Friday, February 14, 2003, Chandigarh, India


N C R   S T O R I E S


An artist not limited by the confines of his paintings 
Garima Pant

Abani Sen’s romantic sensibilities are evident in his paintings. An exhibition of the paintings of the master painter of yesteryear’s, Abani Sen (1905-1972), was inaugurated at gallery Art Indus at Santushti Shopping Arcade. Abani Sen is regarded as one of the old masters of modern Indian painting who had mastery over several media, including pencil and crayon, water colour and oil.

Abani Sen was also one of the legendary teachers of his time. Moreover, he was a visionary painter, who brought important trends into Indian art. A truly gifted and passionate artist, he left a valuable legacy of paintings, sketches, drawings and students.

Born in Bengal, his father was an employee in a law court, who died when Abani was barely three-year-old. The talented artist spent much of his childhood in poverty and despair. However, it was this phase of his life that provided the perfect fodder for his creativity.

The artist is quoted to have said: “In my paintings, I try to transform myself into the things that I paint, whether it is the radiant light or the darkest shadows. I surrender to the speed of the running deer or to the calmness, action or repose of the environment. I try to surrender to the object, whatever it may be, living, still or moving, and in this attempt, I feel the impulse of an eternal joy”.

The real intensity of the artist comes out graphically in his oil paintings. Sen’s romantic and sensitive demeanor is exposed through his choice of themes–fantastic prehistoric animal forms, enormous figures symbolizing the dominance of organic strength and vitality.

In cooperation with the young artists of his time, he organised the ‘Young Artists’ Union’ and later, the ‘Art Rebel Centre’. His main contribution to the Indian art scene was to change and defy the colonial tradition of painting by reviving elements of native Indian tradition. Though his paintings were modern, there was continuity with the Indian tradition and daily life of the natives. Whether it was ‘Mourners’ (1962), ‘Bathers’ (1962), ‘Mother and Child’ (1968) or ‘Usha’ (1955), the essence of being an Indian was kept intact and reconfirmed.

Being a teacher came easy to Sen, for like all great men and artists, he had learnt the art of giving and sharing. Renowned artists like Manjit Bawa, Dulal Mondal, Ram Nath Pasricha, Manmohan Singh, Pratibha Jhalani, among others were his students.

As a teacher, he gave ‘guided freedom’ to his students, taking them out to picnics and nature walks.

Sen was a master of several media–pencils and crayons, water colours and oils. And his favourite was the loose technique. This technique is characterized by a certain flow, which gives a spontaneity, along with a certain aesthetics to his paintings.

Paper is wetted in this technique so that the colour begins to flow on application. He was one of the few masters to have organised an exhibition of the works of his students. Art always remained the first obsession with Sen. His daughter Ganga recalls, “We never saw him without brush and art books.” And that is how the artist remained till his last days. In 1972, Sen died with a brush in his hands. Like a true devotee of art.

Italian Vistas

The paintings of Farhan Mujib depict interiors of homes arranged in a symmetrical way.The Italian Embassy Cultural Centre brings forth an array of films, concerts and exhibitions to enchant the art lovers of the Capital. The centre is organizing a concert by the Dixinitaly Jazz Band at the Kamani Auditorium on February 18. The band has participated in some of the important festivals of classical and traditional jazz that include Izmir (Turkey), San Marino , Rome and Verona.

Born during the 1980s, it tries to revisit Dixieland style and revive some of the classical masterpieces of Italian songs.

It has participated in various radio broadcasts and has also held concerts in several countries like Belgium, Ethiopia, Turkey, the Arab Emirates and the USA.

The film ‘Cosi’ Ridevano’ (How They Were Laughing) will be screened on February 19 at the Italian Embassy Cultural Centre. In the movie directed by Gianni Amelio and featuring Enrico Lo Verso, Francesco Giuffrida et al, Giovanni and Pietro are two brothers, who moved from Sicily to Torino immediately after the war. Giovanni, who is illiterate, has only one goal in life–to educate his younger brother Pietro. It costs him a lot of effort to bring up Pietro and make him discover the illusions and disillusions of life.

Festa di Laurea (Graduation Party), a comedy film with English subtitles is being screened on February 26. On February 27, a photo exhibition titled ‘One Billion Indians’ by Paolo Pellizzari will be put up. The exhibition will be on up to March 5.

Painter with a difference

The son of a physicist at the Aligarh Muslim University, Farhan Mujib is a painter of a different kind. An exhibition of Farhan Mujib’s work is being held at Apparao Galleries on February 24 at The Garden Theatre, Triveni Kala Sangam.

Born in the “conservative, uninspiring and old-fashioned city of Aligarh”, he was blessed with a liberal family. His father was an academic who took life seriously, while his mother “was a fun loving and expansive” person.

The atmosphere at home was very laissez-faire and stimulating. He was exposed to revolutionary ideas right from the very beginning. He became familiar with the works of Picasso and Marxism while still in school, unlike his classmates who came from conservative backgrounds.

His parents were very supportive and gave him all the opportunities to develop his creativity.

“It was because of my father that I met many talented, intelligent and sophisticated people, who inspired me a lot,” he said. After doing his post-graduation in Physics, he wanted to move to painting as he found Physics too hard to study. After his father opposed his decision, he decided to get a Ph.D in Science Education.

Then about 12-years ago, he created a composition with forms and shapes cut out from old photographs, chosen deliberately for its texture and pattern.

The results pleased him and led to the evolution of a new style. His present series of works titled ‘Rang Pachisi’ have no hidden meanings and messages. “It is a game that I’ve invented to play with myself. It’s like taking out bits of coloured paper and juxtaposing them, arranging them to form aesthetically appealing compositions. These compositions do not reflect external reality, have a logic of their own and I enjoy the process of creating them,” he said.

Most pictures depict interiors of homes and the various objects that can be found in a house, arranged in a formal stylistic and symmetrical way.

An exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery, British Council, looks at the world through a woman’s eye. “Life has been good to me and painting is something I have done for enjoyment. There is no urge to paint and work like a mad artist.

To continue painting would depend upon how the people react to my work.” The symmetry, the fine edges and the intelligent depiction of thoughts, truly give his works an altogether different standing.

World through woman’s eye

An exhibition of works by women artists titled ‘Within and Without’, curated by Bulbul Sharma is on at the Queen’s Gallery, British Council. This exhibition is part of the UK-South Asian Women Writer’s Conference-Voice, Dialogue and Visibility. The exhibition will be on till February 21.

The exhibition looks at the world through a woman’s eye, particularly women artists and artisans, who work with their hands not only to sustain their hearts and mind but also to survive. The participants include Anupam Sud, Arpana Caur, Bulbul Sharma, Ganga, Girija Devi, Kanchan Chander, Kristine Michael, Rini Dhumal along with the women inmates of Tihar Jail. According to Bulbul Sharma, ‘Within And Without’ is a tribute to women who stand in the marketplace, on hill-tops, in closed rooms or studios to sing their stories unmindful of who stops to listen.

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