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

Untitled (Durga)

MANJIT BAWA (1941-2008)
Untitled (Durga)
oil on canvas
68 x 81 in. (172.7 x 205.8 cm.)
Painted in 2004
The Estate of Manjit Bawa
Christie's New York, 15 September 2010, lot 345
Christie's New York, 17 September 2014, lot 513
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Nishad Avari
Nishad Avari Specialist, Head of Department


…As the image is revealed, the backdrop itself becomes the enactment.
-Manjit Bawa

Throughout his life and career, Manjit Bawa remained heavily influenced by the compelling narratives of ancient Indian mythology and literature. He recalls this indebtedness, stating, "They remain to me basically mythical icons - as Durga, Kali, Shiva, Krishna or even Heer-Ranjha, Mirza-Sahiba or Sohni-Mahiwal. 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? Or draw?" (Artist statement, I. Puri, Let's Paint the Sky Red: Manjit Bawa, New Delhi, 2011, p. 47).

Bawa was also greatly inspired by Indian classical artistic traditions often incorporating elements from various genres and periods in his own paintings. His exquisite use of contour, for example, borrows from Kalighat paintings, the flat, saturated fields of gem-like colors against which he places his figures borrow from schools of miniature painting, and his choice of subjects and themes often borrows form the classical texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Puranas. Bawa visited specific mythological themes throughout his career, depicting iconic gods and goddesses like Shiva, Krishna, Kali and Durga using his unique visual vocabulary.

In the present lot, a monumental and imposing painting, Bawa presents the goddess Durga, the supreme female deity of the Hindu pantheon, mounted on the back of her vehicle or vahana, a lion. Durga is also known as Shakti or Devi, the protector of all that is good and harmonious in the world. However, this goddess is perhaps most well known as Mahishasuramardini, the slayer of the invincible buffalo demon mahishasura, created by the demon king Rambha. As the legend recalls, mahishasura was a shape-shifting creature who was simultaneously divine, human and beast, immortal and able to conquer the realms of gods and demons alike. Given the imminent threat of his power, Durga was created by the Hindu gods, including the triumvirate of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, to destroy mahishasura with their combined attributes and powers. Durga uses these along with her wit, beauty and cosmic strength to overcome the buffalo demon by first encouraging his advances and then snubbing him to provoke a cosmic battle between them. Ultimately, Durga vanquishes mahishasura by piercing his heart with her trishula, symbolizing the ultimate triumph of good over ignorance and evil.

In classical painting and sculpture, Durga is typically portrayed astride her lion with the dying mahishasura underfoot, her multiple arms holding the various weapons the gods bestowed on her for their battle. However, Bawa’s rendering of this goddess in the present lot, condenses this image to its most elemental components - a multi-limbed female figure riding a lion. Although Durga is instantly recognizable here, Bawa's version of this emblematic goddess embodies a delicate purity and all pervasive truth, which are reflected in the meditative qualities of Bawa's own aesthetic and technical prowess.

The artist's command of color and space creates truly mesmerizing compositions. As the historian Susan Bean notes, "[...] vital to the effect of Bawa's work is his brilliant play with color. His childhood memories of color were strong: green paddy fields, blue waters of the Beas River; bold strong hues of the local embroidered pulkari shawls, the riot of color during the festival of Holi. While still a young artist, he consciously struggled to harness these experiences in his work. After art school Bawa went to London where he specialized in serigraphic print making. For a period, he earned his living in a silk screening studio and later he taught the technique. But his attachment was to painting. His mastery of serigraphy instilled an appreciation of the power of luminous pure color and sharply delineated forms" (S. Bean, 'Midnight's Children: The Second Generation', Midnight to the Boom, Painting in India After Independence, New York, 2013, p. 128).

In works like the present lot, Bawa distills figuration to its most essential elements, giving primacy to figure over narrative, and exploring the palettes of miniature painting traditions in fields of color devoid of any sign of brushwork. In elevating color and form, Bawa's oeuvre eliminates extraneous detail in favor of an ambiguous, horizon-less space. Bawa insisted such, "Stylisation and figuration cannot be forced or imitated -- it flows naturally from an individual premise. At all times it's your own voice, your signature. As for drama, isn't it part of one's life? It certainly is part of mine" (Artist statement, I. Puri, Let's Paint the Sky Red: Manjit Bawa, New Delhi, 2011, p. 43).

The result of Bawa's harmonious process is his instantly recognizable aesthetic which evokes a powerful sense of gestalt. Bawa's luminescent monochromatic realities do not represent a void, nor are they merely a formal mechanism of tableau, but a tangible entity which is as central to the work as the figures suspended within it. The present lot is one of very few known works of this scale to have a black painted background. The effect is striking, saturating the canvas with an almost cosmic luminescence. Yet, what is particular to this monumental painting of Durga, is that through his flowing forms Bawa also imbues his protagonist with rhythmic movement. Here, Bawa conjures a window into another world, revealing a realm of imagination, myth, mysticism and magic.

更多来自 南亚现代及当代印度艺术