Michaelangelo created the Pieta out of a huge Carara marble block when he was in his early 20s. In Michaelangelo’s own words, ‘when he relieved’ the form of Madonna carrying the dead son on her lap out of this marble block, the perfection that was achieved surprised him. He depicted the mother as a young woman, yet preserved that motherly identity that only a mother can possess. It is an example how a great creation can happen. When it happens, it has all the ingredients of a master piece. Though every artist begins work to create something above the ordinary, in reality it seldom occurs. Otherwise, we would have been crowded by Michaelangelos and Da Vincis.
It is a fact that those who seek perfection never worry about the effort and time consumed, till the creator is satisfied with it. Ernest Hemingway, it is believed, rewrote the final version of the last chapter of his Noble Prize-winning novel Old Man and the Sea over 200 times. Yet, he was not fully satisfied. Probably, without such effort and hard struggle this creative genius would not have found the results. We often take it for granted that a creation comes naturally to an artist. But how many of us know that countless sleepless nights and back-breaking days go into such wonderful work.
One evening, I sat looking at a portrait of my granddaughter Zarah painted by an artist for her first birth day. I wondered, how he has captured her innocent face so perfectly. I am familiar with the faces that this artist has painted, mainly in black and white. Those works were the results of his skill and ability to get perfect resemblance of the person he paints. Getting correct resemblance is a major factor in tackling a portrait.
I began as a painter, training under a great European academic portrait painter, Jaya Varma. A product of Royal College of Art, London, and a strict disciplinarian, Varma taught me all about portrait painting and the use of oil medium. “It is technically a very good portrait you have painted. But please make him look like the person you are painting,” Varma used to tell me when he thought I did not capture the features of the person properly. But it is hard work, application and accuracy in rendering, and a bit of imagination to enhance the character of the person—perhaps like a caricature—that brings out a good portrait.
It is said, Leonardo Da Vinci painted 14 versions of Mona Lisa to arrive at what we see today as the eternally-smiling portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo. He even said to have painted a nude version of the Venetian merchant’s wife that has been lost now, maybe as Goya did with the Duchess of Alba. Ultimately, the great artist was seeking perfection. While comparison is a useless exercise in discussing art, one is tempted to think this portrait of the little one brings memories of those masterpieces.
The painter of this little one has certainly aspired for perfection and to a certain extent found it in this work. A multi-talented person, he is a film actor well on his way to create a place for himself in acting. A qualified visual merchandiser and architectural designer, this head of his company has executed many a prestigious projects for corporate and other sectors. Having part of a number of credible art shows and art fairs, he is in the process of making a niche for himself in visual art field too. This Bangalore-based artist is Mani M Mani. It is indeed difficult to guess where lies true talent.
The writer is a renowned artist