Manhar Kapadia has built a strong reputation over years as a painter who devotes himself majorly to painting the life and times of Mahatma Gandhi. A substantial body of his work from his sixteen solo exhibitions and a greater number of group exhibitions all over the country has thus centered on the Mahatma who started his experiments in non-violent methods for freedom from the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad and later shifted base to Delhi’s Birla House. The emotional connect with Gandhi for Ahmedabad based 1965 born Kapadia is obvious to the city of origins for both, but it runs deeper at other levels as he continues to paint and draw more and more of the Man for whom Einstein said ‘humanity would wonder if such a man ever walked this earth in flesh and blood.’
After his great show of a 150-foot long painting on events in Gandhi’s life, held in 2019 at Gufa and ‘Mosaic’ the online exhibition in 2020 during the peak of Corona, Kapadia has returned on the eve of Gandhi’s Death Anniversary on January 30 with his new exhibition Tactiles Behind The Mahatma, that opened at Amdavad ni Gufa on Republic Day.
Comprising of 50-odd works, this show draws on how Gandhi continues to have the capability to touch generations of not only Indians but people of other societies internationally, notwithstanding some harsh or ‘hard-fact’ scrutiny of the individual and social sides of the man as the social media grows in its reach and access to information of the Indian freedom struggle. In fact it is actually here that the question as to whether generations really know Gandhi also stares us in face and people like Kapadia provide a means and medium to reassess and value the affirmative side of the Man vs Mahatma. This is what Natalia Peter of Budapest, a friend of Kapadia also echoes in her foreword for the show.
The show offers some contemplation for the visitor through three to four series of works within the exhibits. Revisiting Bapu (some ten works), (The) Partition (some ten works), Contemplative (some five works), Reflective (some four-odd works) and (The) Fearless Minds (some four to five works) form the majorly noticeable segments of the show and attempt to dwell on the titular description from Gandhi’s life. While Reflective and Contemplative segments depict Gandhi immersed in his thoughts and brooding over what are assumed to be ‘the problems and issues’ of his time, The Fearless Minds show him in parleys with people like Tagore and Seemant Gandhi – Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan. Gandhi’s parleys with Tagore are a subject of some debate too and have inspired even stage performances and dialogues.
There are works that showcase Gandhi with a dimension to Ahmedabad, for example the one drawing that has the Amdavad Jali in its backdrop. One has to walk for the piece de resistance of the show to the end of the Gallery, although this is a work acquired from a Collector for being shown at the show again: Mahatma Gandhi and Philosophy, a 60 by 120 inches giant work it adorns the back wall in majesty of the sheer scale while Gandhi looks out, his ears extended, from the backdrop of a book-shelf.
The style of these works varies from clear figurative presentations to ‘hints of abstraction in a contemporary way.’ In some ways these appear to be an extension of the series Mosaic as the finish and colour choices of that series can be found recurring here; but surely with its inherent appeal. Possibly, Mosaic was also not seen adequately that having had an online option, and its representation or extension, therefore, has a reason too.
The basic drawing or sketch in some works has been obtained on a computer and then worked upon with colour to eventually make them mixed-media compositions. So also with the most affordable (just four figure prices) lot of the drawings which have been made with ink and water colours on paper. The next ones in size, composition and prices are the mixed media/coloured works on paper which are mostly available in the Reflective/Revisiting series. The canvas works are bigger and a little on the high end of prices for this show but have the advantage of the medium on their side.
A good show to go to and also meet and interact with the most friendly, cooperative and suave a man and mentor of them all in the town, who forms warm rapports nationally and internationally, Manhar Kapadia, this one is open till Sunday, January 31 between 4 pm and 8pm.
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