29 April 2010

Mahishasura........an artwork that exemplifies India!!!

One of India's most famous paintings & which has created records not as much for the acclaimed work than for its sale, is the painting 'Mahishasura' by the artist Tyeb Mehta (25/7/'25 - 2/7/'09)

According to Hindu mythology, Mahishasura was a demon who was granted the power of invincibility by God Brahma but then became so powerful that he had to be killed by the Goddess Durga.

Tyeb Mehta, a contemporary of Artist M.F.Hussain depicted this in his own way & this is not surprising, considering that he comes from a generation of artists, who were influenced by European masters but sought to forge their own path & use Indian themes to interpret their work.

The Mahishasura, done in 1996 is considered to be his most famous work done in karmic origami & depicts Goddess Durga slaying the demon Mahishasura. In this painting, the artist depicts Mahishasura as a sympathetic figure embracing the Goddess, thus showing the Goddess' mercy & the demon's transformation once he's united with the divine.

The technique used was very different from the artist's general style & involved a thick oblique line running through the painting often over the figures themselves. This line allowed a single figure to be expressed in different forms on each side, thus giving rise to an agnostic view of a subject. In the painting, the man & the bull were depicted as 2 halves of a single whole thus though the theme is violent, we also find underlined the dichotomies manifested in man's existence, the good & the bad, the divine & mortal, the man & the beast. In Mehta's view this disparity existed side by side & both the figures involved are fully aware that one of them will be vanquished.

The painting when done, did generate its share of controversy but given the artists penchant for mythological themes, it was widely accepted & appreciated. It was evantually sold at a Christie's auction in New York, 2005 for a price of $1.5 million, the first time that a contemporary Indian artwork had fetched that kind of amount! Though this fact alone might divert from its brilliance, the artist has managed to portray the work as a brilliant metaphor showing the spiritual transformation that takes place as a result of union between a mortal & the divine!!

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