Prafulla Dahanukar – A Retrospective

Early this year, the art fraternity saw the demise of renowned artist Prafulla Dahanukar (1934–2014). The septuagenarian contributed to India’s art space for more than 50 years with abstracts in various mediums. Gallery 7, presented a retrospective of the artist’s journey at the Jehangir Art Gallery.  Ornella D’souza reviews Prafulla Dahanukar – A Retrospective

Eternal Space Red by Artist Prafulla Dahanukar

Eternal Space Red by Artist Prafulla Dahanukar

This July 2014, commemorating her artistic journey, Nicolai Sachdev of Gallery 7 curated Prafulla Dahanukar – A Retrospective at the late artist’s frequent haunt – Jehangir Art Gallery; the location which Prafulla, held her first solo exhibition here in 1956 that was inaugurated by Karl Khandalavala. Originally from Goa, she graduated from the J.J. School of Art in 1955 under the tutelage of V.S Gaitonde with whom she later shared studio-space with after her return as a post graduate from the Ecole Des Beaux-Arts in Paris. She later presided over the Bombay Art Society and Art Society of India and for the last 30 years has been on the committee of Kala Akademi Goa. She was a committee member of the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, from 1974-79. Aside her oil paintings, she also created murals in diverse materials. Currently, her paintings are in the collections of the CSMVS, Mumbai, Lalit Kala Akademi and the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, the Central Museum, Nagpur.

Eternal Space Green by Artist Prafulla Dahanukar

Eternal Space Green by Artist Prafulla Dahanukar

On display at her retrospective exhibition, were her works along with paintings and sculptures by modern and contemporary artists like M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, Akbar Padamsee, Paritosh Sen and Gurcharan Das in possession by Prafulla Dahanukar Art Foundation (PDAF). Gallery 7 then continued to host a selection of her works dating from the 1950s, till August 31, 2014.

Each of the 30 displayed works measuring between 14 x 6.5 inches to 48 x 36 inches, reflect Dahanukar’s signature technique of coating the canvas in a primary hue of greens, blues, yellows or reds; occasionally ridden with gold highlights. She further demarcates the work horizontally into three borderless bands, where the top and bottom are left in blissful vacuum to let the monochromous hue dominate at the edges while it is the central panel where all the drama unfolds. The treatment of this middle portion is comparatively defiant, jarringly with repetitive dabs of the palette knife journeying from thick swatches which overtime fade into smoggy remnants that starkly resembled a tyre print. With the turn of the next century, Dahanukar stuck to using rollers. To the viewing eye these appear as “abstract landscapes” with an itinerant herd coursing through barren expanse of land silhouetted against the evening sun. Or a turbulent sea caught between clear sky and shore. Like a tussle within.

Dahanukar’s paintings reflected her notion of what she called and titled all her paintings as “Eternal Space”. Space to her was a sacred entity, meant to be immortal and never ending. And painting about her abstract fascination was a therapeutic process which brought her immense peace. And to the viewer, immense calm.

(Images Courtesy : Gallery 7)

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