To mark Women’s Day on Gurgaon’s gallery-circuit, two women-artists recently displayed their art in the Millennium City for the very first time. Manjusha Ganguly, senior artist and art-teacher from Bhopal and Mannju Karmakar, who trained at Delhi’s Triveni Kala Sangam presented their artworks at the Epicentre. The Exhibition, titled Aesthetics and Women, revealed the innate aesthetic sensibility latent in women.
Manjusha Ganguly’s small-format, carefully-selected and inventive display of 12 Miniature Paper-Collages, from her Silky Mountains series, stood out, with their delicate subtlety and intricacy --- revealing a poetic and discreet artistic temperament. Achieving this ‘transcendence of the obvious’ did not happen overnight: Manjusha has worked laboriously on this specific collage-idiom for 35 years, beginning her unique paper-collages in 1978 – when, by her own admission, she “felt a need NOT to paint typically in oils on canvas with paint.”
In these tangential, poetic miniature-landscapes, Manjusha has achieved commendable cohesion of the Abstract and the Representational, in a quiet manner that is intrinsically her own. Using hand-torn shards of printed magazine-paper, as well as shreds of transparent tracing-paper, for layering, she evokes the silence and mysticism of misty mountainscapes and amorphous gardens to sublime Zen-like effect – drawing the viewer deep into her minuscule 5” x 5” compositions. A very large and conventional landscape-painting may often appear rather too ‘obvious’; while such smaller-format, unconventional and more personal depictions of Prakriti absorb the eye and the mind completely, due to their poetic, contemplative cadences.
Manjusha’s wistful collages have suitably-evocative titles, such as Mirage, Piscean Games, Krishna in Love, and Pocahontas. Her Sunset is a fine example of Minimalist Representation, utilising only grey and white tones, with the subtlest hint of powdery red pigment – denoting Surya’s magic light shimmering across mountain-ranges. This Artist is seriously committed to her aesthetics, having done her Ph.D on the Abstractionist S. H. Raza, as well as serving as Head of the Department of Art in Bhopal’s Art College. I have noticed that the persona and behaviour of a creative being is always just as revealing as their art. Manjusha’s gentle, courteous and intelligent manner coincides precisely with the grace of her artworks.
Mannju Karmakar’s smaller-format miniature canvas-paintings too convey the poetic temperament of the Pantheist-artist – one who steers clear of visual ‘obviousness’. It is her smaller works that convey greater ebullience and sensitivity. In her miniature-Modernist painterly renditions, largely of flowers and a few mysterious faces, painted on tiny 6” canvasses in a vibrant palette of purples and reds, a certain mysterious whimsicality shines through. While some of her Flowers were reminiscent of the lyrical Bengal School tradition, her Abstracts bore a Fauvist-Expressionist sense of freedom.
Again, here lies proof that it is not large formats, nor obvious ‘figuration’ nor bombast, that defines Art, but actually their opposites: meditativeness, grace, dignity, concentration, subtlety and intensity. From my art-critical standpoint, I was particularly heartened to see two gifted women-artists confidently displaying fine Miniature-format paintings – rather than massive canvasses that have now become urban-gallery cliches. Both Manjusha and Mannju have created small, beautiful artworks that are within the Eastern tradition, where the integrity of miniature-formats have been mastered by Indian and Oriental artists over many centuries of intricate, spiritual artistic discipline.
Artist, Writer, & Curator