PAINTING VIOLENCE’S DARK SUBJECTS – Ganesh Pyne: A Painter of Eloquent Silence

Among notable artists of the Bengal School of Art

When the reality of Calcutta enters an image, it becomes representation. We perceive it with different eyes. An image is worth a thousand words, because your passions only include images. We are much more sensitive to visual cues than any other type of signal. Therefore, our journey into Kolkata creativity will include visible things, such as a photograph by Ranjan Bhattachraya or a painting by Ganesh Pyne.

His first painting portrayed him going to school along with his brother. He rarely held solo exhibitions, though he did participate in-group shows. After graduating Art and Craft, he worked as an illustrator, joining the Society of Contemporary Artists. He was influenced by the art of painter Abanindranath Tagore, Rembrandt and Paul Klee. Born in 1937 in Kolkata, Ganesh Pyne produced unsettling art in watercolour and tempera. Working to tempera, for his abstract and surrealist work period he painted in ochre, black and blue shades.

In 1946, his family was caught up in riots, which preceded the partition of India. This trauma had a lasting impact on his work. Around the themes of Bengali folklore and mythology, using fantasy and dark imagery, Ganesh Pyne had developed his own style of poetic surrealism. Folk-tales and fantastic stories from children’s books had create the vocabulary of his art. Being a cinema buff he also took inspiration from European black-and-white cinema masters. For using dark colours like black and blue suggesting death, pain and solitude, he was know as painter of darkness.

His first solo exhibition was only held after he was 50. His abstract and surrealist paintings were exhibited in-group exhibitions, but he continued to shun limelight and the art collectors. Forging a personal modernist idiom, rather than slipping into non-productive traditionalism, Ganesh Pyne was the only significant artist of his generation. In his later years, he undertook works that drew from the Mahabharata, focused on the peripheral characters of that epic. Exploring elements of the subconscious, with meticulous narrative quality, he had become a painter of melancholia. He died into a March day 2013 in Kolkata.

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