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Manjit Bawa


"Art has no geography but the artist does- it is the geography of his individual self. The vision of it is not merely physical, on the contrary it represents 'artistic unity' to progress naturally towards perpetual creativity. You need to listen to that inner voice- call it instinct if you will, and you will not be lost.


"When I paint, I am often listening to Sufi music or to Indian classical compositions; my soul beats in strange rhythm with my canvas. To me artistic structure is akin to a musical composition. The gradually increasing tempo of beats. Like a musician, I endeavour to achieve greater perfection as I first draw, then transfer the finished drawing onto my canvas. Later, I start slowly adding colours. My challenge is to work with newer colours and I strive to attain the perfect composition while remaining true to my own iconography. When I mention colours I am once again transported back in time to my first encounter with red. At the end of a long day's trek, dusty and tired, I reached Sohna. Before my eyes I saw a sight I will never forget- brilliantly hued flame-of-the-forest blossoms! These glorious gulmohars seemed to be spraying red all over the barren rocky landscape. The evening's last red-orange rays lit up the entire stretch of area into a volcano of violent red. Instantly charged, I took out my sketchbook and immediately attempted to paint this glorious scene for posterity. But to my disappointment I could not get it right. My battle with red would have been my Waterloo had I not persevered to continue experimenting for many more years with different shades of red- Cadium, Rose Madder, Scarlet, Vermilion, Post-box, Indian red- all became in due course a part of my oeuvre.


"Similarly I am also inspired at all times by folk tales and love legends that I have grown up. Like my colours, they are also a part of my iconography. You could thus say that my Sanskaras root me to my people and its legacy. The characters of Heer Ranjha, Mirza- Sahiba, Sohni Mahiwal and Satsi- Punnu are real to me- from our folk tales and songs. My subject matter has been people, legends, animals and environment. Imagery and content are of utmost significance- they are symbolic of my own personal history. If you see images recurring in my paintings I will have to share with you the sentiments of another, who said 'As in music, so in poetry and painting the same melody, the same theme is explored again and again leading to a deeper awareness towards fulfillment.' In my oeuvre are forms or imagery familiar to my art & life. The figure of a flautist is captured often in my art- eternally frozen in time, playing the flute to a flock of cows and buffaloes or may be just to trees. Is he Krishna, Ranjha, a mere anonymous cowherd you would see anywhere in our rural land, or is it me?


"Painting is not about filling an empty space of canvas or merely applying paint. Brush, colours, canvas, are tools like pen or paper. As words do not constitute poetry, so also lines alone cannot be regarded as a work of art. It is like entering an unknown place- exploring this abstraction is the creative process. The experience is akin to losing your way in the depth of a deeply wooded forest and seeking a path leading some where. There is no map or guide to point out the right direction, in this world of silence there is you and your instinct."