Friday, March 22, 2013

Paying tribute to a legend

Ganesh Pyne, who died at the age of 76, created disquieting work that portrayed a sort of tragic and dark world drawn from folklore and mythology. In an obituary, Shahnaz Habib in The UK Guardian, reveals influences on Ganesh Pyne's art included Rembrandt, Paul Klee as well as Abanindranath Tagore,

The Bengal school of art, a major artistic movement, which was aligned with the then prevailing nationalist aspirations did create an aesthetic deeply rooted in India’s own artistic traditions. Pyne thought belonged to it, his vision was far darker and sharper. He not only moved away from nationalist and romantic themes, but also explored more profound existential questions. The author makes the following observations about his art and life:
  • He was an impressionable child during the chaotic, violent years preceding Indian independence and later came of age as a young man in Kolkata at a time of intellectual and political upheaval. These early years grounded Pyne's art in dark, unsettling images, drawn from mythology and dreams.
  • There is an oft-repeated story about Pyne's first experience of death. During the riots that shook Kolkata in 1946, nine-year-old Pyne was living with his family in a hospital after being evacuated from their home. One day, he came across a handcart of corpses on their way to the mortuary. The body on top was that of an old woman. Even as blood flowed out of her body, her necklace shone.
  • In painting after painting by Pyne, skulls, skeletons, piercing arrows and phantasms indicate a vision of the world, that was, above all, tragic. Primary colours are rare in Pyne's universe. Instead, there are amber browns and ashy blues. Instead of precise blocks of colour, there are overlapping layers. Bodies often seem lit from within, as if they are burning from inside outwards.
  • Pyne started with watercolors, moved on to gouache, and finally found his medium in tempera, a medium that was popular in 15th-century Europe. He became a master at layering light and dark to create the intense glows that rendered his images so enigmatic. In Pyne's hands, the medium and the technique combined to create a mood of distortion, a world of misshaped people and demonic animals.

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