Artists

Published by Dhoomimal Gallery, New Delhi, 2006

What has been evident for a long time is, that Laxman Pai’s fond of bright colours, as though to go along with the climate and demography of this country of rich, colourful rural folk. The general warmth of the land can thus only be right for an art that is bright. If it were Scandinavia, for instance, the painters over there would obey nature and turn out white, greys and deep blues as the ensemble for painters over there would obey nature and turn out white, greys and deep blues as the ensemble for their works. So that the essential apparel that this painter has done makes imaginative sense.

At any rate Pai, though he lived in the temperate dime Paris for long, never lost his native instinct, the tang and temperament of the root India. An idiom born of India’s special natural circumstances, and demography. This is not quite true of the other eminent painters who were his comrades in Paris at that same period. Now although Pai has profited greatly from his contact with other cultures he has never the less unwittingly been drawn by our still intact life - celebratory ethos, whose aesthetics configurations are expressed most vibrantly in the tenor of its raagas and raginis, as well as in the finely erotic lines of Geet Govinda and such other texts, as those of Kalidasa. The finest of India’s music is highly personalized, but still being totally impersonal or universal. Thus, the ethos represents the wisdom of the folk - a complete rapport with all, that is, with Prakriti.

I believe the very first art works I happened to have reviewed were those by Pai. All these works were done in 1954, and on the Gita Govinda (at the Congress for Cultural Freedom office on Hailey Road in 1955). The lyrical qualities of these works on the love of Radha Krishna, was most moving, life enhancing experience. A kind of self-fulfilment for the painter as for the viewers. Similarly, his treatment of the Ramayana, has that same evocative quality. The whole work being subtle, light of touch; like falling leaves, in a benediction, as it were, this rain of leaves being no other than the gently falling colour drops. Marvellous indeed! Here was no illustrativeness but the translation of left experience in paint. All this large body of work castes spell, a charm which is hard to shake off. A good bit of it was done between the years 1954 and near about 1960. While Pai also boats another order of fine work before he left for Paris, namely in the late forties, to discuss that over here would take up too much space in a brief note, which really serves as an introduction to the uninitiated viewers. At any rate we cannot ignore some other excellently created offerings during the sixties, among them the foremost being the enchanting Raag series. This is a vital vein, in which the artist’s Indian classical music based soul (for he also plays a musical instrument), finds fulfilment. Raag Bhairav is but one such work, and Pai also represents the classical dance forms. Over here he has a precise feel of the movement of our ancient body arts. None of these works is illustrative, but rather truly lived. The abstract patters here are caught by a brush work of note.

Well, such is the source of the artist’s later art, even though he has also tellingly tackled the country’s political process with artistic aplomb, never badly. All the same, as late as 1993, and oil canvas such as Summer once more exhilarates with the force of its personification of the Indian sun and all that it be tokens for the culture. Thus also some of the other seasons in fresh form, in treatment unlike the works of the fifties and early sixties. But Pai’s preoccupation ever remains about the same.

In the present exhibition we have permutations and combinations, of the same perennial Laxman Pai personifying eros and nature lyrically, from one work to another. And there is no letting which of these will but the bull’s eye with individual viewers. If some find certain of it too interfere, others may well be soothed by them. Whichever way it goes, there is no question but that Pai’s is his own man and not following current fashions. I will end by giving my own choice in this present offering, namely Akash in Goa, Self-portrait done very many years ago and, finally, Unrest. Well, this last work, expresses eloquently the feel of a Universal experience in abstraction, but to embrace, thus-wise, both music and dance. One does look forward to more of such, peak experience from the veteran painter.

Published by Dhoomimal Gallery, New Delhi, 2006
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