Friday 24 February 2012

Read about Manisha Raju's 'Pandit II' (2007)


Pandit II (2007) by Manisha Raju
Pastel on paper
17 x 12 inches
It is in fact rare that I take pastel works into the gallery. In fact apart from Sri Lankan artist, Anoma, who is really a mixed media artist who utilises soft and hard pastels when appropriate, Manisha Raju was the first artist to work in this medium that I brought into the collection. There is no real reason why this medium has been passed over. Indeed the only work I have up on the wall by me is a pastel work. I think if anything I have been waiting for just the right artist that would add to the collection and have a mastery over this difficult medium. Manisha Raju’s stunning pastel paintings on paper were exactly that. She shows a soft, delicate technique that makes the most of the medium as well as the subject matter, adding an imaginary halo around the religious characters she chooses. Pandit II (2007) is s a lovely piece by all accounts. A simple head and shoulders profile portrait, Raju is able to mirror this holy man’s honourable and religious character in her idealisation of form. His skin is blemishless, silky smooth: no pastel mark is decipherable so the final image has the feeling of something so perfect it defies the creative power of an artist. It makes me think of Da Vinci and Botticelli in this way. The arch of the eyebrow, seemingly plucked and sculpted, echoes the curve of the closed eye, long and sublimely elegant like the beautiful chin. The nose points slightly upwards and the lips are full, red and purt. Even the ear, most awkward of facial attributes, is smoothed out to appear as perfectly proportioned as the swan neck below it. We know this is a ‘pandit’, a Hindu priest, not only from the title but by the shaved head and bob of hair at the back and the holy string across one shoulder. Perhaps there is a hint given also by the earring… or perhaps I am imagining it. The colour in his lips, the rouge of his cheeks, and the red ruby in his ear, all appears to resonate outward around his profile. His form is brought forward by Raju with darkened shading around the head, a reverse halo one might say. It is as if this priest is so good and pure that no circle of light is necessary. I wanted Raju in the collection as she took great advantage of the pastel medium to tell of the inner beauty of the soul and the external beauty that comes of the elevated, educated and religious mind. There was no one in the gallery’s collection that did this so eloquently. Jana Manuelpillai

To view more works by Manisha Raju in the collection, click:              

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