paintings

MANAV GUPTA | TWENTY-SIX-YEARS RETROSPECTIVE

1996-2022

Rainforests and the Timeless Metaphors of Dreams . Umbilical Cords of Earth Air Water Fire Space . Lyrics of Light. Apostrophe of white . Non Limiting Horizons . Intimate Whispers . Shoonya- From Beyond . Aqueous Dreams .

lyrics of light
lyrics of light 2
lyrics of light 3
lyrics of light 4

Gupta’s tryst with nature began in early childhood, in the 70s in Kolkata, where he was born and brought up, He embraced the sylvan landscapes of the National library campus, to nourish himself from the trials and pain of his struggles as a single parent child. As he helped his litterateur mother earn the daily bread, he found succour in nature’s lap. Trees nurtured him. That’s when his ‘umbilical chords of earth, air, water, fire, space’ had its genesis. And nature became his muse.

umbilical cords of earth

Umbilical Cords of Earth, Air, Water, Fire, Space

It is perhaps this bonding with the elements of earth, that lights up Gupta’s paintings and his later large scale installations. Experts have often complimented his paintings  to have a certain Turner like quality about them.  Working in watercolours earlier, he has now mastered the flow of his paint in acrylics and oils as well. He lets light meander through as magical, sometimes poignant, then vibrant, ethereal and passionate, to become a metaphor of survival and sustenance – a way forward. Almost like a call to action for healing – resurrection from the wildfire of the rainforests. There’s a palpable quiet mystery behind the works. As Telegraph art critic puts aptly ‘Sounds, moods and rhythms have deeply affected the artist to give a brilliant sensitivity to his works’ That’s what makes them compelling, lingering long after the engagement . Cosmopolitan has called them “soul stirring” But as the senior journalist Late Kingshuk Mukherjee wrote in his essay that was excerpted in catalogue at a sale at Christie’s London –’There have been critics who’ve praised him for his technique. But more often than not, what he has created has been the result of a storm within. His brush strokes have followed the dimensions of those restless stirrings. He is as close to nature as possible. All that he does come from deep within .There’s nothing cosmetic about what he feels or what he does. Manav is Manav. Unique as ever. Truly. For, Manav’s quality isn’t just about a genius. It’s about how he feels and the shades of blue he seeks in the sky through his eyes. It’s about the grit and struggle of a man from humble circumstances. It’s about a man who hasn’t grown up breathing tinned air. It’s as easy as the flow of a deep river that meanders through a landscape and runs off to an unknown destination where it meets the horizon.’

Rainforests and the Timeless Metaphors of Dreams

Just after his first solo in the spring of 1996, he wrote his artist statement, dipping his pen, just like his brush, deep into the labyrinthine crevices of light and shadows within the rainforests. His ink was soaked in pain but his soul’s penchant for Life being so remarkably drenched in an unsurmountable optimism, always made him look up to ‘light’, and thus it became a metaphor of ’hope’ for him ;and the colours – the all-encompassing landscape of earth. He revisits his artist statement every year as an annual ritual to fine comb its core, and it has stayed with him for all of these twenty six years.

Rainforests and the Timeless Metaphors of Dreams
non limiting horizons

Non Limiting Horizons

‘I saw great poetry and lyricism in the roots, tree trunks and the barks of trees all around me. Sculpted forms of twisted branches that embraced the great banyan tree, triggered my imagination. And I sketched.’ The grammar – he learnt from The Academy of Fine Arts, under Masters like Rathin Maitra. The soul of art – came from his guru Vasant Pandit, the unsung Master. ‘He taught me to dream, ever so gently, of forests far away…where the sky remained elusive.’ That’s when Gupta used to imagine rivers and rainforests – the very essence and nectar of his art that was to become his creative juice for many years to come.

Just after his first solo in the spring of 1996, he wrote his artist statement, dipping his pen, just like his brush, deep into the labyrinthine crevices of light and shadows within the rainforests. His ink was soaked in pain but his soul’s penchant for Life being so remarkably drenched in an unsurmountable optimism, always made him look up to ‘light’, and thus it became a metaphor of ’hope’ for him ;and the colours – the all-encompassing landscape of earth. He revisits his artist statement every year as an annual ritual to fine comb its core, and it has stayed with him for all of these twenty six years.

