New Delhi: He's performed on the stage and served as an adivsor to the government on matters astistic. Now, a major retrospective and a coffee table book celebrate veteran Manu Parekh's six decades in the art space
"With my background in theater and craft... there is a major role of Bengal influencing my works. A lot of our seniors (artists) have been abroad and then a new generation that came, they too turned out to be successful. It opened new doors, economy opened up," Parekh said at the twin event, both titled "Manu Parekh: Sixty Years of Selected Works", at the National Gallery of Modern Art here Friday evening.
"In between the seniors and the new generation -- what I would call a second generation -- there might be around 15-20 artistes who have worked for around three decades and made a bridge. They need to be paid attention to. The interesting body of work would otherwise die out, or hide," Parekh added, as the chief guest, artist Krishen Khanna, joined the audience in the applause.
Parekh, who has also worked as design consultant for (HHEC) Handicrafts and Handlooms Export Corporation of India in the national capital before turning into a freelance artist, stressed on the fact that when there is a will there s a way and that work can be done in the country if you have that "vigour in you".
Known for his several paintings on the city of Varanasi, Parekh is a recipient of the 1982 Lalit Kala Akademi Award and Padma Shri in 1991.
He has had several group exhibitions and solo shows in India and abroad. His works have been showcased at galleries like the Modern Painting exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art, Hirschhom Muse exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, Bose Pacia Modern in New York, ARKS Gallery in London among others.
Married to Madhvi, who is a contemporary artist, Parekh acknowledged his life with her in 1962, which started with "just a few utensils, a mattress and a kerosene stove and today I am here sharing this moment with you all, it is a huge thing for me. At the moment my work over 60 years is being showcased here and at the Delhi Art Gallery, my wife Madhavi's work over 50 years is being showcased".
The artist gave most credit to his stay in Calcutta (kolkata), and believes that had the Bengali influence not been there, he "would have never become an artist in the first place".
Khanna, who is a recipient of the Rockefeller Fellowship in 1962, the Padma Shri in 1990 and the Padma Bhushan in 2011, hailed the artist but maintained that Parekh hasn't "arrived" yet as arriving means "finished".
"I am very happy that Manu is showing his work. I wondered actually what direction this institution would take. This question has appeared from time to time which is a good thing. Anything that becomes Status quo tends to deteriorate with time, becomes a habit. If art is anything, it is not a habit. It has got to change and change in-perceptively at times but change it does," said Khanna.
"I am happy to say that I am not an authority, not a critic, I am not anything like that. I am painter and close on 70 years. That gives me some kind of position to say this without embarrassment-- I am reminded of a small poem, which says 'between day and night a poem may happen to a young man not poetry'. This as true to a painting or to a poetry. If you write out a few lines it doesn't make you a poet, Nor does an amateur who paints his pictures over weekends or so on-- which is wonderful, marvellous... but art goes beyond personal satisfaction.
"The great thing is... his enormous quantum of work that he has produced... there is no end to it. You cannot say that he has arrived because to arrive means that he is now finished. But no art finishes in that way," he added.
"Manu Parekh: Sixty Years of Selected Works" the retrospective, throws light on over 250 of his works, representing every important aspect of his oeuvre. It also explores the legendary paintings inspired by the Bhagalpur blindings and his fascination with the holy city of Varanasi which he has explored in great depth over the decades.
The book includes a late career highlight, a monumental work of 'heads', completed in 2017, that is based on Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper". It will be released next month