Between 1964 and 1971, Bawa worked as a silkscreen printer in Britain, where he also studied art. "On my return I faced a crisis. I asked myself, 'What shall I paint?' I couldn't be just another derivative of European style of painting." Instead, he found Indian mythology and Sufi (school of Islam) poetry. "I had been brought up on stories from the Mahabharat, the Ramayan, and the Puranas (Hindu mythological and sociological texts), on the poetry of Waris Shah (a Punjabi poet) and readings from the Granth Sahib (holy book of the Sikhs)," he says.
Manjit Bawa's canvases are distinguishable in their colors - the ochre of sunflowers, the green of the paddy fields, the red of the sun, the blue of the mountain sky. He was one of the first painters to break out of the dominant grays and browns and opted for more traditionally Indian colors like pinks, reds and violet.
He had painted Ranjha, the cowherd from the tragic ballad Heer Ranjha and Lord Krishna with a flute surrounded by dogs and not cows as in mythological paintings. Indian gods Kali and Shiva, whom Bawa considers as "icons of my country", also figure prominently in his paintings.
Nature also plays inspiration here. When young, he would travel widely either on foot, by bicycle or simply, by hitchhiking. "I have been almost everywhere - Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat. I would spread a sheet of paper on the ground and draw the countryside. The colors and the simplicity of people I met fascinated me." Birds and animals make a constant appearance in his paintings, either alone or in human company. Besides nature, the flute is a recurring motif in his works. Bawa learnt to play the flute from maestro Pannalal Ghosh. He has painted Ranjha, the cowherd from the tragic love ballad Heer Ranjha, playing the flute. He has painted Krishna with a flute, surrounded by dogs and not by cows as mythological paintings depict him. Besides these, figures of Kali and Shiva dominate Bawa's canvases; "they are the icons of my country," he feels.
I Express My Deep Heartful Condolence to this
from- The Hindu
He gained recognition under Abani Sen, whom, he claimed, taught him “to revere the figurative at a time when the entire art scene was leaning in favour of the abstract.”Over the years, Mr. Bawa’s paintings have attracted both Indian as well as international buyers with one of his paintings recently selling for $3.60 lakh. He was among the first painters to break out of the dominant greys and browns of the western art and opt for more Indian colours including red and violet.
The artist was cremated in Green Park in the afternoon in the presence of a large number of friends, admirers and family members.
Stating that Mr. Bawa wanted to paint the sky red, Ena Puri, author of a biography on Mr. Bawa, said: “He loved red. He was a brave painter who had the courage to follow his convictions unmindful of the popular trend. We will remember him for his energy.”
Mr. Bawa is survived by his daughter and son. His wife died a few years ago.
News source:- The Hindu