Manjit Bawa (b. 1941)

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Manjit Bawa | Biography | Life | Artworks 

Manjit Bawa Biography,Life,Artworks
Manjit Bawa Biography,Life,Artworks

According to J. Swaminathan, most figurative painting in our times has tended to become tiring. The scope of formal innovation seems to have been shrinking and ‘the novelty of narration reduced to the banality of journalistic reportage’. 

In India the contemporary painter, however, makes good with borrowed mannerisms. Among the limited few ‘who retrieve the figure against the backdrop, after Husain, Souza and Tyeb Mehta of an earlier generation, is Manjit Bawa’. 

Manjit Bawa’s figurative imagery as compared to the western academic or modernistic interpretation of figure by contemporary Indian painters is quite refreshing; it has a local, indigenous flavor. 

His figuration, however, seems to be both an assertion of tradition as well as its negation. 

It has neither any clear- cut, known features of the traditional form nor of realism or expressionism. Neither does he seem to render the figure in any analytical sense as did the cubist painters in the West. 

In fact, his work is an attempt at visual excitement in his personal, conventionalized form of figures/animals that are perhaps, remotely related to the Pahari folk or pre-miniature tradition. 

His ‘bone-less figures’, whether human or animal, possess a life of their own; a lively quality infused into the almost flat forms via their vital, rhythmic contours. 

It is the flowing line that creates the movement and lends expression to their gestures and postures. 

These are rendered in broad masses of complementary colors such as yellow-oranges, blue-greys, and greens and mauves or reds—the favorite color combinations of Pahari folk seen commonly in their woven shawls and other clothing. 

The softly modeled figures of humans and animals in highly emotive gestures, seem to enact the play of life against a completely flat surface. 

The rhythmic line and the dynamic gesture contribute to the intensity of expression. 

The dislocated limbs in Manjit Bawa’s figures as aptly described by Swaminathan ‘is not a conceptual dislocation, but a physical mutation. 

Having thus given independent life to what are but parts, they have no choice but to inevitably come together again’. 

It is indeed the rhythmic line that holds together the split forms or limbs of humans and animals in an integral unity. 

His conscious use of repetitive linear rhythm, however, at times tends more towards the decorative than the emotive sphere.

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