Telling a timeless story

Senior artist Madhvi Parekh revisits the story of Christ using her signature style

May 30, 2016 06:43 pm | Updated 06:43 pm IST - Bengaluru

A painting from the series on display at NGMA, Bengaluru

A painting from the series on display at NGMA, Bengaluru

National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), Bengaluru, continues to roll out its impressive line-up of exhibitions. K.G. Subramanyan, Somnath Hore, Jogen Chowdhury and G.R. Iranna’s have been some of the stellar shows put up by the premier institute of modern art in the IT city.

Delhi-based Madhvi Parekh is the latest to join this list. Her show “The Last Supper” which has been travelling to different parts of India has been brought to NGMA Bengaluru by the Seagull Foundation for the Arts, Kolkata. A series of reverse paintings in acrylic, few sketches and drawings form the collection.

A self-taught artist, Madhvi is showing in Bengaluru after such a long gap that she doesn’t even remember her last show here. In the 80’s Nalini Malani (one of the most significant names in new media art) drew up a list of women artists and finally zeroed in on Nilima Sheikh, Arpita Singh, Madhvi and herself to come together for a series of exhibitions in different cities. Today these are one of the most seminal names in the field of contemporary Indian art.

In 2010 came A World of Memories , her first book published by Penguin Studio which comprised some of the best works from different periods of her artistic career like “Village Opera” and “Biography of My Neighbour-II”. Madhvi grew up in a small village, Sanjay in Gujarat amidst nature, folklore and rituals to which art was intrinsic.

She borrowed the vocabulary of folk art and personalised it. Sun, moon, stars, birds, animals, Durga, Kali and other elements of Hindu iconography became part of an oeuvre which became her signature style. Master artists — Paul Klee and Miro — also remain a powerful inspiration for her.

Visiting churches and museums in Eastern and Western Europe with her artist-husband Manu Parekh, Madhvi was impressed by the iconography and that is how “The Last Supper” series started in 2010.

In 2011, Madhvi painted a massive work inspired by one of the most well-known paintings in the world —Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”.

“I had seen it in Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan but then I told Manu to get me a photograph of the painting and that is how I painted it. I liked the form of the cross. The image of Jesus attracted me,” says the artist.

The artwork consists of five large acrylic, painted panels, each six feet by four feet and has been rendered in an unusual medium — reverse paintings on acrylic, which has been handled deftly. Madhvi is adept at doing reverse paintings on glass but for this series she chose to challenge herself by shifting to an acrylic sheet.

“The brush slips. It is difficult to get control but it was fun.”

A colour palette not associated with the Christ was carefully thought of. On a visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem years ago, she was moved by the sights and sounds of the place.

“But I wanted to highlight the peace and happiness he brought to everyone’s lives.” Bright colours, cheerful expression and nature complete the narrative.

(The show is on at NGMA Bengaluru, Manikyavelu Mansion, 49 Palace Road, till June 26)

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