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Manjit Bawa (1941-2008)
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Manjit Bawa (1941-2008)

Untitled (Winged Figure)

Details
Manjit Bawa (1941-2008)
Untitled (Winged Figure)
signed 'manjit '86' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
30 x 48¼ in. (76.2 x 122.5 cm.)
Painted in 1986
Provenance
Acquired from Dhoomimal Gallery, Delhi in 1988-89 by the present owner while serving as Ambassador to India in the 1980s.
Special notice

VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Damian Vesey
Damian Vesey

Lot Essay

"Often when I am half-awake or asleep, I see these familiar figures and realize once again the truth that they are within me. My art is a mere expression of these feelings, there is no intellectual pretension, no need to conform to social norms, instead only heartfelt honesty, an expression of truth, as I feel it, see it and know it." (Artist quote, 'Manjit Bawa in conversation with Ina Puri', Let's Paint the Sky Red: Manjit Bawa, New Delhi, 2011, p. 43)

With an instantly recognisable aesthetic, Untitled (Winged Figure) and the previous lot, Untitled (Goat with Aubergines), display Bawa's visual language of bold, elegant contour and delicate gradations of tone attesting to the lasting impact of both the tradition of Indian Miniatures and the silk screen process which Bawa studied at the London School of Printing, 1967-71.

Bawa's command of colour and space creates truly mesmerizing compositions. His "[...] free flowing, arabesque figures, both human and animal, are almost like personifications of fragments of thoughts, ideas, of words and poetry that are introduced into a rational real world by him." (A. Vadehra, Let's Paint the Sky Red: Manjit Bawa, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2011, p. 7) Bawa renews and reinvigorates the traditional language of miniatures using stylised forms on a uniformly coloured background. However what is so outstanding about the practice of Manjit Bawa is, "[...] not the stroke-by-stroke structuring of the image but its instant unveiling in animated suspension. As the image is revealed, the backdrop itself becomes the enactment." (J. Swaminathan, 'Dogs Too Keep Night Watch', Let's Paint the Sky Red: Manjit Bawa, New Delhi, 2011, p. 37) Bawa's luminescent monochromatic realities do not represent a void, nor are they merely a formal mechanism or tableau, but a tangible entity which is as central to the work as the figures suspended within it. The colour fields of of blue are neither sea nor sky as the protagonist seems suspended in stasis, eternally trapped in this ethereal reality. Bawa defines dimensions of dazzling blue and enthralling reds which enraptures its subjects, threatening to disavow the very constraints of the canvas and rupture our own reality. These figures, animals and even vegetation inhabit "[...] a world under an irredeemable spell." (J. Swaminathan, Let's Paint the Sky Red: Manjit Bawa, New Delhi, 2011, p. 37] where, "[...] animals, plants and humans all cohabit, taking their birth from the same ethereal tissue." (J. Swaminathan, Let's Paint the Sky Red: Manjit Bawa, New Delhi, 2011, p. 17) Whilst the composition of this angelic androgynous Winged Figure, offering an outstretched arm is reminiscent of Michelangelo's famous image of God breathing life into Adam in the Sistine Chapel, there is no inherent religious hierarchy in this world; gods, man, birds and beasts live in perennial peace in Bawa's enchanted empire. With an almost sardonic simplicity, Manjit Bawa conjures a window into another world, revealing a realm of imagination, myth, mysticism and magic.
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