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Sufi Stories Under Red Sky

Manjit Bawa’s canvases come out of his daughter’s private collection for a rare viewing.

Written by Georgina Maddox |
August 16, 2011 3:48:23 am

Almost three years after he died,artist Manjit Bawa will finally have a long overdue solo exhibition with Delhi-based Vadehra Art Gallery,which he considered his second home. From August 20,works from the private collection of Bawa’s daughter,Bhavna Bawa,will be on display at the India Habitat Centre. The show,organised by Vadehra,has been titled “Let’s Paint the Sky Red”. It will move to Vadehra Art Gallery’s Defence Colony centre in September. “This year,he would have turned 70 and I wanted to commemorate this with an exhibition. I wanted to work with a gallery that knew his work well,” says Bhavna.

Bawa was known as the Sufi among artists and his works were culled from a mixture of High Modernism and earthy folklore. “He always had interesting stories from the oral traditions of Indian mythology and Bulleh Shah. He was a firm believer in the Sufi tradition and even his violent works have a sense of peace,” says Arun Vadehra of Vadehra Art Gallery.

He recalls how Bawa frequented the gallery ever since it opened in 1987. “Although we never had his solo,he did participate in a lot of group shows. The truth is that,at that time,we had our hands full with artists such as MF Husain,Ram Kumar and SH Raza,” says Vadehra.

While Bawa was lighthearted as a person,his work was quite serious. Art critic S Kalidas writes,“Manjit turned to figuration when the whole Delhi art scene was leaning towards abstraction.” Bawa’s training in London in graphics gave him the technical acumen to render flat colour with no traces of brush strokes. His floating figure on the placid background creates the tension in his work,making them visually powerful.

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