The word conformity does not find a place in artist Satish Gujral’s dictionary. The moment he settled and succeeded in one medium, he was quick to switch to a new form to keep alive his creative expressions. Even though his contemporaries and friends dissuaded him from experimenting too much, he did not listen and surprised everyone around with his perseverance to explore each form beautifully. A peek into his rich and creative genius is on displayed in an exhibition ‘A Brush With Life’ that draws key artistic moments of the nine decades of this prolific artist who turned 91 last year.
“What is unique about him is that unlike other artists who stick to a single form when they find success in it, Gujral immediately shifted to other mediums. He constantly challenged himself and that is evident from the volume of work he has left behind and the amount of work he is still doing,” Pramod KG, curator of the show, tells Metrolife.
The show begins with Gujral’s ‘Partition’ series that he drew a lot of attention because the way he had portrayed emotions of trauma and loss, something he had witnessed himself. He couldn’t get over those moving images of how women were inhumanly treated and hence he chose paintings to bring out the horror. What is interesting is that unlike his other portraits, the people, especially women are wearing billowing fabric, with multiple creases on them.
“He saw the mass abduction of girls and his family played a pivotal role in bringing many of them back safely. This was an absolute horror situation for him… the butchery of the act. So through his paintings he tried to cloak them in fabric and hence the exaggerated folds,” he points out.
The exhibition takes the visitor on a journey to Gujral’s artistic explorations. Starting from paintings to his tryst with sculptures, and from collage series to reproductions of industrial installations – the exhibition, organised by the Gujral Foundation and has around 120 works on display, covers everything.
“He was the first Indian to use collage in his works,” says Pramod who admits that the most challenging part to construct this exhibition was to find requisite work from different galleries and collectors.
“I had the storyline in mind but to identify correct work and get it to represent the actual timeline of his professional life was the biggest challenge for me,” he says.
Apart from making murals that still adorn public space in the city and abroad, Gujral is also known for painting life-size paintings of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and famous politician Lala Lajpat Rai. The exhibition ‘A Brush With Life’ is displayed at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts till February 20.