The first retrospective of Prabhakar Barwe who has carved a unique discourse in modern Indian art will aim to decipher the artist's mind through his art and intricate untold diary notations. Coming over 20 years after his death, the exhibition will open on Friday at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) here and remain open for public till March 8.
Titled 'Inside the Empty Box' and curated by Jesal Thacker, the retrospective will be an "exhibition and laboratory." Over 100 works, dense archival material and Barwe's 50 diaries will be on display. It is presented by the Bodhana Arts and Research Foundation. The month-long show will engage viewers in exploring the cognitive process of a quiet, highly-collected artist and theoretician through a mosaic of perspectives.
The title of the show derives from a series of works created by Barwe in the 1990s, and the 'box' here connotes a space that holds archives, memories and significant objects, as well as the artist's mind. For Barwe, emptiness reflected not an absence of meaning, but the presence of possibilities. The 'box' is also a recurrent motif in diaries of the artist-writer; he explored its dimensions, imagining life inside it. "Suffering from asthma, he was compelled to close the doors and windows and confine himself to his studio -- not even a single speck of dust was permitted to enter," a joint statement by the organisers said.
This experiment triggered Barwe to recreate objects from his mundane life into a box, physically enclosed yet expansive in possibilities. Realising that the box was never empty and nothing ever was void, he found a quantum of space and its relational objects. 'Inside the Empty Box' thus excavates the archives of Barwe while simultaneously unravelling his peculiar visual language.
Interactive spaces based on his paintings will engage viewers to participate, create and ultimately take back with them a dimension of Barwe's own thoughts. Viewers can even design postcards etched with a motif by Barwe, who painted and drew many postcards himself, in his diary. The exhibited canvases, watercolours and diaries are borrowed from the estate of Barwe, along with public and private galleries.
'Chitre Vastu Vichaar', a book of Barwe's writings in Marathi, will also be launched on February 22. Published in its original handwritten form, it contains Barwe's discourse on a universal creative process, his innermost thoughts on art, his life as an artist and a selection of excerpts and drawings from his diaries. An artists' symposium, 'Talking Shadows', will take place on March 1-3 and feature seven leading contemporary artists -- Anant Joshi, Anju Dodiya, Manisha Parekh, Padmini Chettur, Ritesh Meshram, Vidya Shah and Yashwant Deshmukh -- who will talk about their artistic practices.
(With inputs from agencies.)