Art review

Art review

Art review

A painting by Sakti Burman Indo-European dream

Hence, a visit to The Apparao Galleries lets one consider his work in a broader perspective but not devoid of certain reservations. The collection's title: "Yesterday once again" (April 3 to 30) referred to the constancy of this very popular artist's themes, moods and idiom while, to a critically objective viewer, suggesting its perhaps self-limiting and old-fashioned character. Although at 76, younger than the pioneers of Indian modernism, he shares with them the desire to embrace inspirations from early modern art of Europe linking its aesthetic qualities and ethos to traditional indigenous sources.

Whereas admiring compassion for the poor and the village stimulate K K Hebbar and M F Husain after his intense, soulful figures went on to in a stylised manner record the national image and history, for Burman the cultural and formal merger of Europe and India became central as an intimately assimilated experience, all the more real that he lives in Paris with his French wife. One does respect the authenticity of his immersion in the dual art history, mythology and literature as well as the choice of joyful innocence in simple delights, the degree of narcissism and daytime lyrical reverie behind evocations of actual stories, sagas and myths, but the overall pleasantness of the imagery makes one miss Amrita Sher-Gil's raw passion.

Burman's world abounds in characters taken from Hindu, Greek and Islamic legends, divine pantheons and history who meet the artist himself, members of his family, children and personalities from current reality and classical paintings where emperors from Mughal miniatures share space with Renaissance or Manet nudes as do heroic human-animal hybrids redolent of the fairy-tale. Adequately then, his language blends, rather than juxtaposes, highly stylised aesthetic elements and specific motifs from both regions.

His linear figural contours reconcile the softly shaded precision of miniatures with a somewhat idealised realism, as echoes of classicising Picasso recur.

The composition adopts these sources to either group the objects and protagonists who are displaying-defining themselves into a slightly theatrical, allegorical impact or miniature-like scatter them densely on the surface. A bright, sometimes misty, vibrancy is achieved through a profusion of layered textures that re-think Pointillism and the Indian love of ornate saturation. To achieve such effects, Burman guides his brush so as to oscillate on the edge of near-translucency with strata of hues fused or loosely adjusting to one another and of oil-resembling opacity that at times comes close to incrustation, while the rendering of facial features retains properties of subtle pencil drawing.

The packed up spread of figures and rich textures acknowledging the frontal content of the frame, arranged into a varied symmetry conjures the sensation of tapestry both in terms of the tactile fabric and, metaphorically, of living, but a living of tender dreams in the real. Its aura enhances in the hazy yet sharply defined eyes of the people, animals and gods, simultaneously withdrawn and accepting-transforming the external inside.

Even if the inner focus filtering out disturbed sides of the world is valid, one wishes it had been expressed more powerfully, without the predominance of loveliness and decorativeness.