A peek into the dark, brooding world of legendary artist Ganesh Pyne

Ganesh Pyne was not known to use a riot of colours. His canvases were simple, at times dark and often evoked a sense of brooding. A selection of his works, now on view at Kalakriti Art Gallery, gives viewers an idea of the making of a legend. Over the years, much has been written about his early works stemming out of his childhood and adolescence in West Bengal going through a political upheaval. The sense of disquiet and turmoil are reflected in his work through dark, intricate lines and the use of skulls and arrows.

His early sketches were made with regular pen ink on paper before he moved to gouache and tempera. The exhibition features a number of his ink drawings on paper. The sketches give us the artist’s perception of the city, its lanes, its people, the days of hand-pulled rickshaws and bicycles casually reclined against the wall. These are stark, black lines culling out images of a busy city in the 1960s.

Pyne worked as a draughtsman and also in an advertising agency. We get to see some offshoots of this in his diligent drawings on graph paper and pages of year planners, abiding by gridlines and interspersing his drawings with his thoughts. One of Pyne’s works reflects his thoughts on death.

The artist writes: ‘There is a point in childhood when the truth of our mortality hits (us) with varying feelings of panic, awe and spirituality. It leads some to embrace religion.’ This, again, it is said, is a manifestation of an incident he observed as a child.

Many of Pyne’s works on display here are from the late 90s when the artist used mixed media on paper, juxtaposing his sketches with words of well known philosophers.

His later works, using tempera, a medium prominently used among European artists in the 15th and 16th centuries, show his mastery of working with layers. The portraits of men and women set against dark backgrounds offset the luminescence on his subjects.

Three of Pyne’s sketches on paper, in mixed media, are a study of the form of Durga prevalent in Bengal. The structure of Durga idol in Bengal, the artist observes, is reminiscent of the Patachitra style. ‘It has been materialised (Bivartan) in this style’, he notes and calls for discussion. The artist’s openness to discussion with his viewers underlines most of his works where he pens his thoughts complimenting his sketches.

The exhibition is a tribute to Ganesh Pyne who breathed his last early this month and is on view till March 28 at Kalakriti Art Gallery, Road no.10, Banjara Hills.