Sakti Burman looks back at his ordinary paintings

Kolkata: By holding a four-city retrospective exhibition of his works, Paris-based artist Sakti Burman seems to be reminding the world that he too came up with "ordinary paintings" as a student of the Government College of Arts and Crafts in Kolkata six decades ago.

The collection of more than 60 works under the exhibition `The Wonder of it all` traces the veteran master`s journey as a student in the 50s till he reached international acclaim and popularity after shifting to Paris later on.

Some of his watercolour paintings like that of two Kashmiri smoking Hooka were done in 1954 during his graduation days in Kolkata. "These are ordinary works. It is the same like that of any other art college student. But they got me admission into Paris` Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts. So I have preserved them carefully," the 77-year-old artist told PTI here.

The ongoing exhibition of his works at the Victoria Memorial Hall here and private art gallery Akar Prakar include works in oils, acrylic, watercolour, pastels and sketches which reflect different stages of his career. "There is a lot of difference in my works from the past till the present. The exhibition is the result of my whole life`s work put in a nutshell," Burman points out.

Having spent his growing up years in Kolkata and Bangladesh, he was hugely influenced by the joyous spirit of frequent festivities around him, which his paintings prominently exude. Even after shifting to Paris in 1956, his Indian roots stayed with him. Many of his works are centred on religious icons like Krishna, Shiva, Buddha and Goddess Durga.

At the same time he was also left fascinated by Matisse and Bonnard and inspired by the frescoes and paintings of the Renaissance period. "I also picked up a little from Italian renaissance masters such as Masaccio, Giotto and Piero Della Francesca ? their murals and frescos gave me an idea," says Burman.

Guided heavily by spirituality, he has forged the styles that he gathered from the two worlds East and West and makes them coexist in complete harmony.

The painting of a `sadhu` singing in a French village is a clear testimony to that. With beard and long unkempt locks, the `sadhu` is playing a small harmonium but sitting close to a young seductive woman dressed in a bikini as reality mingles seamlessly with the world of his dreams. "Besides myths and fairy tales, even the songs of Tagore and the poetries of Baudelaire inspire my works," he adds.

Over the years, he has had exhibitions in London, Iran, Moscow, Leningrad, Belfast and Yokohama. Among his latest works are two paintings on Gandhi as a messenger of non-violence and peace. One of them has the Mahatma spinning his `charkha`, which has faded away into oblivion. With a mosque, temple and church in the vicinity, a boy plays with a toy gun.

Burman`s urge to preserve all things which can vanish is clearly reflected as he harps on vignettes of childhood, memories of growing up and faqirs playing upon harmoniums on sidewalks. Having travelled to Delhi and Mumbai, the exhibition travels to Chennai next month.