Art Karat - I

Indian artists are making waves (and dollars) at international auction houses. Chandigarh-based artists’ work reflects their ethnic roots, even as the ripples of their works reach global shores, says ARADHIKA

Three artists with distinctive styles and sensibilities began their journey from Hisar, Pathankot and Delhi respectively. Their muse lay in a city too often mistakenly reviled as one without a soul. Chandigarh, the City Beautiful, has nursed the talent of the artists who have made it their home, even as their flight of imagination and artistic work has taken them far beyond the geometric confines of Le Corbusier’s creation.

Viren Tanwar, R. M Singh, and Anju Pasricha’s journey into their artistic core brought them to Chandigarh, where their easels found their soul and their creative core an expression that has found much appreciation.

Viren Tanwar
His least expensive painting sells for a lakh of rupees and he sold his first work for Rs 400. Viren was born in 1952 in Hisar in a family that appreciated art, but not to the extent that they wanted their son to take it up as a profession. Viren’s father, an educationist, was himself an artist, and wanted his son to pursue the career of as a lawyer or an Army officer. However, the young Viren had the likes of Dr. I K Gujral appreciating his art even while he was in school! In fact, it was Dr Gujral who suggested enrolment in the Chandigarh College of Art to the budding artist.

Viren was hooked on to the city as soon as he got here. Although, he left town for higher studies at Slade School of Art, London, in 1984, he returned to the country to win several awards. Some of the awards are from the All India Fine Arts and Craft Society, New Delhi; National Academy of Fine Arts, New Delhi; Chandigarh Fine Arts Academy; Punjab Fine Arts Academy and a British Council Scholarship.

He has held many solo shows at New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Chandigarh and his work has been represented in many international, national and state exhibitions including Sotheby’s Exhibition and auction, New York 1995 and 96; exhibitions in Mexico and Berlin. His works have been acquired by prominent private and institutional collections in India, USA, UK, Holland, Germany, France, and Pakistan.

His favourite theme of the circus, with its artistes and acrobats, is an allegory in which he depicts the struggles of survival, moments of happiness, depression of unrealised dreams and ambitions: a conflict that is without end. Hence, all his canvases are titled ‘The Story without End’.

His imagery is naďve and simple. His protagonists are derived from the lower strata of society, for whom Tanwar has the greatest admiration. “I salute the women, who in rural areas work so hard, doing all kinds of odd jobs for sustenance, but with immense dignity,” he says. It is no wonder that the physical features lack the refinement and it is precisely this that he compensates with his fluid draftsmanship and structured compositions. His stylistic rendering with calculated areas of light and shade calls to mind the Ajanta murals. He nevertheless attributes his pictorial influence to Pahari and Rajasthani miniatures as well as to the paintings of Bhupen Khakkar.

Another striking aspect of his paintings is the use of colours, which the artist says are ‘happy’ in their connotation. These colours have been subconsciously internalised by the artist over the years, watching his family involved in the craft of lahariyas and bandhej in his rural Haryana background. In addition, the structured vertical bands running through the series impart a sense of timelessness to the works.

Even as he says that 90 per cent of the people are visually illiterate, the artist admits that the market for art is increasing. People are now appreciating and buying art and among the buying junta are the corporate world and the newly rich.