Kolkata-based CIMA Gallery brings to Delhi a seminal show that celebrates the divergent expressions of two stalwarts of Bengal modernism titled “Ganesh Pyne & Lalu Prasad Shaw: Two Faces of Bengal Modernism”. Rakhi Sarkar, Director, Cima Gallery and curator of the show talks about the two artists.
To be “modern” in art is to show what is already there in a way that is jarring and unexpected, often inconceivable, to the eye. Modernism moves around the structures of old appearances. Ganesh Pyne & Lalu Prasad Shaw: Two Faces of Bengal Modernism showcases the works of two of Bengal’s (and India’s) most renowned artists shaped by Bengal’s own modernist tradition. Pyne’s work shows the dark not-so-secretive secrets contained within the very structures of the stories we have grown up with. Shaw’s works reconfigure the aesthetic of scenes from the ordinary.
In the past, CIMA has had individual exhibitions of Ganesh Pyne’s and Lalu Prasad Shaw’s work. This combined exhibition displays not only the skill that made them two of the country’s finest artists, but also their place in the larger context of Bengal Modernism—a period of invaluable importance for Indian art.
It is fascinating to study the divergent expressions of two artists who studied and grew up at the same time from the same institution. The essential factors leading to the dichotomy were the divergent experiences of Ganesh Pyne and Lalu Prasad Shaw. Both the artists were very Bengali in spirit. While Ganesh had a purely urban upbringing, Lalu grew up among the pristine surroundings of rural Bengal. Lalu’s works are direct and aesthetically shaped by his relatively simple rural moorings. Idol-making, patachitras, the company school and indigenous humour and rasa inspired his creative impulse.
A product of Calcutta, Ganesh’s sensibilities on the other hand, were shaped by multi-layered, complex urban predilections, replete with socio-political underpinnings of his times. Lalu looked essentially at his country and roots whereas Ganesh, while being deeply affected by Bengali literature, theatre and history was equally fascinated by western art, philosophy, cinema and animation. His art is a sum total of his urbanity—a modern Bengali looking at the world in ways that Tagore or Satyajit Ray did.
By juxtaposing two very dissimilar contemporaries, the exhibition points to the two parallel and dominant intellectual forces that shaped the visual language of modern Bengal; both addressing the concerns of tradition and modernity differently yet decisively.
Ganesh Pyne (1937-2013) is best known for his tempera works depicting symbols, myths and epics as they are lived out. Among his influences are Abanindranath Tagore and Paul Klee, and Pyne adopts both the quietness of the former and the strangeness of the latter. His jottings are matrices (done on graph paper) of spontaneous thoughts, quotes, and sketches that give a sense of the process of Pyne’s art-making. Lalu Prasad Shaw (1937-) drew his influences from the Ajanta cave paintings and the Kalighat pat style to create his own style of distinct, defined lines and stark colours. He is known for his portraits, his tempera works, and his etchings. Dwelling on the physical details of the things and people he paints, Shaw gives them a special kind of form and intimacy.
(Ganesh Pyne & Lalu Prasad Shaw: Two Faces of Bengal Modernism is on view from 1-6 February, 2016 at Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre in New Delhi)