Unchanged and unfettered is Padma Shri Manu Parekh’s faith. And born from it is his artistic fate. Such has been its magnetism that even after decades of painting various leitmotifs from the 80-year-old’s immediate environment, his migration to the facets of faith has been perennial. Even in his latest works, created over the last year, titled Manu Parekh: Recent Paintings, he has drawn from the same essence.
Presented by Saffronart, it’s an oeuvre of 42 works by Parekh who was born in Gujarat and secured a Diploma in Drawing and Painting from the Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai. He now lives in Delhi but travels extensively. “Where ever I go, there is one thing that ties all of us together. That’s faith. Nothing can be simpler and stronger than that,” says Parekh.
He has experienced the embodiment of this emotion in no other place better than Banaras. The painting titled Flower Sutra at Tulsi Ghat, though influenced by Claude Monet’s, The Water Lilies, incorporates Parekh’s localised influences too. These he gathered from the ghats of Varanasi. The place has been central in his works, especially after his first visit following his father’s death. The city symbolises hope and hope is the shelter we all need, he believes.
Though the octogenarian stays away from portraying politicised issues tormenting the nation such as climate change, pollution, depletion of resources, migration, marginalisation and others, he does look at them as important, however, offering a solution is more useful. He does that through the reiteration of faith through his paintings.
“There is so much happening. I cannot talk about all of it but I can extend a valuable solution. Fostering the belief that success in any sphere is certain if you have the conviction, will make things better,” he says.
Weaver from Kalahandi is another poignant work implicative of the poverty in Kalahandi, Odisha. The sharply sketched human face in the painting lets you peer into the darkness of the lives of the close to, and continuously increasing 1,94,140 families living below the poverty line (1999 BPL family census).
“For this work, I referred to Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh’s A Weaver’s Cottage, and also expressions from actor Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of Van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate, a film from last year. But to that, I added my impression of the similarities I saw between A Weaver’s Cottage and Kalahandi,” says Parekh.
Similarily, Graffiti of Temple Wall I inspires faith from the graffiti walls in holy cities.
It’s this interconnectedness between faith, and human beings and nature, that Parekh presents. Whether it’s the craftsmen he has worked with for 25 years, the places he has visited, or the religiousness and ritualisms he has observed… they all take him back to faith. A book titled Manu Parekh: Recent Paintings featuring 42 paintings from the exhibition, along with some text and images of works, people and places he was inspired by, has been launched.
Till: November 11
At: Lalit Kala Akademi, Gallery No 1 to 4 and Foyer 35