A recently published book on artist Madhvi Parekh goes back all the way to where she began, writes
It's a rare opportunity to be inside an artist's studio and see him or her create a work of art. So, I let silence dominate as Madhvi Parekh gives final touches to the figure of Jesus Christ on glass. It's a reverse glass painting on which paint is applied to glass and then the image is viewed by turning the glass over.
Though it's been a while since the 68-year-old painter, one of the best known names among the contemporary woman artists of the country, began painting Christian iconography or even reverse glass painting but it constitutes only a particular period of her artistic life. There have been many more milestones in her journey that started in the 1960s in Mumbai. “A World of Memories”, her first book published by Penguin Studio (Rs.2,999) recently, through 70 paintings spanning from 1964 to the present day, gives glimpses of her evolution. The paintings in the book have been selected by her husband Manu Parekh. “We have selected the best works from different periods of her life, like the ‘Village Opera' which NGMA gifted to Jakarta, or the ‘Biography of My Neighbour-II', which was commissioned by Bose Pacia in 2003,” says Manu.
An alumnus of J. J. School of Arts, Manu gave the necessary guidance to his wife, who was all of 15 at the time of marriage. The reserved and quiet artist forayed into the field with pen and ink, making lines, squares and animal faces. Though she made her first painting in 1964, the oldest works included in the book have been culled from the 70s. The powerful rituals, folklores and delightful scenes she grew up witnessing in her village Sanjaya in Gujarat resonate in these oil paintings. Smiling snakes, unidentifiable transparent figures hinting at local deities, animals, birds and motifs drawn from craft traditions were woven into a colourful tapestry.
And even if her works are influenced by folk art traditions, Madhvi renders them contemporary by planting her characters in a very present-day world. A few works from her ‘Kali' series have inevitably found their way to the book, for instance ‘World of Kali' (oil, 1975). Explaining her fascination with Kali and Durga, which occurred recurrently on her canvas over a period of time, she says, “Growing up in a village, I saw woman doing so much work and so easily. Maybe, this idea of powerful women was at the back of my mind when I painted Durga and Kali,” says Madhvi, adding that staying in Kolkata and watching Durga Puja must have also played its part.
Referring to her recent works on Jesus Christ, Manu points out, “I think she is highly observant. Her visits to various churches in Jerusalem, Moscow, New York and Amsterdam have given birth to this oeuvre. She is a contemporary artist with a rural sensibility.”
Now, the Parekhs are contemplating a formal launch of the book. “We are thinking of formally releasing it during the exhibition of her recent works early next year,” says Manu.