To commemorate Satish Gujral’s mammoth contribution, his wife Kiran Gujral and daughter Raseel Gujral Ansal have launched an initiative to advance his artistic vision and honor his legacy.
Painter, sculptor, muralist, architect, poet, writer, Satish Gujral was truly a Renaissance man. Few artists have influenced the imagination of a country with their work like Satish Gujral has influenced India not only with his sculptures or his murals, but also with his architectural marvels such as the Belgian Embassy in New Delhi. , which was selected by the international forum of architects as one of the most beautiful buildings built in the 20th century. A pioneer of modernism in India and one of the most famous artists in history, Gujral died on March 26, 2020 at the age of 94, leaving behind a formidable legacy with only a few equals in the world of art. art.
To commemorate his mammoth contribution to the art world, his wife Kiran Gujral and daughter Raseel Gujral Ansal, a renowned architect and interior designer, launched an initiative to advance his artistic vision and honor his legacy. An In Memoriam showcase of Gujral’s Burntwood sculpture series at the recently concluded India Art Fair only got the ball rolling. The grand vision is to champion meritorious achievement in the arts, sports, and movies. “We need to use his art, first, to make it accessible to artists, students, art lovers in a non-commercial way. So in that sense, it’s not about glorifying Satish Gujral; it’s about using art to share a message that truly embodies who he was. Despite his disability, despite the discrimination he faced at different stages of his life, despite financial difficulties for a very long part of his youth, he came out of it all a winner,” says Raseel, the youngest of three children of the artist.
The idea is not only to use the art of Satish Gujral but also to direct and connect it in the right way. “People associate noble endeavors with seemingly disparate arenas. Say, for example, when we connect his works on sport with the sporting arena, to articulate, applaud and give credit – we speak with consistency and parity when we use his personal biography of smash success, to inspire and support individuals mired in defiance and discrimination. So we basically want to take my dad’s art and use that as the engine and start telling these stories through his art; and therefore attract people who can then contribute their pockets to these various businesses. Now, since this won’t happen overnight, it’s important for us to start telling these stories,” adds Raseel.
Satish Gujral was born in Jhelum in 1925 in undivided Punjab in British India. He lost his hearing when he was only eight years old in a freak accident. “One morning he woke up and found he couldn’t hear anything. But he never let his disability get in the way of his progress; he lived in silence and created in silence. And I don’t think he could have created such masterpieces if that silence hadn’t been there,” Raseel says.
In 1939, he entered the Mayo School of Art in Lahore, then the Sir JJ School of Art in Mumbai where he met members of the Progressive Artists Group such as FN Souza, SH Raza and MF Husain. “For me, the man, the father and his image are inextricably linked. It is only after his death, when I now look back, that I can separate the man from his creativity. I couldn’t do that while he was alive. I can now see his incredible journey with some retrospective objectivity. To be born at a time in history when being physically handicapped in any way was a shameful and unfortunate family secret. Therefore, to reverse the social stigma, the child was marginalized and largely out of school. He was fortunate that the family from which he came had an extremely tough moral fiber and had progressive beliefs and diverted his budding talent towards art. reveals Raseel.
In 1952 Gujral received a scholarship to study at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. Gujral went to Mexico without knowing anyone. When he failed in his attempt to get his scholarship money, he found himself stranded in a foreign country, but by a stroke of luck he hooked up with the famous Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros, who helped him and introduced him to other important artists around him such as Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo. In the house of Siqueiros, Gujral met people like Fidel Castro and Pablo Neruda. Gujral gives a gripping account of his time in Mexico in his fascinating autobiography titled “A Brush with Life” which is full of escapades and misadventures.
It was in Mexico that he began to take an interest in mural painting. Later he went on to paint large murals on the facades of many important buildings in Lutyen’s Delhi. In fact, it was Gujral who sensitized India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on the importance of formalizing public art projects for government buildings. Gujral then created murals for Gandhi Bhavan, Chandigarh and Shastri Bhavan, New Delhi. An accomplished artist who was not afraid to experiment, he also excelled in architecture even though he had never received formal training as an architect. While his work on the Belgian Embassy in New Delhi is regularly cited among the great architectural feats; and his work on the Ambedkar Memorial in Uttar Pradesh, the UNESCO Building in Delhi, the University of Goa and the Saudi Royal Family’s Summer Palace in Riyadh are equally exemplary.
The Burntwood sculpture series which was curated by Raseel as part of an In Memoriam showcase for the India Art Fair entitled “Art of Silence”, which is actually from the family’s private collection, is an important first step. towards the grand vision of advancing Satish Gujral’s artistic legacy. “Artwork is diverse and spans a lifetime of genres – An ‘In Memoriam’ space could not accommodate this vast array. Hence the spotlight on the rare and powerful ‘Burntwood Series’. Fortunately, Gayatri Sinha hauntingly paid tribute to the greater diversity of his polymath talent at the India Art Fair. So we dipped our toe in the shallows, starting with the India Art Fair, and now it’s about going deeper,” Raseel sums up.