THE MASTER & HIS DISCIPLE - works by B.R. Panesar & Shakila


With a wizened face behind outsize glasses beaming a benign smile towards all, a trademark cloth bag on his shoulder, Baldev Raj Panesar looked neither a product of Indian Statistical Institute nor the artist he became by choice but a kindly schoolmaster. Temperamentally, though, he indeed was what an ideal schoolmaster should be: gentle and generous with his time and money, ever ready to mentor anyone who needed a hand.

But a true mentor’s worth can only be measured by a disciple’s growth. And in terms of such a yardstick, Shakila has been an example any guru would be proud of.

To think, it all started with boiled eggs! And bread. And sweets, all stuffed into that ubiquitous bag of his and distributed to street children around his home in YMCA. No wonder they called him, “dim babu”.
That’s how, in 1977/78, Panesar first saw her near Taltala market, this shy girl of about 8 or so, who never ran up with the others to grab his largesse. So he gave her paper and pencil instead and asked her to draw......

This fairy tale beginning in Shakila’s incredible career has, justifiably, claimed much media space. Ironically, however, though a recognition of Panesar’s role in her rise is routinely mentioned, the focus hasn’t been on his art. It can be said that the veteran artist, who was born in Hoshiarpur, Punjab, in 1927 and passed away in January, 2014, in Kolkata, hadn’t quite got his due. Even though, as a member of the Society of Contemporary Artists-the leading group of this region-his work would be seen regularly at shows.

And recognized right away. Whether it was painting or collage-making, it had evolved a distinctive vocabulary. Even though, like his disciple, he had no art college background. The exhilarating chaos of ripped paper sometimes evoked representational form. But more often it was wrecked for semi-abstract cityscapes and landscapes thrown into tectonic pulls. In his paintings, too, you noticed a lateral motion with quick, horizontal strokes piled up vertically.

Though Shakila began with simple images excerpted from her surroundings, the innate sophistication of her vision soon aspired to produce work of startling complexity. Not only in terms of composition and layered thematic suggestions, but also in the way she was building atmosphere by making cunning use of the print on the paper she bought. Over the years her handling of space and perspective has matured remarkably. Elaborate installations in recent times indicate a growing confidence.

Wry humour and hints of unknown perils, the throb of village life and disquieting lulls, the vulnerability of women and inexplicable turmoil, architectural geometry and sensuous shapes, receding depths and flat layouts: her oeuvre of elusive accents and shifting gradients has expanded amazingly in its quest for new dares. A quest that her Baba had stoked almost 40 years ago.

Dates : Apr 25, 2014 - May 17, 2014

For enquiries : Animesh Dey [cimagallery@dataone.in]

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