ART The works of S.L. Parasher, an iconic muralist, painter and sculptor, find a permanent home in the city, reports SHAILAJA TRIPATHI
The city has an addition to its list of galleries. This one is exclusively meant for S.L. Parasher, considered one of India’s most significant painters and sculptors. His children simply wanted to create a space for the huge collection he left behind.
Though his art is scattered across museums, galleries, art institutions and private collectorsacross the world, at his South Extension home — where he lived after moving to Delhi from Shimla, lay a large assortment of works packed in trunks.
“They were in addition to the works which were out in the open in our house. We were living with them and continue to live with them,” says Bela Sethi, Parasher’s daughter who along with her siblings decided to give a permanent space to his art. “Actually, it was our youngest sister Prajana Paramita Parasher, who took the initiative. She is an artist herself and is the one who has curated the collection displayed here. But the idea was to create a space where we could hang his paintings,” says his son Raju Parasher.
Open to public, the Parasher family is keen that more and more students visit the space dedicated to the educationist. He was the founder principal of School of Arts, Shimla, and the vice-principal of Mayo College of Art, Lahore, when Partition, the tragedy which inspired several art works of his, happened. Apart from a large chunk of these, the collection on display has works from his days in Shimla depicting vignettes of rural life, sculptures like ‘Thirst’, ‘Lonely Piligrim’, ‘Goddess of death’ — his last sculpture done in terracotta just a few days before his death — and Ganesha, again in terracotta.The sketches and line drawings of Parasher capture the agony of those caught in the tragedy.
Born in Gujranwala in Pakistan in 1904, Parasher, like so many others, was uprooted from his place of birth and moved along with other refugees to India.
He became the Camp Commander at Baldev Nagar Refugee Camp, where he witnessed loss at close quarters. Painting in the camp, he produced sketches and drawing that captured the torment of refugees. Works like a group of women huddled together sharing misery with their mouths open in shock, grieving men, head of a refugee woman, bearing stark expressions occupy the section dedicated to his work on Partition. “He had a large oeuvre. He made sculptures in every material — terracotta, bronze, wood. And then, there are so many phases in his artistic career like landscapes, spirituality,” says Sethi. The family intends to replace the displayed set of works with another set, thus rotating the works.
“There are so many still left to be framed and archived,” says the son of the artist who never really actively exhibited while he was alive.
One of his major shows was a retrospective held at the India Habitat Centre in 2004, on his 100th birthday, much after his death, followed by an exhibition of his Partition sketches in London and Berlin.