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29.06.2015

Оf Buddhas and Mountains: Maharashtra Artists Exhibit in Roerich Estate in Naggar







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On May 27, 2015 an exhibition of the works by three young professional artists from Kolhapur (Maharashtra) opened in the IRMT. They have already exhibited thrice together and now decided to visit Naggar and display their art before the Indian and foreign visitors of the Himalayan Roerich Estate.

The youngest among them, Nagesh Hankare, teaches painting in school, but successfully combines his job with his creative pursuits. When asked as to who influenced him most, he replied: “Nature itself. Nature is my Guru. If an artist always tries to follow someone else he will never be able to develop his own style.” When in the Art School, he specialized in portraiture but gradually developed interest in landscape painting, which is currently his main interest.

In the exhibition at the IRMT he displayed works executed in three distinct styles tracing his artistic journey. He started as a realist. Several among the exhibited works, including the views of a lotus pond in his native village, mud houses and a tropic jungle are painted in this style. A couple of city views of Calcutta belong to the same period. He visited Calcutta only once but managed to convey its foggy atmosphere after the advent of monsoon quite well: after all it resembles so much his native Konkan (the west coast of India known among other things for its plentiful rains). These two works are almost saturated with moisture and freshness and in terms of technique resemble the pieces by renowned impressionists.

Hankare characterizes the second period of his art career as “creative.” It started with his coming to Manali three years ago. Hankare was impressed by the local landscape and created an entire series of paintings inspired by the river Beas and the mountain ranges framing it. However, in these pictures it is hard to find a photographic resemblance of Manali and its surroundings. The series is executed in bright colours, especially in yellow, orange and red. It depicts steep rocks rising from still waters and reflected in their mirror-like surface. At first glance, it is an absolutely unearthly, almost Kunming-like landscape, familiar to us from the traditional Chinese painting, since there are no such rocks in the Kullu valley, while the Beas is anything but still having a rather strong current. However, Hankare claims that he succeeded in expressing the inner essence of this valley: “The flow of Beas may be rapid but inside it is still, just like in my pictures.” Besides, he categorically states that Chinese artistic tradition did not influence him in the least.

After that came a considerable change in his artistic expression. He started moving towards greater abstraction. In future Hankare would like to continue working in abstract style creating landscapes, including mountain ones. He considers the evolution of his creativity a positive factor: “One should change in the course of one’s creative work. It is both natural and pleasant. Most Maharashtra artists nowadays are realist. So in order to say something new in art one has to work in a different style. When you begin to understand abstract art better you will realize that it gives much more pleasure than realistic art. Besides, being a native of Konkan, I have depicted its sea and boats in so many of my pictures that I felt like getting “out of the box” and, as a result, went to the mountains.”

Mountains have, indeed, captivated Hankare. He went to Spiti and created a series of realistic watercolour paintings depicting snowy peaks, stupas, mountain villages, roads and waterfalls. They astound with their rich colours and are virtually saturated with the artist’s love for the Himalayan nature. In future Hankare would like to develop this theme and travel to Ladakh. He would also like to organize joint exhibitions with Russian artists in order to exchange experience.
Raman B. Lohar, the second artist presented at the exhibition, also teaches art in school, but combines government job with creative work. While in Art School he specialized in portraiture and loves it above all. While doing a portrait Lohar tries to bring out the very nature of his model.

In childhood he was influenced by his father who was a soldier in the army and loved making sketches of his fellow soldiers, neighbours and anybody who worked in the camp. Due to his father’s frequent transfers, Lohar had a chance to see the country and even travel to the mountain regions of Kashmir. However, the beauty of the Himalayan landscape could not compete with his passion for portraiture. Already in school he amused his classmates by making their sketches. He kept his interest in portraiture despite the grievous injuries he suffered in an accident: while recuperating for five years he continued sketching and did not give up his dream of becoming a portraitist. This determination helped him to return to the world of art.

At first Lohar worked in oil but in future, having a strong desire to experiment he wishes to switch over to acrylic.

One can often see the image of the Buddha on Lohar’s canvases. He is attracted by the Buddha’s tranquility and wants to carry the message of peace by means of his art – the message, which is so relevant in today’s world. Working on the Buddha’s image Lohar studied the art of the cave temples of Ajanta and Ellora in situ and the ancient Indian sculpture preserved in various museums of India. The influence of ancient Indian sculpture on Lohar is, indeed, obvious: his Buddhas are monumental, impressive and have an interesting chiaroscuro. He intends to keep painting the Buddha gradually making him more and more “sculpture-like.”

The image of Krishna interests him net less. The flute-wielding Krishna appears in his works time and again, astonishing the audience with his novelty and freshness of colours. Lohar would like to keep exploring this image, although in a “novel” way.

The artist made several portraits of his 6-year-old daughter (incidentally, she also draws and wants to follow in her father’s footsteps). The portrait of hers holding a doll is of particular interest. With its colours and composition it reminds one of the portraits by the great Indian artist Raja Ravi Verma, which fact demonstrates the continuity of modern Indian art.

The exhibition also showcases the sculpture pieces by Satish Gharage. He was drawn to sculpture already in childhood. Already in the tender age he made small clay figures of bulls for the traditional Marathi festival Pola, during which villagers worship bulls and thank them for the help rendered in agricultural work. Since the festival falls on the rainy season, the figures were easy to make having picked up wet clay from any field. This was his first brush with art.

Already in childhood Gharage strongly felt that sculpture was his calling. When in Art School, he had to study drawing and painting but never went beyond sketches. On the contrary, working with different materials (wood carving, clay moulding, work with scrap metal) excited him a lot. By the end of his studies he had decided to throw in his lot with bronze. The Art School gave him a chance to study modern sculpture as well as contemporary casting techniques.

Gharage is well familiar with the tribal art of Maharashtra, but he is mostly influenced by the modern British sculptor Henry Moor known for his figurative expression.

In the beginning of his career Gharage created several monuments to the political leaders and national heroes of India. The most significant among them is the monument to the medieval Marathi general Shivaji. Seven feet high, this monument was erected on the spot of his coronation in the Fort of Raigarh. However, with a passage of time Gharage got more and more attracted towards pure art. He wanted more freedom for his talent and left the sphere of political orders.

At present Gharage runs a studio in Kolhapur. He does not work to order and prefers to make use of his own imagination. Recently he has completed a series of double sculptures illustrating the intricacies of male-female relationships. Two pieces from this series are displayed at the exhibition. They depict intertwined geometrical human figures. In one of them one can discern the mathematical sign of infinity.

Apart from these two sculptures the exhibition displays about two dozen of small Buddha images created by Gharage. Gharage wants to spread the message of peace and, therefore, takes interest in the figure of the Buddha. He admits the influence of the traditional style of the cave temples of Ajanta and Ellora, but his style is clearly more innovative. Surrounded with lotus flowers and spiral motifs, his Buddhas soar as it were in the open space. The streams of subtle energies flow out of them, making them so light and airy that for a moment one forgets that they are actually cast in bronze. “My images are too unorthodox to be installed in temples. So I would prefer to see them in public places like parks,” says Gharage.

Gharage’s bronzes unified the exhibition space filling it with the subtle sentiment of peace and harmony.

 


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