Born in 1936 in to a family of sculptors and artists in rural Maharashtra, Prabhakar Barwe trained at the Sir JJ School of Art in the early 1950s. A contemporary of the infamous Progressive Artists' Group, Barwe was a deeply informed by European surrealism—in particular, by the artwork of Paul Klee.
In the late 1950s, Barwe left his job to devote himself full-time to art and spiritual accomplishment. During his extended stay in the holy city of Benares from 1961-1965, Barwe was profoundly affected by his study of esoteric Tantric philosophy. Based upon his philosophical insights, Barwe likened the creative process of the universe to the process of art-making, which remained central to his visual vocabulary until the end of his life. In 1990, Barwe published a Marathi-language book, Kora (Blank) Canvas, which discusses his meditative creative process. In the artist's own words:
"There is no limit to study and observation of any object, because with each new observation, something more is revealed. However ordinary or commonplace it may look at first sight, if it is based on self-experience and if it springs directly from the heart, it becomes a self-evident, valid aesthetic experience in a work of art ... Every component of a painting—be it form or color—in a way gets transformed into space. That is to say, [the components] get synthesized with the homogenous visual result of the painting-space. In the process of such transformation, color or form gets detached from its restricted actual-meaning-context. And from this alone, the visual result of the painting in totality is born," (Barwe, Kora Canvas, Bombay, 1990).
Barwe's unique contribution to Indian modern art is the product of his visionary, surrealist ethos. The current monumental work, executed on fine dupioni silk in the 1970s, was created whilst the artist was involved as a designer of modern Indian textile at the Weaver's Service Center in Bombay, alongside such notable artists as Manu Parekh, K.G. Subramanyan and Ambadas Khobragade.
Ranjit Hoskote elaborates: "The [current work] dates back to a period when Barwe was still under the sway of Paul Klee, via the magisterial Bombay artist pedagogue Shankar Palkisar ... During the 1970s, when he worked at the Weaver's Service Center, Barwe mapped his course between the opposites of dream and design. He cast off the neo-tantric idiom that had occupied him during the preceding decade and embarked on a series of pictorial experiments with diagrams and symbols, elaborating a universe of light, fantastic forms, an interior cloud-chamber in which thoughts collide, coalesce and come to rest," (Hoskote, Manifestations II, Delhi, 2004, p. 50).
Barwe died in Mumbai in 1995.
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