Arun Vadehra remembers Manjit Bawa who passed away last week
One day,about a decade ago,I visited the studio of Manjit Bawa where he enthusiastically showed me the works of young,talented artists he had collected. Not many knew Manjit was a collector of works of new artists. One of them,Rajnish Kaur,whose works he showed me with much prescience then is now,coincidentally,being shown at my gallery.
Manjit was a regular at the gallery,walking in to engross us with his stories of Dalhousie,his rapturous encounters with nature. I think he followed the essence of the tradition that our painter predecessors had practised and wanted to convey. His contemplative self was expressed through his paintings. Manjits perception of aesthetics,particularly rooted in Indian ethos,is something that has captivated every art lover. His paintings were grounds for exploration and reinterpretation of Indian mythology. The images of Krishna and the depiction of the Bhagwad Gita always intrigued me,while his style of painting with a double-line contour fascinated me. I think these were little nuances through which he constantly reminded us of our past,the rich artistic,visual-cultural tradition that we had inherited. The miniature master painters used similar techniques; so did the masters of the early Bengal school. His paintings created a visual language which was uniquely and very consciously Indian. His vocabulary,very carefully,delinked itself from western influences which had once overshadowed a considerable part of Indian art.
At gatherings,he would burst into a song. Sufism and the music and poetry that came with it were part of Manjits inner self. His art works,I believe,were two-dimensional representations of these abstract moods. And his works have that Sufi quality to move both the culturally literate and the artistically ignorant.
My interactions with Manjit only humbled me with their intense nature. His devotion and sincerity towards his work painting was his religion and his perceptions about art and life were something that enhanced the boundaries of looking at the same for me in more ways than one.
His colours will live.
Arun Vadehra is a gallerist