Celebrated painter Manu Parekh feels Indian art should actively nurture its unique identity.
He’s just shown in Mumbai and next month he’s off to hold an exhibition at the prestigious Berkeley Square Gallery in London. But ask Padmashree Manu Parekh if Indian art is finally getting the recognition it deserves, surprisingly, he shakes his head. “Frankly, Indian art is just starting to go international. We have a great talent bank and I’d say the potential is tremendous.
And sure enough, the entire family of this 69-year-old JJ School of Art alumnus is immersed in the fine arts. His wife Madhvi and his daughter Manisha are also accomplished painters, while his other daughter Deepa took to photography - probably just to avoid the uniformity. “Perhaps,” he laughs. “But it was her interest and we encouraged her.”
While he’s doing extremely well for himself, Manu says he’s never thought about keping track of the art mart. “I’m not in the least interested in what price others are getting.
As long as I feel happy with what I am getting, I’ll continue working. Money isn’t everything but yes, along the way, you do learn to take advantage of a good market,” he admits with refreshing candour.
The biggest boon of the growing interest in art, feels Manu, is that it’s finally becoming a career option. “You know, I don’t mind if you call it the art market - that’s the unadorned reality of the situation. But when I had started painting, it wasn’t because the market was good but because I wanted to - and I had to struggle for 40 years. But today, people can afford to take up painting as a full time profession,” he says.
But isn’t it also true that with almost everyone trying their hand at painting, there’s suddenly a glut of artists in the market, many of whom know little about its intricacies?
“For that matter, there are even a lot of gallerists and collectors who don’t know good art from bad,” he chuckles. “But amateurism will only work for a while, not forever.”
Having said that, he doesn’t shy away from complimenting those who deserve it. “I feel people shouldn’t be insecure about admiring other’s works. Not only do I like the works of others, I also collect them. In fact, many artists I know are also serious collectors,” says Manu. “In the overall sense, I’d say I quite admire the works of Rabindranath Tagore, Souza, Hussain, Ramaswami, Bhupen Kakkar and my wife Madhvi.”
This senior artist is a forceful proponent of preserving the uniqueness of Indian art. “We should not lose touch with our roots and should be faithful to the Indian point of view - because it is part of our very identity,” he signs off.