Light and colour play hide and seek in his abstracts on nature and rainforests, as well as his earlier landscapes. From 4”x4” miniatures to giant 20ft canvases, Gupta deploys a distinctive sanctity of yellows, reds, oranges and crimson that negotiate the dark tresses of Pynes’s grey and Ivory black, the enveloping greens and hues of Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue, leading the viewer effortlessly follow the light that it all creates. He captivates the viewer to follow the passages of his colour with intrigue and mystique.

 

SELECT AUCTIONS/SALE:

Rainforests & Timeless Metaphors of Dreams

Widely exhibited as part of the artist's travelling trilogy series in London, New York, Amherst, Des Moines, New Delhi, Berlin, Pretoria, Cape Town. One of the artist's most distinct and sought after works from his signature rainforest series.

Curator’s Note ICCR:

Sublime and Sacred in the Works of Manav Gupta It is difficult to draw your eyes away from any work of Manav Gupta who moves you with his ecstatic shade and light so profoundly that you do not know what to admire and what to leave out from mention. There is nothing that calls for lesser attention. You certainly hold your breath in admiration of the artist's emotion that exalts us all to ecstasy. Nature and myth are the recurrent leitmotifs of Manav Gupta who handles them in his unique way. For him myth is real and spiritual. quite affirming what Clive Bell maintained in his art criticism, "....the emotion expressed in a work of art springs from the depths of spiritual nature." Manav succeeds to inspire intense aesthetic emotion in the spectator. Notice the depth of colour and the human forms in gay abandon on the trunk of the tree. Rarely do we find such an originality in the creative imagination of an artist.

Rainforests & Timeless Metaphors of Dreams
48 x 60 inches
Oil on canvas
Work from the Artist's Travelling Trilogy Series.

Private Collection, New York, 2016

SOLD

From the series of 'Umbilical cords of Earth'

Auction Results: CHRISTIES, London: SOLD

Pratham UK Articulate Catalogue, Page 33

As a critic wrote of Manav Gupta: All that he does come from deep within .There’s nothing cosmetic about what he feels or what he does.” Truly. For, Manav’s quality isn’t just about a genius. It’s about how he feels and the shades of blue he seeks in the sky through his eyes. It’s about the grit and struggle of a man from   humble circumstances. It’s about a man who hasn’t grown up breathing tinned air. It’s as easy as the flow of a deep river that meanders through a landscape and runs off to an unknown destination where it meets the horizon.

Representative Work from the Series

From the series of 'Umbilical cords of clay', water, earth
60 x 48 inches
Acrylic on canvas
6TH September, 2010, LONDON.
SOLD

Non Limiting Horizons

Auction Results: Bonhams, London: SOLD

Catalogue page 120-121: Manav Gupta, captures the lyrical quality of light and colour in nature with equal ease in a variety of media. He is the recipient of the inaugural Sanatan Puraskar for Fine Arts 2006. He was commissioned by the - President APJ Abdul Kalam for interpreting his poems in paintings, now a book "The Life Tree" published by Penguin. Nominated on the Expert Committee for the National Republic Day celebrations he was commissioned by the Government of India to make a series of short films on the environment. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Chitrakala Parishad, Bangalore, the Birla Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata; the Parliament, Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi and the Victoria Jones Gallery, London besides several private collections across the globe. He has had numerous solo shows. Gupta paints and lives out of Delhi. 

'Non Limiting Horizons' by Manav Gupta
60 x 36 Inches
Acrylic on canvas
11th June, 2007 | LONDON.

Lot No 75 : SOLD

Umbilical cords of earth, water, clay

60 x 48 Inches
Watercolour on paper
December 2006, New Delhi
Lot No 35 : SOLD

Auction conducted by Ian McGinlay of Christies
Organised by Khushii

Catalogue Text: Manav is a watercolorist who combines strong poetic and narrative elements that make his work hugely compelling. He captures light and explores colour brilliantly with the most sensitive and delicate stroke play. He is one of the few watercolour painters today whose command of the medium and dexterity in exploring light and colour has fetched him rare critical acclaim from luminaries, critics and the media alike. His artistic journey began in 1996 in Kolkata at the Birla Academy followed by the Taj Hotels in Kolkata and Delhi. Besides other shows in London, New York, Melbourne and India, his works have been showcased at the Ministry of Culture, the Roosevelt House, residence of the American Ambassador (2000), US Embassy, Leela Palace, Bangalore, HSBC, Delhi and recently at the Rashtrapati Bhawan and the Victoria Jones Gallery, London. His works can be found in several private and public collections in India and abroad, including the Parliament,the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the permanent collections of Birla Academy, Kolkata, Chitra Kala Parishad, Bangalore, Victoria Jones, London.

