic idiom he had already developed, with which Burman was able to fully express his personality and ideas.

Speaking about his work, Burman notes, “Now, through my work, I always try to express some kind of reality mixed with the unreal and dreams. These events are not really connected to each other. They are a result of the play between my subconscious and my culture and my reality. This connection and disconnection that happens in your mind.”

The artist depicts his magical scenes and figures using tones that seem faded but might have once been very vivid, like an aged fresco. This technique creates a dream-like atmosphere, which is further highlighted by the mythical characters and hybrid creatures that populate his surfaces. Burman also gives his paintings a marbled effect, combining oils and acrylics, and applying them on the surface with an almost pointillist precision.

The artist believes art should be for everyone so he always made an effort to make it accessible to everyone. Commenting on the exhibition Burman notes, “Whatever I have done has been done sincerely. May be I could have done more work. May be this retrospective will prod me to do more work.”

The opening of the exhibition in New Delhi was attended by the Ambassador of France in India, H.E. Francois Richier, the Secretary of the Minister of Culture, Shri Jawhar Sircar, and the Minister of Culture of India, Kumari Selja.

Along with the exhibition a book on the artist with the same title was released by the Ambassador of France in India. Besides illustrations of several of Burman’s works, the book includes essays about the artist and his practice by art historian Dr B.N. Goswamy and art critic Kishore Singh.

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