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Artist Profile1
Mapping Laxman Shreshtha's engaging art and life journey
Laxman Shreshtha's astute abstract works of art are both meditative and sensuous in their subtle shifts and deft balances of color. In them, one can notice a movement to spiritual peace and inner harmony from conflict and outer chaos. His canvases exude an energizing intermingling of vivid hues such as browns, oranges, blues, yellows and reds that capture and resonate with a wide array of human passions and expressions – brooding or cheerful. Though abstract, they inhibit an apparent sense of intrigue, which encourages the viewer, and at times the artist himself, as he has revealed, to understand the various shades of meaning hidden in them.

Born in 1939 in Siraha in the neighboring Nepal, he grew up in Darbhanga district in the state of Bihar. After securing a degree at the University of Patna, the aspiring artist moved to Mumbai to join the Sir J.J School of Art where he did a diploma in painting (1957 -62). Later he went to Europe to further hone his skills at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris followed by a stint at London’s Central School of Art (1970). During this crucial phase, he spent some fruitful time at the Academie Grande Chaumiere as well as S.W. Hayter’s Atelier 17, Paris (1964-67) apart from undertaking a study tour to Baltimore and San Francisco in 1971.

The observant practitioner’s oeuvre is intricately bound with the happenings in his life and takes a cue from intense intellectual and emotional churning he has underwent and struggle that he has made earlier. His engaging journey as an aristocratic family’s member to a faceless student almost facing starvation set him on a spiritual sojourn that has found an echo in his art. He turned to in Western philosophy, Upanishads and also Buddhism for solace and answers to his prolonged existentialist dilemma. His evolution as an artist has reflected these experiences. Many of his paintings depicted beautiful places he has visited like a series inspired by the Himalayan ranges. They carry the captivating colors of light, those of brilliance he has observed in the picturesque landscapes. In his recent landscapes, he has made use of geometrics and lots of white.

His debut exhibition took place at Mumbai’s Taj Art Gallery (1963), which led to several shows at some of the art venues in India and internationally. Among his selected solo exhibit are the ones at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai (2008, 2003, 1994); ‘Elaborations’, Recent works in Black and White, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai (2007); ‘Inaugural Show’, Prithvi Art Gallery, Mumbai (1994); Gallery Chemould, Mumbai (1968); and a show at Tribhuwan College, Kathmandu, Nepal almost five decades ago. His selected group shows are 'Aqua', Gallery Beyond, Mumbai’ 'One Eye Sees, the Other Feels', The Viewing Room, Mumbai (both in 2012); 'Point and Line to Plane VI', Gallery Beyond (2008); ‘Tribute to Picasso’, Guild Art Gallery, Mumbai (2002);; ‘Aspects of Modern Indian painting’, courtesy Saffronart and Pundole, Metropolitan Pavilion, New York (2002, 2001); ‘Ideas and Images – Part IV’, NGMA, Mumbai (2002); ‘The Search’, Apparao-Wallace Galleries, New York (1997); ‘Image Beyond Image’, Glenbarra art Museum Collection, Japan, NGMA (1997); ’50 Years of Freedom of Expression’, Jehangir Gallery (1997); 25 Years of Indian Art, Rabindra Bhavan, Delhi (1972); Baltimore and San Francisco (1971); Maisons des Beaux Arts, Paris (1966); Salle de la Presse, French Foreign Ministry, Paris (1966); and ‘Inaugural Exhibition’, Gallery Chemould (1963)

Laxman Shreshtha's noteworthy participations include 'Master’s Corner' at Jehangir Gallery (2010); 'The Miniature Format Show', Sans Tache, Mumbai (2009); ‘Sixth Anniversary Show’, Pundole Art Gallery (1969); and 1st Triennale of World Art in Delhi way back in 1968. He has won several honors and awards such as Deutscher Akoclemischer Austcuschbienst West Germany (1978-79); I.V.P. Grant by the US Government (1971); British Council Grant (1970); Prix d' Honneur, International Art Exchange Exhibition, New York (1966); and French Government Scholarship (1964).

Among the contemporary painters from India, he has been associated with VS Gaitonde, MF Husain, Tyeb Mehta, and Akbar Padamsee, who inadvertently influenced him as an individual and as an artist. He was also influenced by Cezanne (his masterly treatment of space, Gaugain's simplified usage of color and the skill of composition); Van Gogh’s life, his letters sent to his brother and his paintings.

Renowned collectors such as Ratan Tata, the Godrejs, Harsh Goenka, Jehangir Nicholson, Stephen McCormick and Kumar Mangalam Birla have his works in their portfolios. Ratan Tata had even painted a work with Laxman Shreshta at a charity event in 2006. Believing what one recognizes inevitably manifests what lies within one, he invariably seeks to create a visual idiom ‘of and for himself’. The idea has been to understand his life, which he equates with a tapasya (enormous suffering in quest of truth) that deeply surfaces in his paintings, ultimately a reconciliation to something more meaningful, creatively beautiful and brilliant.

He has been quoted as saying, "Painting for me is immediate, instantaneous, with neither beginning nor an end. It does not exist in time, but is continuous," adding his work in essence conveys something deeper and more fundamental after standing transfixed before it, coming across as a reflection of his sensitive mind. It’s this ability to connect and reach out to the viewer that makes one his paintings with his paintings.