Ways of seeing in Le Corbusier’s city | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Ways of seeing in Le Corbusier’s city

An artist cannot stay aloof because his environment will willy-nilly find its way into his painting. An artist can never create anything in a vacuum. The task of an urban artist becomes more complex because architecture intervenes into his dreams and visions. Writes Nirupama Dutt.

chandigarh Updated: Aug 31, 2014 10:34 IST
Nirupama Dutt

An artist cannot stay aloof because his environment will willy-nilly find its way into his painting. An artist can never create anything in a vacuum. The task of an urban artist becomes more complex because architecture intervenes into his dreams and visions. Domes, arches, minarets, gothic structures, temples and tombs cannot escape his vision especially when we have a great heritage of finely painted cathedrals, mosques, temples, monasteries, bridges and havens.

Cities indeed lend their personality to the art and artists they nurture.

However, walk into Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh and the task of an artist becomes complex, yet interesting.

This is because the artist is confronted with a city that is as architecturally heavy as can be.
Let not an unknowing critic scoff at a city artist’s work by saying: “Oh! What a square?” the reality of an artist here is confrontation day and night with the squares, rectangles, circles and roads cutting in at sharp right angles.

The dominant colours are grey of concrete and red of bricks even if the city was built in the rather picturesque surroundings of the foothills of the Shivaliks.

The buildings are mostly shaped like upturned boxes so there is no escape from the geometric vision and perception.

Such is the way of seeing here unless the artist chooses to run away from the scheme of things to paint a fantasy world or seek recluse in nature untouched by the human hand.

However, the hallmark of much of the art painted by artists who were bequeathed the legacy of Corbusier’s architecture is the inclusion of images of city’s architecture. There is a constant entry of frames and bricks; globe-like lights and manicured lawns into their canvasses. The challenge before the artist is ways of seeing the city and the creative interpretations of its elements in the works of art.

The architecture of the city finds its way most prominently in the works of the city-bred artist Parbhinder Lall.

The quiet and reticent artist who has received many awards and accolades is one of the most representative artists of the city and yet he has the artistic quality to rise above pure architecture and colour with the hues of nature and an emotive hand that can breathe emotions even when he is using primary colours a la Corbusier.

This is because the elements have been internalised by him and when they reappear in his works it is with the warmth of a human hand and a well-developed cultural expression.

“My father was an architect and he would have wanted me to be one too but I was rather poor at science and mathematics so the local College of Art was to be my destiny. Nevertheless, after school I was attached to an architect to learn perspective and technical design. That has played a role in my art but I have never been dominated by it!” says Lall.

In fact, he works freely and briskly sometimes doing four to five paintings at the same time with his favourite medium of acrylic on canvas.

In one of the canvases is sun-lit, the other is rain-bathed and yet another confronts a storm. Nature and urban art come together in rare harmony if Lall is wielding the brush!


(The writer is a prominent art and culture critic.)