‘Enraptured Gaze’ by Sakti Burman

Sakti Burman's paintings depict figures in hues that the viewer feels were once vivid, but are now faded. They evoke the look of a weathered fresco, and transport one into a dream-like world, where the perspective and composition is often that of medieval icons. A show of recent works of by celebrated artist Sakti Burman at New Delhi based Art Alive Gallery brings to fore the fantastic facet of his oeuvre.

Born in 1935, Kolkata, Sakti Burman did his graduation in painting from Government College of Arts and Crafts, Kolkata in 1956. He went on to study at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris and was awarded with the Prix des Etrangers by this institution. He has also received the Silver Medal at the Salon de Montmorency and an award from the town of L’Isle-Adam.

He has held several solo shows and also participated in major group shows across India and abroad, which include V International Triennale, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi; Paris Biennale, France. His works, along with those of Picasso, Chagall and Miro were exhibited in Japan in 1997. He was invited to participate in Sigmund Freud’s ‘Interpretation of Dreams’, an exhibition organised by University Art Museum, Binghamton, New York, at the Historisches Museum, Vienna in 2000.

Several publications and illustrations have been released on his works including a book on his work and life ‘Sakti Burman - Dreamers on the Ark’ has been published in 2001 and the most recently released is the portfolio of Monographs by Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA), 2007. Sakti Burman lives and works in Paris. Even though he lives in Paris, he has always retained his touch with the Indian heritage. He even built a second home in New Delhi in 2006.

It is meant to make it easier for the artist to stay in India during his annual trip. It also makes sure that he stays here longer. He quipped on eve of the show: “I never really left India. The country became part of my art. I visit it almost every year.” Noted art scholar Dr Alka Pande writes: “Sakti Burman too flew the roost and worked from the ‘outside’ but he too could not escape the Indianess in his visual metaphors.

Through his works, as the artist puts it: “I return to my native roots, to my childhood and that transitory world of innocence." One sees mythical creatures that tell ancient tales of courtly romances, and bring alive an enchanting world - of children astride elephants, flutists, comely maidens, fruit laden trees, exotic flowers, beasts and birds – akin to a lost paradise, where all creatures reside in harmony.”

Working in his Paris atelier, alone, Sakti Burman is in communion with this private universe of enchanting creatures. Engaging lines of grace and beauty, he creates a sense of tranquility in his art. Frozen in time, is an ageless world of elegance and splendor.

When his works were exhibited by the Apparao Galleries at London’s Gallery 27, Paritosh Sen had mentioned in an essay: “For over four decades now, this artist has lived with his family in Paris where his life as a painter has struck deep roots. He has not, however, lost touch with his own country. Reality meets and mingles with the world of his dreams. Though realism surfaces in his paintings, he returns to the dream world time and again.”

Sakti Burman spent his early childhood in rural East Bengal (now Bangladesh). The pristine beauty of the landscape and colorful festivals fascinated him. The trees, the birds, the animals, the flowers and the open water bodies left a deep impression on his sensitive mind. He reminisces: “My childhood memories are always there, mixed up with the realities of the day. In creative art, the role of memory is a recognized fact. But in my case, that of a painter working in a foreign city a vast distance away from his native milieu, memory is doubly potent in sustaining the creative life."

This encapsulates the core of his creativity. His paintings are a fusion of the realm of reality and imagined, especially his peculiar dream world. He projects this world with a meticulous style and technique. Human figures initially dominated his imagery. Later, a range of vivid forms and figures crowded his canvases with a beautiful blend of complementary colors decorative details and varied textures to create a dream world of harmony.

Yet, an element of violence has seeped into his works. One of the paintings in his new exhibition depicts threatening gunmen in a palimpsest of miniature-like compositions. “I can’t solve problems through my paintings but I wish to give symbolic expression to the violence around us,” he remarks, suggesting a subtle shift.

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