Manjit Bawa (India, 1941-2008) Untitled

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Lot 26* TP
Manjit Bawa
(India, 1941-2008)

Sold for £ 476,750 (US$ 661,231) inc. premium
Manjit Bawa (India, 1941-2008)
Oil on canvas
200 x 151.5cm (78 3/4 x 59 5/8in).


  • Provenance:
    Private Collection, Dubai;
    Saffron Art, 6-7 December 2006, Lot 78;
    Sotheby's New York, Contemporary Indian Paintings - The Chester and Davida Herwitz Charitable Trust, 12 Jun 1995, Lot 107;
    From the collection of Chester and Davida Herwitz.

    Born in Punjab in 1941, Manjit Bawa trained in both New Delhi and in England where alongside working as a silkscreen printer he continued studying art. In New Delhi he trained under Somnath Hore and Abani Sen who encouraged him to draw continuously and explore figurative painting. In England he studied at the London School of Painting until 1971 and exhibited in several solo shows during this time.

    His works are devoid of landscapes or other superfluous details recalling the style of Rajput and Pahari miniature painting. His preference for bright monochrome heavily saturated colour are symptomatic of India, a country awash with brightness. His figures suspended in this colour with subtle shading give them a luminous and at the same time dream like presence. Sufism, Indian mythology and poetry alongside his travels and experiences were the inspiration for this prolific painter.

    'Being a turbanned Sikh from an ordinary middle-class family was daunting enough but to strike out against the prevalent forces of Cubism and the iconic Klee was to really ask for big trouble and I was hauled up time and again with strict instructions to toe the line. But I remained true to my calling, naturally annoying authorities. Even then in those formative years I was haunted by the spectre of mediocrity. I was willing to accept any challenge, but on my own terms. I was obsessed with one driving need – to create my own painterly language.' (M. Bawa, 'I Cannot Live By Your Memories, Manjit Bawa in Conversation with Ina Puri', Let's Paint the Sky Red: Manjit Bawa, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2011, p. 47)

    '...his protagonists do not emerge from an imagined background or prop themselves against the wide horizon of an opening world; rather, they manifest themselves suddenly, like apparitions, in a field that could well be an aura. This is why Bawa's figures, modeled in a surreal manner as they are, can safely be placed in a tradition of innovation and experiment that goes back through the prints and paintings of Kalighat and the Company School to the miniatures of the Mughal and Rajput ateliers.' (Ranjit Hoskote, Modern Miniatures, Recent Paintings, Bose Pacia Gallery Exhibition catalogue, 2000, unpaginated)

    'Colour itself becomes a resonant variety of space: a luminous and neutral field, virtually unmarked by a specific sense of place, in which is isolated dream-figures can operate without labouring under the burden of allegiance to any single history.' (Ranjit Hoskote, Modern Miniatures, Recent Paintings, Bose Pacia Gallery Exhibition catalogue, 2000, unpaginated).

    The coexistence of man and animals is a recurring depiction in Bawa's works, here exemplified by a seated woman in traditional Punjabi clothing surrounded by dogs. The other figure, a possible representation of the god Krishna or the artist, appears to be offering some reassurance to the woman who may be in distress as she holds her head in her hands. The dogs also offer their comfort by licking her feet, emphasising how feelings and sentiments can be communicated without speaking between humans and animals. Bawa's son was autistic and his efforts into communication and emotional exploration may have been transferred to canvas.
    'If Manjit Bawa's iconography seems to replay a series of classical themes inherited from Indian tradition, we ought not to forget that it also derives its potent charge from the attention he pays to the ever-pixellating textures of contemporary experience.'

    "Often in Bawa's paintings, humans and animals engage in a wordless dialogue that throws its participants back onto an older, nearly forgotten language of instinct and intuition. [...] The mauve panther, the bull poised to charge, the circus artiste whirling a streamer as she balances on two spirited horses, the blue flautist- each form, animal and human, rejoices in its plasticity and libidinal energy, its gymnastic ability to defy the strictures of the anatomist." (Ranjit Hoskote, Modern Miniatures, Recent Paintings, Bose Pacia Gallery Exhibition catalogue, 2000, unpaginated)

Manjit Bawa (India, 1941-2008) Untitled
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