Saturday, June 15, 2013

Socio-political influences of an activist-artist

Born in Sanjauli, a place from picturesque Simla, in June 1928. J. Swaminathan was said to be a rather bit unruly, self-willed and mischievous boy who loved drawing and painting. He first studied at New Delhi’s Sir Harcourt Butler High school. His sketches of the then leaders often adorned walls of his school. In 1942, when he did his matriculation, the Quit India movement was also launched.

Swaminathan dropped out of a course at New Delhi’s Hindu College in 1943, sold a bicycle he possessed and ran away to Kolkata. There, the young fellow was greatly inspired by revolutionaries and joined the Congress Socialist Party led by stalwarts like Rammanohar Lohiya, Aruna Asaf Ali and Jaya Prakash Narain.

As a cadre of the party by 1946 he was its Delhi executive member and also edited its journal called ‘Mazdoor Awaz’ (The Voice of Workers). After India’s independence in the year 1947 when the CSP had started to splinter, the restless youth had radicalized almost to the point of differing with JP. Along with Edatatta Narayanan, Aruna Asaf Ali and many others, he joined the Communist Party of India in in 1948 as a whole timer.

During the country’s first General Elections (1951-52), he was an active CPI member in Punjab and Delhi. At a meeting he came across Bhawani Pande, a Socialist comrade’s relative, and fell in love with her. The two got married in Lucknow in 1955. In 1956 he became disillusioned even with the Communist, especially after the takeover of Hungary by the USSR.

Simultaneously pursuing his passion for painting since childhood, J. Swaminathan then joined Delhi Polytechnic’s evening classes. There he was inspired by the bohemian artist-teacher, Sailoz Mukherjea, who served as a source of motivation not only to Swaminathan but to an entire generation of promising artists of the country.

J. Swaminathan visited Warsaw, Poland in 1958-59 for studying graphic art at the Academy of Fine Arts. This effectively set the stage for his successful career as an artist of repute and immense skills.

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