A palette so vibrant: Painter Madan Lal takes his work to Mumbai : The Tribune India

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A palette so vibrant: Painter Madan Lal takes his work to Mumbai

A palette so vibrant: Painter Madan Lal takes his work to Mumbai

Blue Angel



Nonika Singh

HIS imagery is vibrant, his colour palette exuberant. Madan Lal is that rare artist from Chandigarh who has not let limited opportunities hem his flight. Like the birds that dot his canvases, he soars in the vast expanse of art. Currently exhibiting at the prestigious Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, for the fourth time, he swears by the bustling hub of art connoisseurs, collectors and buyers.

Madan Lal

Those who have followed this gifted painter’s art odyssey, spanning four decades, know all too well how his works sell like hot cakes, with the who’s who of the country on his buyers’ list. Of course, when he paints, buyers do not figure on his mind. “If I paid heed to what sells and what doesn’t, I will never be able to create,” he says.

Fragrance-I

Painting for Madan is akin to prayer and meditation, a process that he begins early in the morning, or what he calls amrit vela, at a time when the world stands still. As Eckhart Tolle says, “All artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of inner stillness, a place of no mind.” In this state, where all else ceases to exist, he is able to listen to his inner voice. Even when metaphors from the outer world appear in his works, the significance is always spiritual. Thus, when he titles his latest exhibition ‘Fragrance’, the idea is to remind us of kasturi mrig, or musk deer, which is constantly in quest of the sweet smell emanating from its own form. Madan observes, “Same is the case of humans; they don’t look inwards, which is where love, peace and harmony exist.”

If music for Madan is the mother of all art forms, he paints as if creating a musical symphony. He lets colours flow on the canvas, as if he were creating a sargam. Then he builds a visual alaap and finally lyrics take the shape of figures. Indeed, his works are layered and symbols abound. Those who wonder how he manages to control such bold colours, well, first and foremost, his inspiration comes from the colourful phulkari, which is also why triangles, squares and other geometric forms permeate his imagery. An alumnus of Government College of Art, Chandigarh, he owes his visual vocabulary to his Punjabi roots, the heritage of Sufi poets, Le Corbusier and yes, mythology and religion.

“Balihari kudrat vaseya tera ant na jaaye likheya…” shabads inform and influence his lexicon. Nature, he knows, is not only endless but also so infinite that it can’t be summarised in any creative endeavour. “What I or any other artist can capture is just a speck,” he avers. In his works, the microcosm transforms into larger-than-life paintings. The current exhibition includes 11’x 3’ riot of colours. Where does he find such radiance in this dismal world? Once again, he points at the subconscious, where light radiates and there is anand, not to be confused with surface-level joy.

Indeed, he is tickled pink when a bunch of young visitors wonder aloud if he was on a drug-induced high when he created this psychedelic vision bursting with spurts of energy. Undeniably, not everyone can read his visual language easily. But those who can decipher the visual code, do find multiple meanings. Parrot, the vehicle of Kaamdev, also alludes to the human mind, which, like the chatterbox parrot, is forever restless.

Madan’s energy levels are in over-drive, too. A regular participant at international workshops in Turkey, Bosnia and Greece, he paints for long stretches of time even at his studio back home. He shares the genesis of ongoing creativity: “It always lies in the previous series.” For instance, as fabrics make an entry in his works, lending these greater depth and perspective, he intends to optimise their use furthermore. But art, for him, is not tareeka (method). It is, rather, saleeka (way of living).

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