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A Gentleman in India

I have been nowhere as strange as India: David Gentleman

Once some men came and sat near me as I drew on a ledge above the pavement in the desert city of Jaisalmer. They said little, just looked at a loose end, idle and disconsolate and after a long time drifted gloomily off one by one. I asked the last of them why they had been there, and was told it had been a condolence - a wake. I felt crass and obtuse for having needed to be told,' says David Gentleman, an artist from Britain whose book "David Gentleman's INDIA" was recently launched in the Capital. The book, published by Tata-India Research Press, contains illustrations and commentary by David on places like Ladakh, the touching remains of a half-vanished civilisation in Hampi, the bullocks mowing the lawns in Delhi and beggars by the Exchange building in Central Kolkata. . "This is my personal impression of the country. It is an artist's scrutiny of a civilisation called India," adds David. By profession, David is an artist in Britain. He does lithographs, woodcuts, watercolours, designs for postage stamps, posters, logos for large businesses and other organisations, book illustrations and murals. In the early 1960s his designs were chosen for printing and distribution for the National Productivity Year in London. His stamps commemorating the Shakespeare Festival, the death of Winston Churchill, the Christmas Concorde debut and Charles Darwin anniversary are some of his memorable designs that number over a hundred. His other projects include a 100-metre mural at the Charing Cross underground station in 1979, stamp designs in Papua-New Guinea and jackets for Penguin Books. His travels through Britain, France and Italy have resulted in books with his illustrations and text.

"I have been nowhere as strange as India. As a subject it was the largest, most puzzling and most unsettling of the books. Because of the distance I went there three times, for very long stints. On one of them, my family came with me. The other times it was simply hard work. It was a challenge to discover, experience, draw, analyse and to make sense of a vast country like this. The most extraordinary thing about India is the combination of modernism and traditions and how people weave these two," muses David.

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