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Lot Details

Signed and dated 'Manjit 2001' (on the reverse)

Formerly in a well known North Indian collection
Acquired from the above by the present owner

“My work is a continuous process that takes up almost all my waking hours. Even when I sleep, I have experienced visions in my dreams that are related to my painting activities. Often, a stubborn problem regarding space or color that refuses to be solved no matter how much I try to sort it out during the day finds amazingly apt answers in my subconscious as I sleep. Much like a musician who has to work constantly perfecting his musical notes or ‘ragas’ and ‘swaras’ so also an artist must practice religiously to better and improve his artistic technique. You can never practice enough.”

- Manjit Bawa

'Unmistakable red - In conversation with Ina Puri'

ARTIANA: How has Manjit Bawa's art evolved in light of his exposure to silk screen printing?

INA PURI: He studied silk screen printing in the london years in the 60's and it definitely affected the way he painted when he returned to India - when he was grappling with his form, with his style and working on his iconography. Silk screen printing played a very important role because of the flat background. He worked on the wet-on-wet process. Flat background became an integral part his painting and the way he worked and the images that he created in the later years. The floating figures and his typical iconography, always had a flat background. He did not like a background that was cluttered. It was just this stark beautiful colour feel that was in these colours and this was something that he did even with the miniatures paintings - Basohli yellows, the bright pink reds. He did not use colours out of a tube - there would be so many different colours going into the making of a red. What appears to be an Indian red or a madder, is actually different shades that he mixed to come to this kind of a background. There were maybe fifty different shades of red's that came into the making of his works.

ARTIANA: Could you share something about his animals and what made them so special ?

INA PURI: He was first of all a very compassionate human being and someone who was an animal lover. This I have seen myself, the fact that he was extremely fond of animals and had a way with animals, which perhaps came from the time he was born. Manjit was born in a gaushala. So right from the time when he was a child he was very familiar with animals. He would go off, he told me, as a child, riding on the back of a buffalo. This little adolescent boy on the back of a buffalo playing a flute could very well be Manjit himself. When it came to his painting in his later years, one could see a coexistence clearly. He would paint for instance a goat and a lion because he believed in coexistence. He believed as a sufi and felt that that there should be peace and harmony. The animal figures were a part of his entire iconography, and it also had to do with the fact that Abani Sen, his guruji, taught him how to paint. Anatomy was extremely important. The structure of a figure was very very important. His homework was to go to a stable and sketch horses, goats and other animals. These practices were a part of his art lessons and these instructions he received from Abani Sen, whom he considered his guru. So right from the beginning we see the influence and therefore his interest in animals. He cared very deeply about animals. When he paints the animals, they become Manjit's creatures, in a sense. They have their own way, and their own eccentricities. You see a goat looking very perky and flirtatious. They have all these very interesting characteristics that you see in human beings - now appearing in animals. Their expressions are absolutely so beautiful and so Manjit. He was someone who really enjoyed working with animals, especially the goat or the cow and they appeared in different avatars; different kinds of compositions where the animals played the most important role, with or without the human figure. Because of distortion, the animals aren't figurative creatures. They are not real or not life-like. They are not realistically painted or drawn. But they have their characteristics - the long flowing lines from the tail to the torso, the way the form almost meld and merge is very Manjit. Something that you recognize as a goat, or a cow or a bull, but it has unmistakable lines and a flow that make it Manjit’s creatures.

This is how he was working towards the end of his life. He went very young, when he was 61 years old and without any indication. He would be totally lost in these images. He enjoyed creating these images. These are Manjit's images and compositions. The Unmistakable red. In his travels, he would take photographs of all goats and when asked why he was doing so as they all look alike, he would say "the goats think the same about us!". He is not grappling anymore. He is not struggling. He is the master of his form, of his art and he loved these images. These were his people. These people, creatures, fellow beings that he loved. There is no violence anywhere. He was drawn to red. Red was his signature. It was his favorite color and he perfected the shade. He used it in the most audacious way. Red has always been his favorite colour.

Manjit Bawa

(1941 - 2008)
Born in 1941, in Punjab, Bawa studied at the College of Art, New Delhi, and then at the London School of Printing. During his stay abroad, from 1967 to 1971, he held his first solo exhibition in London and Spain. His last solo shows include those at the Nehru Centre and Air Gallery, London, organized by Sakshi Art Gallery, Mumbai, Gallery Maya, London, in 2005; Palette Art Gallery, New Delhi, in 2005, Sakshi Art Gallery, Mumbai, Indian Contemporary, Hong Kong, in 2002; and Bose Pacia, New York, in 2000. Bawa’s works have also been part of many group shows including ‘Freedom 2008’ at the Centre for International Modern Art (CIMA), Kolkata, in 2008; ‘In Transit III’ presented by Sakshi Art Gallery at Alexander Ochs Galleries, Berlin, in 2005; ‘The Margi and the Desi’ at Gallery Espace, New Delhi, in 2004; ‘Four Contemporary Artists’ at Gallery Espace, New Delhi in 1998; ‘Wounds’ at CIMA, Kolkata and the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), New Delhi, in 1993; the Grey Art Gallery, New York, in 1985; the Royal Academy, London, in 1982; and the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC, in 1982. Exhibitions that have included his work posthumously include ‘Kalpana: Figurative Art in India’ presented by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) at Aicon Gallery, London; ‘Tracing Time’ at Bodhi Art, Mumbai’ and ‘In Memorium’ at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), New Delhi, all in 2009. Bawa lived and worked in New Delhi, till he passed away in 2008.