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Painter Manjit Bawa dead

New Delhi, December 29
Noted artist Manjit Bawa, who revolutionised the Indian painting scene with bold use of vibrant colours, died here today after a prolonged illness.

The 67-year-old painter from Punjab’s Dhuri area was in coma for the past three years after suffering a stroke.

Bawa, who began his career as a silk-screen printer in London in 1964, breathed his last this morning at his Green Park residence in south Delhi.

Educated at Delhi’s College of Art and London School of Printing, Bawa started as a figurative painter and attained great heights in the form.

One of the first painters to break out of the dominant greys and browns of the western art and opt for more Indian colours like red and violet, the maestro was influenced by nature, Sufi mysticism and Indian mythology.

“He wanted to paint the sky red. He loved red. He was a brave painter who had the courage to follow his convictions unmindful of the popular trend. We will remember him for his energy,” Ena Puri, author of a biography on Bawa, said.

Lalit Kala Akademi chairman Ashok Vajpayee remembered Bawa as a man of conviction, who helped young artists. “He was a versatile person. We will miss him,” he said. 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.

There was an undercurrent of Sufi mysticism in the choice of Bawa’s subjects like the idyllic scenes of love and peace, the flute playing Krishna, predatory animals and human beings appearing together, art critics say.

“My mother would try to dissuade me, saying art was not a means of livelihood. But my spiritual leanings dispelled my fears. I believed that God would provide me with food and I would earn the rest,” the late artist had once said.

He was in College of Arts in Delhi where he was “moulded” by artist Abani Sen, whom Bawa credits for his ability to “distort forms and create the stylisation one sees in my works today.” After his stint as a silkscreen printer in London, he returned to India where he faced a ‘crisis’ in his life. “I asked myself what should I paint. I could not be just a derivative of the European style,” he had said.

Bawa broke out of the traditional style and lavishly used vibrant colours for which he was criticised by some quarters as using “ice cream colours”. — PTI



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