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Satish Gujral's Lifetime Award

The vertsatile artistic career of Gujral, who is a draughtsman, painter, writer, sculptor and architect – spanned for more than six decades.

Satish Gujrals Lifetime Award

Satish Gujral's Lifetime Award from the Vice President Venkaiah Naidu comes at a perfect time.Gujral is a versatile and consummate draughtsman, painter, sculptor, architect and writer.

Gujral's artistic career has spanned more than six decades and several mediums and genres.In 1961 in the New York Times, a critic penned his impression of the brilliant artist Gujral.

"Gujral is a young Indian painter whose pictures concern themselves with the dialogue between single tragic figures and buildings set down around them with all the apparent solidity of a stated fact. This dark, parched environment is part of a locked-in world, in which figures and buildings stand among the soundless fall of shadows, so that our inspection seems like a trespass. There is something hauntingly Indian in his work, although he consciously refuses to exploit traditional Indian styles. Perhaps this quality lies in the dry colour, sunburned and gritty, that is dragged across the surface to create a uniform mat texture," wrote the article.

"His pictures are most impressive when subtleties of colour begin to play across this harsh surface like hints of a mirage in a dry desert. But these pictures have an elusive quality that retreats into profundity as you attempt to grasp it. They involve one more and more, so that eventually their seeming solidity dissolves into sliding planes of colour that are somehow slightly desperate, like a house of cards built before some infinite horizon." (B O'Doherty, New York Times, May 31, 1961, published in Satish Gujral, exhibition catalogue, Forum Gallery, New York, 1964, unpaginated)

Gujral's work will be in the Saffronart Auction this September in Delhi on 20th September at the Oberoi Hotel, New Delhi.This stunning wooden sculpture is among one of his best. The sculpture in burnt wood and gold is a result of his experiments with burnt wood-a medium he grew fascinated with after seeing the multi-hued embers emerge from a burning log of wood. Intrigued by the possibilities of sooty wood, he created sculptural forms with this material-often abstract representations of deities-interspersed with vermillion and gold colours, such as in the present lot. He explores the spatial elements of depth and texture through a unique technique and his multi-faceted, contemporary sensibilities.But it also references multiple imagery from Indian mythology. Gujral's paintings too stand him in good stead.Whatever he has done he has done so with his own intuition and hard work and unique sensibility.

About his paintings Gujral said in an interview: "Thematically it is passion, but inside me, there is an expression of inner fury. You can see it in the whirls on the canvas, through the movement. The whirl is not what is painted. I found out what I had done when I finished. In my Partition paintings there is the same movement in the contorted muscles: the coils symbolise snares in our memory. The inner storm is in the gesture. The motivating expression may be of despair, anger, sorrow or sexual passion, but no artist ever reached the final riding on content."

One of his best series was ceramics , taking the painter to the boundary of the world between art and art decor. His murals done in the 70s were walls in themselves: The Hindustan Times building, Delhi High Court; Sultan's palace, Muscat; Agricultural Institute, Hissar and many other places are succinct examples.

Sculpture has been a very important phase: black burnt wood, and metal have been constant creations. But the real take-off for Gujral was architecture.. Huge domes of some Kubla Khan dream metamorphosed on Indian landscape in red brick. The magnum opus in Delhi by Gujral is the Belgian Embassy . The University of Goa and the Computer Management Corporation, Hyderabad are also important architectural works.

In an interview in the 1990's he said: "An artist should not be connected with anything he has not created himself. When I did ceramics I did it all myself. Many asked me to do tea sets which would be mass produced in my name but I refused...Artists are influenced by craftsmen: actually artists are basically craftsmen endowed with poetic vision. When I did a ceramic mural I didn't go to a factory. I sat down and studied chemistry, how to build kilns."

Uma Nair

Uma Nair

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