Banaras, up close
Penguin India has just published painter Manu Parekh's book on Banaras paintings.
PAINTING THE SACRED CITY: Artist Manu Parekh in New Delhi (below) from the book displayed at NGMA.
Two years back, veteran art publisher Ravi Kumar documented the works of seven abstract painters spanning three generations, from S.H. Raza to Manish Pushkale to Seema Ghuraya, and named the collection "Seven". The book remains arguably the only document on abstract works. And then, we had the first book on the internationally acclaimed Indian sculptor K.S. Radhakrishnan written by art historian R. Siva Kumar and published by Art Alive in Delhi. Continuing this movement of documenting Indian art, which however, hasn't gained the required momentum, is "Banaras - Painting The Sacred City" by noted Delhi-based painter Manu Parekh. Published by Penguin India, the book was launched at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi this past week. The gallery has displayed 32 selected works from the book, which will be on view till next Sunday.
This coffee table book contains 75 of Parekh's paintings of Banaras done over three decades. Says the painter, "Each time I go to Banaras, I find something new to paint."
Not all of Parekh's Banaras paintings depict the city as we see it in the usual, stereotyped pictures. These are an amalgamation of abstract art in which many may find the city's famous symbols missing. "I am adamant that I will not use those symbols, whatever anybody misses in it. This is my view of Banaras," declares Parekh. His works, however, have been attracting more attention recently because of more heads and faces that he has includedin his works.
Past for future
Advocating the cause of documentation of art, Satish Gujral, who released the book, says, "The country that doesn't document its past can't have a future." Praising the publisher's endeavour to publish a book that still doesn't have many takers beyond the art fraternity, he points out, "It is still not the museum (NGMA) that decided to document the art but a private publisher."
While his brother, former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, who is a self-proclaimed art collector and has been "following Manu Parekh for more than 30 years," says, "The important thing about his works is, despite the consistency of subject, it is not boring. His latest growth is commendable, which not only contains bright colours but also has new symbols that present the city in his way."
Shahid Mahdi, former Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia and an art lover, voices a similar opinion, "If he hadn't put the title `Banaras' in his paintings, I wouldn't have been able to make out if it is Banaras, as he uses lots of abstract elements in it. And that's where its universal appeal lies."
No doubt the documentation has won Parekh an edge over many who have been painting the sacred city for decades, from first-generation artist Ram Kumar, whose Banaras in abstract is his trademark, to the young Sanjay Bhattacharya.
Let's see when some art houses/publishers take the initiative to publish Banaras painted by other artists. It would give today's art students something beyond routine textbooks.
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