Friday, May 8, 2009

An ode to rustic beauty

Sometimes, it takes a radical eye to instill visual splendour in a commonplace setting. Artist Pramod Ganapatye does just that with his Women of Malwa.

His works feature in the President’s repertoire. He sells for upwards of Rs 1 lakh.And the subject matter of his palette? Women of Malwa. Not queens, courtesans or dancers. But ordinary, village women, often in drab, shapeless clothes. Always depicted with a certain grandeur, a heroic aura reminiscent of ancient Mauryan or Gupta art.
Meet Pramod Ganapatye. Artist, one-time Keeper of the Arts for the President, and art scholar, all rolled into one. Ganapatye is one of those rare artists who blend visual expression with accurate historical representation. It is an intellectual concern arising from being steeped in the ethos of his native Malwa, home to a rich and continual tradition of the arts. And that gives his work a fluid consistency and depth stemming from his assured knowledge of the evolution of India’s visual art forms from over the centuries.
Born in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh, Ganapatye did his Masters in ancient history, culture and archaeology from Vikram University, Ujjain before moving to M S University, Baroda to snap up another masters, this time in Museology. A consummate artist, Ganapatye has also penned a book, ‘Guide to Indian Miniatures’, which was published by the Indian Museum in 1994.
Ganapatye has, over the years, moved from colourful non-figurative works based on astrological principles to linear non-figurative works. He then dabbled in figurative conversational narratives, and is now experimenting with a powerful iconography based on the forms of the peasant women of Malwa. They are the village women one comes across all over central India, depicted as few have done in the world of art. Their heavy bodies are often draped in flowing garments, which he renders in flat colours, giving them a peculiar contemporaneity of style. Perhaps, his time at the National Museum was well spent and has served him well in this respect.
In my view, his latest ‘Women of Malwa’ series of paintings has been a quantum leap in his development as an artist of pedigree. It has allowed for his understanding of our ancient imperial art to get just that blend of linearity. And the flat, pure hues remind one of what our miniature painters used to great advantage to transfigure the female form into an aesthetic exercise beyond all dictates of voyeurism. Of course, the connoisseurs of his art are very many. His works form the collections of the Sahitya Kala Parishad, Madhya Pradesh Kala Parishad, the Orissa State Academy at Bhubaneswar, the Chandigarh Museum and a number of noted private collectors in India and abroad.
I believe his ongoing series marks him out as among one of our most promising artists in the coming decade. As one of his early buyers, at Rs 2,000 per canvas, in the early Eighties, I find his current price tag of Rs 3 lakh and above a heartening one. The demand for his work is growing and I expect him to join the list of those selling in six and seven figures over the next couple of years. That’s why he merits inclusion in the list of artists worth investing in.
Suneet Chopra - Art Critic & Writer

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