Eminent painter Manjit Bawa who had made a mark for himself with his larger than life unique paintings in vibrant 'ice cream' colours filled with mythology and Sufi spirituality leaves behind a body of work, which finds relevance in today's terror-filled world.
The 67-year-old painter who was in coma for the last three years after suffering a stroke died in the capital on Monday.
"Manjit Bawa has left behind a legacy that addresses the mythology with a sense of contemporaneity elevating it to to our present context of the contemporary ethos," National Gallery of Modern Art director Rajeev Lochan told PTI.
"It is unfortunate that a painter of this calibre was forced to remain silent for some years because nature forced him to be alive but not yet active," he said.
Born in a small town of Dhuri in Punjab, Manjit went on to study fine arts in the capital's School of Art under eminent professors including Somnath Hore, Rakesh Mehra, Dhanaraj Bhagat and BC Sanyal.
Manjit gained identity under Abani Sen, whom the late painter had claimed taught him "to revere the figurative at a time when the entire art scene was leaning in favor of the abstract."
Vadhera, who owns the Vadhera Art Gallery in the capital and who had attended the painter's cremation said, "The most recet memory that I have of Manjit's work was in New York where Christie's auctioned his work for USD 360,000."
"He was a major artist post Independence and his works were a beauty with its minimalistic forms that were easy to pick out from even a distance. His creations were so original and so Indian but so contemporary and stood apart. It was something like Husain's work, quite distinctive."
Ina Puri who had authored Bawa's biography told PTI, "His death is one of the greatest loss to India. He did not take anybody else's legacy and his totally unique approach to handling colour and forms has no legacy after or no legacy before."
Bawa was deeply moved by Sufism and his art reflected its philosophy of the "meek and mighty." "Manjit's art spoke about healing and in today's time of non violence his art is very relevant as it gives solace and healing," said Puri.
Most of Bawa's work was left untitled. Birds and animals were a recurrent motif in his paintings, either alone or in human company, besides flute, an instrument which he learnt from Pannalal Ghosh, a doyen in the field of music.
"Majit painted minimalistic forms at the centre and a single colour at the background. He was a great follower of Gita, and incorporated in his works elements from the Mahabharata. He had this huge energy and it can be credited to him that it is on his shoulders that a lot of Indian art got promoted," said Vadhera.
He had painted Ranjha, the cowherd from the tragic ballad Heer Ranjha and Lord Krishna with a flute surrounded by dogs and not cows as in mythological paintings.
Indian gods Kali and Shiva, whom Bawa considers as "icons of my country", also figure prominently in his paintings.