Viewing Room:

lyrics of light,

the rainforests

n o n l i m i t i n g h o r i z o n s

Moonlight Sonata
rainforests 2
rainforests 6 - element fire
rainforests 5

"Watercolours that stir your soul"

COSMOPOLITAN

rainforests 12
rainforests 13

The Asian Age

"Manav creates a colorful world of impressions and images of life, made up of throbbing lines and changing colors"

The Des Moines Register, Iowa

"One of India’s leading artists is displaying his works in Des Moines, between high-profile exhibitions in London, Berlin and other stops."

rainforests 4
rainforests 3
rainforests 7
lyrics of light 119
“I saw great poetry and lyricism in the roots, tree trunks and the barks of trees all around me. Sculpted forms of twisted branches that embraced the great banyan tree, triggered my imagination. And I sketched.” The grammar – he learnt from The Academy of Fine Arts, under Masters like Rathin Maitra. The soul of art – came from his guru Vasant Pandit, the unsung Master. ‘He taught me to dream, ever so gently, of forests far away…where the sky remained elusive.’ That’s when Gupta used to imagine rivers and rainforests – the very essence and nectar of his art that was to become his creative juice for many years to come.

"Exuberant and Reflective. The artist has a fine sense of colour" - Economic Times

In 1997, at his second solo, 15th to 17th August, Gupta’s works caught the attention of one of the most discerning art critics of the Economic Times, who chose only the best of exhibitions, amidst the plethora of shows that happened in Kolkata during those times. While writing about Souza, Akbar Padamsee, Ganesh Haloi and other masters, she chose this young artist’s works to be featured in her column.

Excerpt: “It is within an established tradition that the romanticism of Manav Gupta is expressed. For the delicate watercolours he exhibited at the Taj Bengal, belong to a genre of nature scapes that exploit the lambent fluidity of the medium for a language that’s poetic.

Exuberant or reflective. The artist has a fine sense of color. Allowing the wet paint to spread in thin stains so that the colours run over and into one another, he creates a symphony of subtle tones that seem to in a state of continual and accidental flux.
In some of the works the artist restricts himself to the gradations of a dominating shade or to a set of rhyming colours. Elsewhere, the contrast of cloudy blurs and drip­ping capillaries of paint insinuate dramatic happenings in nature. Gupta also displayed furniture made form tree-trunks and drift­wood”

■ Rita Datta, Art Critic

Umbilical Cords of Earth, Air, Water, Fire, Space

umbilical cords of air - dance of salvation
umbilical cords of earth 2
umbilical cords of earth 3

"Using his paintings and poetry, Manav has woven a subtle yet powerful experience that conveys the need for consciousness on global warming and other environment issues. The exhibition entitled 'Umbilical chords of earth, in the lyrics of light, within apostrophe of white, colours in sight' clearly illustrates the artist’s deep love for nature. Manav is known for creating world-famous works of art on the theme of harmony between man and nature."

OMAN OBSERVER

"The use of colors is excellent… the work shows individuality. His work is an exploration of the amalgam of tangible and intangible elements of nature.

The landscapes done by him go beyond the palpable, audible and visible, to that which cannot be touched, heard or seen."

First City

non limiting horizons 3
non limiting horizons 7
non limiting horizons 6
non limiting horizons 5
shoonya

Shoonya - from beyond

"Manav has travelled a long way from having group and solo exhibitions in India and abroad, to making dedicated efforts that seek to create a consciousness on leading global issues through his artistic endeavours. Apparent in all his works repeatedly is his ideology. It may not be confined to the defined paradigm, but his personal dogma came across strongly in his paintings….its obvious that owning a slice of Manav Gupta’s oeuvre would be more than worth one’s while."

