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In his master's footsteps


LIFE HAS taken off after retirement for artist B G Varma. During his working years he harboured a distant desire to reproduce the western masters but commitments at Children's Book Trust, New Delhi, where he worked as a book illustrator, pushed these to the background. He now returns to his home State armed with classics, easels, brushes and a list of choice painters to get cracking on his pet project.

So far he has got around to painting the High Renaissance artists from Italy; Romantic painter Goya; master of portraiture Sir Joshua Reynolds and the great Dutch painter Rembrandt. Arguably one of his finest reproductions is that of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa wherein he triumphs in creating a superb line drawing and achieves that mysterious smile which the original artist had evoked. However, it is Michelangelo whose works Mr. Varma admires the most and he proceeds to build the same sculpturesque bodies that his idol had done in the 16th century.


All these and more are up on display at Durbar Hall Gallery. From the supreme genius of the classical painters it is exciting to move to the section that suggests the artist's own creative experimentation. Even as he says that making reproductions is a far more tedious job, which he took on as a challenge, Mr. Varma scores in his original works. Grandma's Tales is a delightful interpretation of a venerable theme. Enthralled, the child waits eagerly for the tale to reach its climax as the granny strikes a loving albeit catechismal pose. The caricature-like figures add to the pleasurable experience for both the old lady and the young girl; not to forget the omnipresent tree and the flaming sun that partake in this encounter. The picture showcases Mr. Varma's forte as an illustrator for children's books and also the lingering effects of years spent at Shankar's Weekly as a cartoonist.

Moderns Thinkers is inspired by Rodin's The Thinker but is a satirical account of contemporary urban life and its related stresses, which doesn't spare even the animals. Here, everyone becomes a thinker, including the stray dog and the owl that sits atop the perennial tree. Mr. Varma uses a host of unconventional instruments such as the palette knife, razor and wood pieces to create a criss-cross of lines that give his pictures a distinctive texture.


Pre-eminently a painter of modern times, Deliverance is yet another canvas where Mr. Varma depicts the plight of the common people. The wise old tree with its meandering branches becomes a metaphor for the assorted thought processes that work through the besieged human mind. In keeping with subject matter the colours here are soft and muted.

The exhibition closed on December 27. B.G. Varma lives in Thripunithra and undertakes portraits. He can be contacted at 2774689.

SUNANDA KHANNA

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