NEW DELHI

A unique combination

ENIGMATIC: `Shores of the Unknown' by Manna.

ENIGMATIC: `Shores of the Unknown' by Manna.  

Madhur Tankha

NEW DELHI: He combines photography with painting to create works that defy definition. And now Diwan Manna's weeklong exhibition of works titled "Ages of Separation" is all set to open at Visual Arts Gallery here on September 20.

Recipient of the National Award for photography instituted by Lalit Kala Akademi, Manna is known for his soulful images and is a pioneer among art photographers. One of the first exponents of conceptual photography in the country, Manna's artistic technique and expression are unique with a style of their own.

He combines images with objects, moving within a consciously chosen space to create a multimedia reality. Manna's work depicts the possibility of crossing boundaries between photography and painting.

Manna's exhibition is all about his journey in search of the endeavour to come to terms with the unrecognised forms of degradation. He is not merely interested in presenting images of destruction of human goodness, courage and beauty but tries to tap the unsuspected and as yet unrealised sources of tenderness, fortitude and humanity in us.

The exhibition will showcase about 40 large images from the series "Shores of the Unknown", "After the Turmoil", "Alienation", "Violence" and "Conceptual Self Portraits". He shows many aspects in the three successive phases of his work. The black and white of his first work and then the fiery contrasts of colours in his more recent works are only metaphors of eternal combat that men engage in to reach the light.

Manna reveals his real compassion for his contemporaries. He portrays social violence, precariousness of life of men and women living in the shadows and the solitude of beings and their anguish.

Speaking about his upcoming exhibition, Manna says: "In my works I have combined painting with pictures, but in the final stage these are all pictures. I am settled in Chandigarh, where people from across the country interact with each other. However this was not the case during the 1980s. So I have highlighted people's loneliness even where they are in the company of others. I have also depicted a sensitive portrayal of women left behind in the lurch after their men folk have been killed either due to State oppression or terrorist attacks."

The exhibition includes two series of black and white photographs of technical mastery and perfect classical beauty, big photographs in intense colours. The exhibition opens up a reservoir of camaraderie across cultures, languages and political milieus.

Manna's current involvements range from a series of photographs reconstructing images of various facets of death and highlighting ritualistic content in Oriental philosophical tradition to a visual interpretation of frenzy in traditional music forms such as Jagrata and Sufi singing.

Born in 1958 in Bareta, Manna studied graphic art and printmaking at the Government College of Art in Chandigarh. He has been exhibiting extensively across Europe including France, Britain, Germany and Poland for the past 15 years and his works are displayed in prestigious museums and institutions of Europe.

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