Portrait of an artist…https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/kolkata/portrait-of-an-artist-3/

Portrait of an artist…

Long before he knew about his Portuguese-Indian ancestry (his mother hails from the famous Portuguese-Indian Maillot family),Enzo Mayo was fascinated with India. He found Indian classical music fascinating.

Premankur Biswas meets Enzo Mayo,the French painter who was in the city recently to unveil his first exhibition of paintings,Shringara Kamatantra

Long before he knew about his Portuguese-Indian ancestry (his mother hails from the famous Portuguese-Indian Maillot family),Enzo Mayo was fascinated with India. He found Indian classical music fascinating.

“I enjoyed the compositions of L Subramanian,Balachander and Ali Akbar Khan. It’s like the symbiosis of Indian culture and spiritualism,” says the French painter who was in the city recently to unveil his first exhibition of paintings,Shringara Kamatantra.

“I chose Kolkata as the city to inaugurate my exhibition because it is most definitely the cultural hub of the country,” says Mayo.

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About a decade ago,Mayo’s fascination for the country took a more serious turn when he encountered the works of Lila Armoudom,who combines modern contemporary dance forms alongwith classical Indian dances like Bharat Natyam and Odissi.

“I was dazzled by what I saw,” he says. He collaborated with them and painted scenes of natya yoga for them,which were presented in a series of unique exhibitions in India and Mauritius.

“That was my first brush with the country. I realised that art is an integral part of Indian life. It’s a part of the milieu,” he says. The exhibition that he is showcasing in Kolkata celebrates female sexuality through the ancient Indian text of Kama Sutra.

“In India the carnal and the spiritual exist side by side. I refuse to call texts like Kama Sutra and Gita Govinda erotic literature. For me,they are the true celebration of life,” he states. He also stresses upon the fact that though the blatant nature of his paintings may be “too provocative for some”,the idea was never meant to be so.

Through his works,most of which are structured in such a way as to express the multiplicity of viewpoints,Mayo states that sex and procreation are integral to the universe. “The people in my paintings are not having sex,they are making love. Which is why I don’t hesitate to make a self-portrait with my wife,” he says.

He also doesn’t hesitate in depicting Hindu god and goddesses in his paintings,which may raise many an eyebrow.

“I don’t understand why Indians claim that they are very conservative. You have a culture which has celebrated human sexuality for thousands of years and now after a few hundred years of British rule,you embrace Victorian morality?” he asks.

Mayo is also ready to draw the flak from saffron parties when he showcases his works in cities like Delhi and Mumbai. “I have been warned that many Rightist parties there will not take very kindly to my works. They have even asked me to expect protests and bans but I know that people will relate to the purity of my work,” he says.

He says: “Sex does not exclude tenderness and delicacy of sentiments; artists from your country have projected this for years. I don’t think I,as a Westerner,have to remind you that,” he smiles.

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