Documenting art and life of two prominent Indian artists

'Alternate Lyricism - Jehangir Jani', a documentation of his works, focuses on various facets of the self-taught yet significant artist. It's a collection of essays by noted art critics and historians. The book, edited by author and art critic, Ratnottama Sengupta, has essays by her as well as by Ranjit Hoskote, Anupa Mehta, Mortimer Chatterjee, Nancy Adajania, Girish Shahane, Ratnottama Sengupta and Deeptha Achar.

These bring out how Jehangir Jani's art, fiercely independent of cliques or trends, has been a whirlwind of activity since his first canvases were exhibited in 1991. An essay by Shivaji Panikkar locates Jehangir Jani's works in the socio-political arena. Mortimer Chatterjee dwells deep on the aesthetics of the artist.

Jehangir Jani's art uninhibitedly represents experiential realms of sexual and communitarian subcultures as he speaks his political dissent from within these experiences. In accordance with the thematic concerns, his use of various materials also creates uncanny juxtapositions and contradictory possibilities.

In his work, the fragility of ceramics is juxtaposed with hard, cold sheet metal-through such combinations. The versatile artist works with different medium like sculptures, ceramics, fiberglass, sheet metal and terracotta. According to the artist, 'work for me is all about one's muscle movement, and how much of it is in one's control.' Emotional stability and physical ability, he quips, are essential to approach the work, since the entire process involves choice making.

His style is not governed or restricted by any school of thought, but by his own inspiration and intuition, based on a 'process of elimination'. As he has been quoted as saying: 'I am primarily concerned with the beauty and aesthetic of the medium and the form in which I speak about my truths. I have worked with the analysis and re-looking at myths, historical events and dogmas. My intention is to speak from the space of the alternate and contest the propaganda of authority via the work.' He speaks of the inequality of power in confrontations between minorities and majorities.

If 'Alternate Lyricism' portrays an artist who has refused to be tied down by conventions, the same hold true for another new publication by Ina Puri takes the reader through maverick Manjit Bawa's life. Chronicling the myriad experiences and influences that shaped him as an artist and a man, the author presents his various facets'artist, poet, pacifist, singer, musician, actor, father, husband and friend.

She gives us a delightful peek into his life and his milieu as he cycles across the countryside with charcoal stick in hand, sketching bearded fakirs, Sufi singers and monuments in ruins; walks behind Bertrand Russell in an anti-war procession in London and his 'Rejects 1984', an exhibition along with fellow artists, to deride the establishment which had spurned their works.

As the book mentions: 'Rejecting his contemporaries who blindly aped Western trends, Manjit Bawa chose to base his art on Indian mythology and references, shunning greys, dull blues and browns and adopting as his own brazen yellows, luminous greens, bright crimson, turquoise and indigo. He was one of the first painters to break out of the dominant grays and browns and opted for more traditionally Indian colors like pinks, reds and violet. Nature also inspires his canvases.

Various facets of his art are brought out in an evocative and insightful manner in 'In Black and White'. As it sums up, 'Dreams and magic are the essential elements that make his work stand apart, projecting his own language and making him one of the few completely original artists of our times.'

'In Black and White' on art and life of painter Manjt Bawa, published by Penguin Books, is priced at Rs 425 whereas 'Alternate Lyricism - Jehangir Jani' (Mapin) is priced at Rs.1500.

View Jehangir Jani's work in Saffronart catalogue

View Manjit Bawa's work in Saffronart catalogue

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