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Untitled

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PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF PINAKIN PATEL

Oil on canvas
22 × 19 7/8 in. (56 × 50.4 cm.)

‘I’m like a bird from
another continent,
The day is coming when I’ll fly off,
But who is it now in my ear
Who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?’

(Jalaluddin Rumi, ‘Silence as the Open
Space’, Manjit Bawa, ‘Bhav, Bhaav, Bhavya:’
Frames of Eternity, exhibition catalogue,
Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai, 1999, p. 20)

Manjit Bawa and the Chronicle of the Bird

Manjit Bawa’s earliest memories of moving to the city from rural Punjab date back to his early years, when sunny afternoons were spent exploring New Delhi’s ancient quilas and monuments, not far from his new home, where fleets of brightly hued parakeets and parrots nestled in nooks and crevices. Passers-by would often be taken by surprise when a sudden noise would change the ambient peaceful atmosphere. With a great flapping of wings, what appeared to be hundreds of startled birds would soar high into the air, seeking shelter amidst the leaves of the tall surrounding trees, their feathers perfectly camouflaged within the green depths of the gnarled branches.

When Manjit searched the skies, he glimpsed the birds soaring above, in-between the zig-zag contrails of airplanes, their delicate feathered wings outstretched. His sketch pad was soon filled with drawings of these birds, their fragile frames exquisitely detailed as they perched on a branch or approached a friendly stranger offering crumbs on the grass, hopping closer and closer, their bright eyes full of curiosity.

In a series of paintings Manjit composed in later years, we see how birds appeared, usually with a man or woman, against whose body they seemed to rest in perfect contentment. Perhaps it was the artist’s deep and abiding faith in Sufism that made him believe, intrinsically, that all kinds of creatures were meant to co-exist, and in the current work, especially, we see how that idea is captured beautifully. The woman holds the parrot gently against her body and the bird, uncaged, is portrayed nestling against her, at perfect ease.

Landscapes were not a subject he painted often, choosing instead to incorporate them as a backdrop in larger scenes. These are sometimes seen in the cowherd paintings, where a group of trees or a single tree stand as sentinels, watching over the scene of the flocks being shepherded by the melodious tunes of a flute-playing young man. Otherwise, it is the individual alone, caught at times in unusual pairings with a bird or some other animal (a lizard on occasion).

In the current work, the woman gazes into the distance, as if drawn towards a faraway horizon; her mouth slightly agape. Manjit has used the image of the protruding tongue more dramatically elsewhere, as seen in his portrait of the goddess Kali, for instance, but here the gesture is almost hesitant, as if capturing a candid moment. The dusky- skinned young girl could well be a street performer, putting on tricks with her pet bird. Or else, it could be an image inspired by a memory of a face he had seen somewhere. The quiet tenor radiates luminosity, and yet, there is a hint of melancholia. The work is structured around the face of the young woman, and it almost seems that the artist whimsically added the parrot, tweaking its colours to emphasise the desired effect he seeks, which is to provoke surprise by juxtaposing two disparate protagonists in the same frame.

The subtext becomes clearer when you understand the artist’s own thought process and the roots of his memories chronicling the bird. Unlike the female figure, the parrot is painted realistically with great attention to detail, right from the bright green feathers to the red beak. The contrasting styles give the work an added dramatic quality, making one wonder if the parrots he had seen in his adolescence remained in his sketch books as primary characters or as sutradhars, taking the narrative forward.

Ina Puri
February 2024
Condition: The colours of the original are slightly less saturated, predominately in the background tones than the catalogue illustration. Very fine stable craquelure seen in various parts of the background. Scattered surface dirt and scuffs visible, partially visible in the catalogue illustration. When examined under UV light, two areas of restoration, with associated re-touching, visible under the figure’s left eye and along the figure’s right cheekbone. One small area visible along the lower left edge. Overall good condition.

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Time, Location
25 Apr 2024
India, Mumbai
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[ translate ]

PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF PINAKIN PATEL

Oil on canvas
22 × 19 7/8 in. (56 × 50.4 cm.)