EXPAT

Shoonya - from beyond

shoonya 2
shoonya 3
intimate whispers

Intimate Whispers

intimate whispers 2
lyrics of light 17
lyrics of light 21
lyrics of light 18
New World Order - Mrityunjay

New World Order – Mrityunjay

Rainforest and the Timeless Metaphors of Dreams

Lyrics of light

lyrics of light 23
lyrics of light 24
lyrics of light 25
lyrics of light 26
lyrics of light 27
lyrics of light 28
lyrics of light 29
lyrics of light 30
Recommended reading: Select essays

Manav Gupta’s art, facing both forwards and inwards, is a contemplation of spiritual and the natural communion. And so, his images act as a vehicle of a visionary world that is itself the instrument of self-transcendence. His disposition is towards invoking the inner world of the soul as the stage of divine imminence. His work has undergone much development. The maturation is palpable.

Working in a wide range of installations, watercolors, acrylics, oils, sculptures and multi media, he puts the medium to fresh creative tasks. Technically, as far as color and light goes, he is highly professional. Moreover he has a precise understanding of color as the language with which nature tries to communicate meanings and values. For him color is a function of sight- implying a sun- like quality in the eye.

Here then is a silent discourse on the music of colors. In this way, visually he works out notes and scales to produce melody and harmony. One can follow Manav’s development from color harmonies of great refinement even in his earlier work- on to a progressive liberation of light from the object, or perhaps the resolution of the object into light. The artist has come to understand light as that from which the objects we see are made.

Informed by profound intuition, Manav’s pictorial language emerges from and surmounts the creative process to exist objectively. It is then that the instrument of a level experience that is communicable in terms that relate to the knowledge and wisdom of the inwardly attained. The artist’s technical know how, as a colorist, is not deployed for its own sake, but because his technique has its own meditative content.

Thus, and in sum, here is evidence of a self-spiritualizing imagination, and wherein the painter is trying to integrate such wholes of experience as bring about our union with the essential reality. Through his external senses the painter is able to perceive the visible world. Through his internal senses he tries to perceive the microcosm, including the twin level of body and soul. The painter has a message to deliver to his ordinary self—a message concerning our deepest being. It means an awakening to a more elevated plane of living. Finally, his “umbilical chord-rainforest” symbolizes an epiphany of the universe continually opening up from sacred source, the centre of the birth of life. An epiphany of which it is both an expression and symbol

  • Keshav Malik | Padma Shri, Indian poet, Art and Literary critic, Arts scholar, and Curator

A child grew up in a horticultural garden in the heart of Calcutta. There, in the enchanted world of plants and flowers, the small child would run and play – and paint.

That child is now one of India’s top contemporary artists. There is a web-like, diaphanous quality to Manav Gupta’s watercolors; ephemeral shapes are caught in shafts of colored light. A bird perches momentarily on an invisible branch. It does not seem like the bird will flyaway; but it could disintegrate into the forms from which it was made; or slip into spaces between colors. I am lost in a crowd of people who have come to the exhibition on opening night and I am not taking notes; but I am listening to what is said.

Manav does not give maddening answers like the painting is what the viewer sees in it. Instead he is eager to share his vision, to enfold those who come, in the coordinates of his dreams. He rides along on words, images and music, taking the unspoken language of his paintings into films and performances This artist sees painting in a cascading vortex of rhythm, voice and dance. By painting to the cadence of poetry, the motion of dance and the exhilaration of music, Manav feels that he can encompass the scent, the spirit of the performing arts in image, on canvas … that this is a step toward a more universal and multidimensional concept of painting in our strange, modern world of colliding sensory stimulation. Who is this man who would, if he could, hold the whole world in his hands? I will not answer in the enviable superlatives of the critical press to date; or dwell on his creative empathy with the former President of India as· expressed in their illustrated volume of poetry, Life Tree; or overly remind you that he has sold at Christies… Instead I will go back to the garden.

One day, young Manav had to leave the garden to help his mother raise his little sister through difficult times. It was only when his sister was safely married that Manav could devote himself to his art – which he did heart and soul, like a lover finally re-united with the long-time object of his desire. Manav Gupta has the passion and drive of the once-thwarted visionary; he holds close the undaunted dream of the garden of innocence he left too soon, the Lost Paradise which he recreates every day with his paint brush.

