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Art on a realistic canvas

The poster boy of Indian art, MF Husain, feels, ?In one thousand years, one Ganesh Pyne is enough for India.?

india Updated: Jan 10, 2006 14:41 IST

The poster boy of Indian art, MF Husain, feels, “In one thousand years, one Ganesh Pyne is enough for India.” That statement encapsulates the style of a living legend — a quality of timelessness, an unhurried pace that scans the obscure past of Indian civilisation, the convulsions of modern times and a strong attachment to roots.

It doesn’t come about only through knowledge of history, or an artistic understanding of the schools of art. Neither is it the restlessness for perfection. On the contrary, his inner calm is a canvas that soaks in and reflects the fundamental values of human existence. Pyne, a dreamer with an acute eye on reality, has achieved the impossible — a synthesis of perspectives, a symbiosis of the eternal and the perishable.

A solo exhibition at the CIMA Art Gallery, "An Enchanted Space: The Private World Of Ganesh Pyne", featuring 57 works of the artist, mostly recent ones, beginning January 6, is full of such revelations. One of the untitled jottings in mixed media on paper, a brilliant example of splitting the space on a graph paper into structured zones, serves as a confession.

His reason for retreating into an intensely private space can be traced to “an erosion of confidence in publicity” and an indifference “to a certain politics of helplessness that dominates the world”. However, the aura of splendid isolation only grows brighter for Pyne, feeding an enigma that has transformed the man into a myth.

Another jotting expresses the inability of the urban man to see the splendour of nature’s midnight. In fleeting scenes — of an approaching train, a human face, a hand trying to touch another hand, a man begging, a diminutive human skeleton — Pyne’s memories of raater Kolkata, which so fascinates him, breathe life into a regret.

The optimist shows the way and the beauty of such a night in Before the lamp (tempera on canvas), where a grasshopper is drawn towards a kerosene lamp. In Conversation has three eras represented through a headless torso of a dancing girl — a tribute to the sculpture of ancient India, a horse in terracotta — reminiscent of Bengal’s indigenous art, and a decorative light from Colonial India exchanging notes with a woman.

Pyne’s love for Bengal’s folk culture is also articulated through the "Street Singer". The old Kolkata, an intrinsic part of his life, still holds him in thrall — evident in The Gate — the door of a stately mansion lit partially by a lamp — and in On the balcony showing a beautiful woman standing on the verandah of a colonial structure.

The past he has always cherished: the days at the Mandar studio where he honed his skills as animator for 15 years, the tumultuous adda sessions at Basanta Cabin frequented by poets, litterateurs and artists, the group theatre movement and the neo-realism films. "In Mask", the artist longs for an ideal adda companion. Which shows that Pyne, like many of us, is “waiting for Godot’s knock on the door”.

First Published: Jan 09, 2006 23:41 IST