MANJIT BAWA (1941-2008)
MANJIT BAWA (1941-2008)

Untitled (Krishna with Flute)

MANJIT BAWA (1941-2008)
Untitled (Krishna with Flute)
signed in Punjabi and signed and dated 'Manjit. 97' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
30 x 24 in. (76.2 x 61 cm.)
Painted in 1997
Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1997


Nishad Avari
Nishad Avari Specialist, Head of Department


“Personally my day-to-day life revolves around these allusions [to religious figures]. They remain to me, basically mythical icons – as Durga, Kali, Shiva, Krishna… In my world of imagination they are very real. I have known them from childhood tales and fables narrated to me by my father. As I grew up, I met them again in literature, music, poetry and art. What else can I paint?” (Artist statement, I. Puri, ‘I Cannot Live by Your Memories’, Let’s Paint the Sky Red, New Delhi, 2011, p. 49).

Some of the Manjit Bawa’s most renowned paintings include representations of figures drawn from Hindu mythology and classical literary narratives. Rendered in his signature style, the present lot focuses on a single figure of the Hindu god, Krishna playing his flute. Bawa was an accomplished flautist himself. His passion for the musical instrument comes across through his many figurative paintings depicting Krishna as a flute-player, each with a unique composition and palette.

Reminiscent of his childhood, when he heard and read fantastical tales of the feats of these religious figures, Bawa’s imagery appears to be imbued with nostalgia. With great simplicity, he conjures a window into a realm of imagination, mysticism and magic. Doing away with all extraneous detail, the artist allows his viewers to meditate on the still figure of the divine flautist and the dynamism of his graceful fingers, imagining the melodies they might create.

Painted in brilliant hues of purple and yellow, the figure of Krishna appears to vibrate against the monochromatic, complementary green backdrop of pure horizonless space. Apart from their relationship with the lyricism of classical Indian music, Bawa’s forms and stylized figures also reveal the influence that the country’s ancient visual art traditions had on the artist. While his mastery of fluid lines borrows from Kalighat paintings, his vivid, saturated backgrounds are inspired by Pahari schools of miniature painting.

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