‘I’m like a bird from
another continent,
The day is coming when I’ll fly off,
But who is it now in my ear
Who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?’

(Jalaluddin Rumi, ‘Silence as the Open
Space’, Manjit Bawa, ‘Bhav, Bhaav, Bhavya:’
Frames of Eternity, exhibition catalogue,
Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai, 1999, p. 20)

Manjit Bawa and the Chronicle of the Bird

Manjit Bawa’s earliest memories of moving to the city from rural Punjab date back to his early years, when sunny afternoons were spent exploring New Delhi’s ancient quilas and monuments, not far from his new home, where fleets of brightly hued parakeets and parrots nestled in nooks and crevices. Passers-by would often be taken by surprise when a sudden noise would change the ambient peaceful atmosphere. With a great flapping of wings, what appeared to be hundreds of startled birds would soar high into the air, seeking shelter amidst the leaves of the tall surrounding trees, their feathers perfectly camouflaged within the green depths of the gnarled branches.

When Manjit searched the skies, he glimpsed the birds soaring above, in-between the zig-zag contrails of airplanes, their delicate feathered wings outstretched. His sketch pad was soon filled with drawings of these birds, their fragile frames exquisitely detailed as they perched on a branch or approached a friendly stranger offering crumbs on the grass, hopping closer and closer, their bright eyes full of curiosity.

In a series of paintings Manjit composed in later years, we see how birds appeared, usually with a man or woman, against whose body they seemed to rest in perfect contentment. Perhaps it was the artist’s deep and abiding faith in Sufism that made him believe, intrinsically, that all kinds of creatures were meant to co-exist, and in the current work, especially, we see how that idea is captured beautifully. The woman holds the parrot gently against her body and the bird, uncaged, is portrayed nestling against her, at perfect ease.

Landscapes were not a subject he painted often, choosing instead to incorporate them as a backdrop in larger scenes. These are sometimes seen in the cowherd paintings, where a group of trees or a single tree stand as sentinels, watching over the scene of the flocks being shepherded by the melodious tunes of a flute-playing young man. Otherwise, it is the individual alone, caught at times in unusual pairings with a bird or some other animal (a lizard on occasion).

In the current work, the woman gazes into the distance, as if drawn towards a faraway horizon; her mouth slightly agape. Manjit has used the image of the protruding tongue more dramatically elsewhere, as seen in his portrait of the goddess Kali, for instance, but here the gesture is almost hesitant, as if capturing a candid moment. The dusky- skinned young girl could well be a street performer, putting on tricks with her pet bird. Or else, it could be an image inspired by a memory of a face he had seen somewhere. The quiet tenor radiates luminosity, and yet, there is a hint of melancholia. The work is structured around the face of the young woman, and it almost seems that the artist whimsically added the parrot, tweaking its colours to emphasise the desired effect he seeks, which is to provoke surprise by juxtaposing two disparate protagonists in the same frame.

The subtext becomes clearer when you understand the artist’s own thought process and the roots of his memories chronicling the bird. Unlike the female figure, the parrot is painted realistically with great attention to detail, right from the bright green feathers to the red beak. The contrasting styles give the work an added dramatic quality, making one wonder if the parrots he had seen in his adolescence remained in his sketch books as primary characters or as sutradhars, taking the narrative forward.

Ina Puri
February 2024
Condition: The colours of the original are slightly less saturated, predominately in the background tones than the catalogue illustration. Very fine stable craquelure seen in various parts of the background. Scattered surface dirt and scuffs visible, partially visible in the catalogue illustration. When examined under UV light, two areas of restoration, with associated re-touching, visible under the figure’s left eye and along the figure’s right cheekbone. One small area visible along the lower left edge. Overall good condition.

[ translate ]
Sale price
Unlock
Estimate
Unlock
Reserve
Unlock
Time, Location
25 Apr 2024
India, Mumbai
Auction House
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