HYDERABAD: India's history is dotted with many personalities that make our contemporary geniuses fade in comparison. However, for artist Kesav, there is only one that stands out distinctly; only one man who till today stands tall in the annals of our illustrious history - Gandhi. Reflecting his passion for the man, the principle and the institution that was Gandhi, Kesav came up with a travelling art exhibition dedicated to the freedom fighter titled Bapu. After going to Ahmedabad, Delhi, Pune and Chennai, Bapu made its final stop at the Muse art gallery at the Marriot hotel in the city.
The 44-canvas strong exhibition is an interesting attempt at trying to depict the man that was.
“Why I decided to choose Gandhi is a common question I am asked and is perhaps the most difficult for me to answer. My fascination began in the year 2009 when is I started reading up about him. The man was so exemplary, I cannot think of anyone in our Indian history who matches up to him post the Buddha-era. You tell me, can you think of one person in the same league after Buddha besides Gandhi?”
The sketchings - charcoal and dry pastels on canvas - make for an interesting viewing. Not particularly because of the subject but because of the artist's effort at drawing the same face again and again, trying to convey different emotions at the same time.
“The collection has changed at every place. I've removed a few and added a few. To keep things different, I kept drawing portraits. When I was working on the collection, I couldn't help but keep drawing the portraits. Even now, though Bapu is on its last leg of the showcase, I still feel there is so much more to draw.”
For Keshav its like peeling the layers of an onion - the he more he draws, the more inspired he becomes. But Gandhi hasn't just moved him alone.
“A lot of the older generation connect with Gandhi. There have been instances when people have come and stood in front of a sketching and just cried. This is all a tribute to the man who delivered us from the British.”
Keshav's paintings are a mix of portraits and pictures that show Gandhi at different points of his life - amidst the blood of the Bengal riots, with his wife Kasturba, with a charka and an effigy of a European in the 'videshi' clothes burning, at the Dandi march, as a lawyer in South Africa, on the ship enroute to London for the Round table conference and so on.
While most are done in charcoal, there are a few that have a flair of colour.
“I stuck to black and white mostly because our memory of the man is in black and white. More importantly, in keeping with his simplicity, it seemed apt that I paint him in BW. However, despite the simplicity, Gandhi was a very colourful man.
When I think of the colours, red is the most stark and prominent. And so when I did add colour, it had to be in those shades.”
At the end of it all, Keshav still doesn't feel his journey in re-discovering Gandhi is over. However, in the two years that he has spent literally eating, sleeping and almost living Gandhi, there is a sense of disillusionment that does envelop him.
“The man was an inventor. Who knew you could beat the British by just telling them to leave? Having said that, when he was at the Round table conference, when asked if he was representing the country India as a whole, he replied no. I feel that answer went a long way in breaking the country.”
Bapu will remain in exhibition at the Muse art gallery till the February 4.