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Manjit Bawa's works showcased

One of India's prominent contemporary painters, Manjit Bawa, exhibits his work at Nehru Centre, London in a new solo show. Manjit Bawa has an old artistic tie with the country where he worked between 1964 and 1971 as a silkscreen printer and also studied art.

This exhibition has been curated by Ina Puri. An art impresario and curator, Ina Puri has been promoting Indian art within the country and abroad. Author of a short memoir of Manjit Bawa, she is the producer of the film 'Meeting Manjit' and is about to publish a definitive biography of Bawa, 'In Black & White'.

Nehru Centre, Cultural Wing of the High Commission of India, London, aims to foster continuous, varied and meaningful cultural exchanges between India and Britain. The Center was established in 1992, and is located in a magnificent 18th century building in the heart of Mayfair, London. As part of its effort to promote Indian art, the cultural centre is presenting the works of painter Manjit Bawa. One of India's leading contemporary painters, he has exhibited widely in India and internationally. His usage of bright colors and simplicity of figuration marks his work.

As the painter has narrated to the curator of this exhibition in an interview: 'When I paint, often listening to Sufi music or to Indian classical compositions, my soul beats in strange rhythm with my canvas. To me, artistic structure is akin to a musical composition, in the gradually increasing tempo of beats. Like a musician, I endeavor to achieve greater perfection as I first draw, then transfer the finished drawing onto my canvas. Later, I start slowly adding colors. My challenge is to work with newer colors as I strive to attain the perfect composition while remaining true to my won iconography.

'While in the course of time, I reached my present iconography, there was no getting away from my inner need to draw sustenance from nature. As before, nature continues to captivate my artists soul. Both the gentle beauty of a calm moonlit night and its harsher side symbolized by the raging storm transforms the same silent night into something wildly elemental and fierce. Being older today, I accept both. I also find the same philosophy colouring my other observations of nature,' reveals the artist.

The prolific painter has also been inspired by folk tales and love legends to which he has grown up listening. Like his colors they are also a part of his iconography. His upbringing in the midst of nature and his cultural molding closely binds him to the people of this land and its legacy.

The figure of a flautist is captured often in his art eternally frozen in time, playing the flute to a flock of cows and buffaloes or may be just to trees. The mythological icons such as Lord Krishna with a flute, surrounded by dogs dominate Bawa's canvases. The flute is a recurring motif in his works. The artist himself learnt to play the instrument from maestro Pannalal Ghosh.

The works, based on mythological references as much as vignettes of everyday life in India, reflect very original iconography that has won him respect and admiration the world over. A believer in the Sufi philosphy Manjit Bawa is an avid traveller, musician, and poet.

The painter's canvases are distinguishable in their colors - the ochre of sunflowers, the green of the paddy fields, the red of the sun, the blue of the mountain sky. During his sojourns to different parts of India, he has closely observed the people and the nature that have inspired him to paint. No surprise, birds and animals make a constant appearance in his paintings, either alone or in human company.

His vibrant paintings are suffused with a sense of of spirituality. He has been attracted to particularly Sufi philosophy from which he draws a wealth of wisdom. His faith in Sufi philosophy reflects in his work where his figures depict peaceful coexistence. This has largerly influenced his choice of the idyllic scenes of love and peace. The exhibition, curated by Ina Puri, continues at Nehru Centre, London in collaboration with Gallery Maya, London and Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai, till October 5, 2005.

View Manjit Bawa's works in Saffronart catalogue

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