  • Patricia Groves | Cultural Theologist, Oman

“From probing the first principles of nature and thought, Manav’s art is about nature’s pre-eminence and earth’s universal truths. “Man’s existence, needs to align with the larger cosmic matrix,” says Manav. The physical interface of global warming, Man’s interference with earth’s natural ecosystems, disregard to environment consciousness by Man has all impacted the artist deeply over the years.

What is enticing is that he dips his brush deep into his intrinsic romanticism, puts it in context through his deep rooted faith and psyche of Indian spirituality and translates it all on his canvas in the language that’s metaphysical. Recently, in the artist’s creative journey, the influence of the present socio-cultural metamorphosis, where moral fabrics are eroding at the altar of manipulative social matrices and blatant consumerist environment is adding new dimensions to his art. It seems the protagonists of his canvas seek to break away from the shackles of this web towards “light” that is “hope”.

His watercolours sold out last year and he spoke about the process of his sensibility that awakens the nature lover in us. “As I scrape the bottom of the soul for some ingredients the only way I can explain to myself, about what it all is, is to believe that in some past life (if there is one), I belonged to the rainforests. The mantra there, for survival, is to submit to the natural forces, bow before it, respect its ways, learn and grow. You cannot defy it or go against it. In the rainforests there are labyrinthine darknesses weaving around you but there is always light in streaks, in a glow, in a stream, sunlight…all of which brings hope. You don’t bathe in it all the time but it seeks you out. Man is but a speck. The human race, still a speck, in this mighty universe rich with millions of secrets. The rainforests teach you this,” he states.

Is painting then a transcendental experience? Far away from the madding crowds of monetary markets? “When I paint, what transcend on the canvas are the hope and the power of the eternal truths of nature’s emblematic symbols,” he says. Adding, “Light, for me is — Hope and Colour — the Universe in which it exists.” This is when, for him, this world loses its meanings. The larger one takes over and he paints.”

  • Uma Nair | Art critic, Historian

He is not what you traditionally know as an artist. An alumnus of Presidency College, Kolkata, Manav picked up the paint brush as a child in the serene, sylvan surroundings of National Library, Kolkata. In that sense, therefore, this young artist lived and grew up in the lap of heritage.

He always had a restless heart, one which died to try out things. And he would… Even as he made this journey, the canvas was never far away and the brush strokes matured. He studied painting under Shri Vasant Pandit, an unsung master. Manav often recalls how mesmerized he’d be as his guru would talk to him for hours. Manav’s parents took him to the master when he was a toddler, barely two years of age. Even at that tender age, the Master created an indelible impression on him. And from that day, till the time Manav left the city of his birth for Delhi, the Guru and his shishya vibed. They talked endlessly and painted together. It was as if two souls were tied in one string….

Today, Manav has grown manifold. His art has taken him to the zenith. He’s a name the world recognizes. All this because he’s spontaneous. His art comes from within. It has nothing to do with formal training. “My art is what I am. What I perceive. And what I look forward to. My art is my heart beat.” There have been critics who’ve praised him for his technique. But more often than not, what he has created has been the result of a storm within. His brush strokes have followed the dimensions of those restless stirrings.

He is as close to nature as possible. All that he does come from deep within .There’s nothing cosmetic about what he feels or what he does.” Truly. For, Manav’s quality isn’t just about a genius. It’s about how he feels and the shades of blue he seeks in the sky through his eyes. It’s about the grit and struggle of a man from humble circumstances. It’s about a man who hasn’t grown up breathing tinned air. It’s as easy as the flow of a deep river that meanders through a landscape and runs off to an unknown destination where it meets the horizon. Manav is a product of nature. Hence, his love for the trees. Manav is about perception. Hence, his fetish for eyes. Manav is Manav. Unique as ever.

  • Kingshuk Mukherji | Senior journalist
Read More about the Series

Umbilical Cords of Earth Air Water Fire Space

Rainforests and the Timeless Metaphors of Dreams

Intimate Whispers | Chirping of Birds

Shoonya and the Non Limiting Horizons