Born in Dhuri, Punjab, in 1941, Manjit Bawa received his diploma in Fine Arts at the School of Art at Delhi Polytechnic and moved to England to study screen printing at the Warden Institute of Essex in 1964. He spent close to three years in England, studying, working as a silkscreen painter, evolving new techniques and teaching painting at the Institute of Adult Education. Inspired by his experience as a silk screen printer, where he used simplified, uncluttered modes of expression, his paintings prioritise an economy of line and form over narrative, where extraneous detail is eliminated in favour of bold contour and brilliant monochromatic backdrops. Bawa’s surreal and vision-like compositions draw influence from Sufi philosophy, his lyrical forms borrow from Kalighat paintings, and his saturated gem-like colours take inspiration from Pahari miniature paintings.
The artist's luminescent monochromatic realities do not represent a void, nor are they merely a formal mechanism of tableau. They are themselves tangible and have as much personhood as the figures suspended within them. The present lot is a prime example of the artist’s command of colour. “His colours are vibrant and complementary, deft juxtapositions of green and mauves, of reds and magentas and blues and yellows, of flat areas setting off forms softly modelled – not the stroke-by-stroke structuring of an image but its instant unveiling in animated suspension.” (S. Kalidas, Let’s Paint the Sky Red: Manjit Bawa, New Delhi, 2011, p. 37)
The intimate scene in this painting portrays a girl combing her hair while staring off into the distance, unaware of the viewer’s gaze. Bawa delicately captures movement through the depiction of the ripples of the comb that are visible in the waves of the subject’s hair, and through the graceful portrayal of her scarf. With an almost ironic simplicity, he conjures a window into another world, revealing a realm of imagination, myth, mysticism and magic.