May 08, 2013


By SarmisthaMaiti

GaneshPyne – the artist who had encapsulated ‘death’ through his brush-strokes and had envisaged ‘inscapes’ of the human mind and the journey of life from the philosopher’s soul,passed away on March 12, 2013, without letting anyone to even get the slightest clue that he would be no more. Far from the media glitter and the maddening crowd, GaneshPyne had lived the life of a sage, a philosopher on his own in his ‘enchanted space’ and dedicated his whole life to art that has been regarded as an epitome of Modern Indian Art, emblematic of the last trend-setter and inheritor of the Bengal School of Art. Above all, GaneshPyne is the only artist in this country who has been regarded as “the Artist’s Artist” or the “Artist of the Artists” in his lifetime. One of the most celebrated artists of his times, GaneshPynealmost became synonymous to an institution for generations to come and seek inspiration who left his imprints in his works that echo, “Painting is a means where a person duplicate himself, come face to face with himself, question the bearings of his own existence.”

GaneshPyne’s work of art was an embodiment of realization driven by an intuitive mind instead of being biased by imposed intellect.The best of his works reflect the deepest thoughts of this artist’s enigmatic imagery of an amorphous being hovering over a flower for the nectar of life, an empty chair associated with a living plant, a man dragging the shadow of an animal representing his own self and so on. The metaphorical world GaneshPyne had created in his work of art almost transcended the boundaries of time and space. This aspect of GaneshPyne has been put together in the best possible way by Professor SovonSom, one of Pyne’s contemporary, an Art Critic and one of the greatest Art Historians of our times who passed away just three years before Pyne’s death in 2010.  SovonSom hadencompassed the GaneshPyne art as the power to break with the traditional sense of time as well as of the mundane state of being that could transport one to a timeless space.

“Timelessness” in Pyne’s works could be compared with Foucoult’s “heterotopic space” which is full of bizarre elements and this heterotopic space skips the illusion of the transitory sense of physical time and creates a twilight zone where past and present dissolve into an altogether new state of being. As a modern painter of the twentieth century, his art could be drawn parallel at par with the modern twentieth century poet, JibananandaDas. Jibanananda presented through his poetry a situation in which a misplacement of ‘time’ always occurred and created the twilight zone that could lift his readers out of their mundane existence to the state of amazement. It wasn’t Magical Realism or Surrealism but was an intense outcome of the mind’s inner sphere that engulfed life’s deepest realizations stirred and churned through intuitions and insight. The space Pyne presented was similar to that of JibanannandaDas’s poetry.

SovonSom had once mentioned that “Pyne too, blatantly defies Plato’s holding-up-the-mirror-to-nature concept. Pyne’sheterotopia correlates the pastto the present, optics and the inner sight as can only happen in magic. This seemingly strange space recalls Alice’s vision through her looking glass.” Thus it could be pretty well established thatas the looking glass of Alice could transform time,space,objects and characters seemingly incompatible to each other into compositions where they cohabit happily… as an artist, Pyne’s vision could substitute the objective reality with a different reality that ‘Nature’ could not offer. Pyne could create such a wonderland which dealt with those thin lines separating ‘life’ and ‘death’, ‘joy’ and ‘sorrow’, ‘agony’ and ‘ecstasy’ and so on and so forth.

GaneshPyne is known as the master of tempera in the Indian Art and to many he will remain as the last signifier of the Bengal School of Art. He did wash paintings on paper, tempera on cloth and jottings on graph paper as layouts.GaneshPyne was born in 1937, got his formal training in art from the Government College of Arts & Craft, Kolkata. In his entire life he had done seven solo exhibitions out of which three were hosted by CIMA Gallery, Kolkata in 1998,2006 and 2011. RakhiSarkar, the Director and Curator of CIMA Gallery had written in a preface of a GaneshPyne exhibition, “GaneshPyne can be referred as the R.K. Narayan of Indian Contemporary Art. He has created his Malgudi Days – in ways, more intense and often enigmatic. Ganesh,internalises his personal experiences from which arise his fascinating images – multi-layered, complex and highly sensitive. His imagination cascades you through an intense journey, replete of dream images, brilliantly executed and intensely engaging.” Precisely the creation of an enigmatic space and timeless sensitivity of Pyne’s art led his works to the international sphere and opened a new panorama for the worldwide collectors of Indian art who could vouch for GaneshPyne even for his smallest stroke with the highest kind of emotional response.

In his lifetime,Pyne’s works were shown all over the world in many curated and group shows beginning from 1957 with the exhibition titled, “Commemorative Exhibition 1957, First Indian Struggle for Independence” held at the Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata. In 2004 GaneshPyne was also awarded the “AbanindraPuraskar”, Government of West Bengal. He was also awarded “D.Litt. (Honorary)” by Kalyani University, West Bengal in 2003. His works were selected for the first time at Paris Biennale in 1970 along with Exhibition in aid ofMehuin School of Music, Royal Academy of Arts, London and a Group show in Germany – all in the same year giving him exposure on the international stature. From then onwards his works have explicitly travelled in the ace art galleries of Paris, London, Japan, Germany and New York till the last day of his life.

GaneshPynehad ruled out all set trends to easy success both in his art and in his life. He used to do a maximum of ten to twelve works in a year in spite of being a regular painter and realized the eternal joy and eternal angst of his inner world without any external intervention. He was a very shy personality, little expressive through words but a magical maestro in forms and figures through art. The shadow of agony and ecstasy with the obsession of death and demise in parallel with the unification with eternal being/self was the core of Pyne art and a list of hundred works just invoking this bit of realization which is so difficult to achieve for most of us in one lifetime could be so uniquely and placidly executed from within Pyne.

GaneshPyne lived the life of a true diligent artist with a saintly faith in his heart. He had as if borne the significance of the ignited lamp with the imprint of the palm on the gate in his tempera work “The Gate” (54.5 cm x 64.6 cm, 2004), as if he knew death would knock at his door any time and he would have to accept the destiny and leave the worldforever, but the lamp wouldremain burningeven without him and carry on the legacy…