Friday, March 06, 2009

Alice Boner's art at Bharat Kala Bhavan

I visited Bharat Kala Bhavan ("Indian Arts House") here in Varanasi the other day, and was really taken by the art of Alice Boner, a Swiss artist who lived in Varanasi from 1936 to 1978. Her 1945 triptych Sristi-Sthiti-Samhara is really psychedelic! Here's part of her story from her page on the Bharat Kala Bhavan site.
Alice Boner (1889-1981) was a Swiss artist and scholar of Indian art who had made Varanasi her home from 1936 to 1978. Trained as a sculptor and with an early interest in Indian art, she came in contact with the dancer Uday Shankar in 1927. In 1930 she traveled with him to India for the first time to organise his dance troupe. This was also the occasion for her discovery of Kathakali. She was instrumental in making these art forms known. When Uday Shankar and his troupe settled in Paris she managed and supported them for five years. She recalls that "this was indeed a direct, vital and effective introduction to India and her colorful life."

In 1935 she moved to India and chose to live in an old house on the Assi Ghat in Varanasi, where instead of sculpture she took to painting. Her themes were the scenes and the people she observed around her and also mythological subjects. She devoted many years to complete her masterpiece, the triptych Sristi-Sthiti-Samhara, also called Prakriti- Visvarupa-Kali. A number of sketches preceded the final form of these three paintings.

About the origin of the Tryptych she writes in her diary:

'It was as if out of my own subconscious the entire creation wanted to break forth. All what I ever had seen or heard, or felt, or thought, all perceptions and feelings were assuming now definite visible and plastic shapes, thus freeing themselves from the dump prison of the Unconscious. It was the whole of Prakrti which I felt flowing from myself.

At the time when these visions occurred to me I still felt my means of expression utterly inadequate to translate them into painting. Yet these visions had left a deep impression. There was no getting away from them.

During this period the conception of Krishna- Visvarupa from the Bhagavad Gita started emerging in my mind. Eventually, the figure of Krishna supporting the whole universe appeared to me as a possible link between the two other subjects of Creation and Destruction. Finally,I began working out the compositions of both Visvarupa and Prakrti.'


Anonymous said...

I really liked her small sculptures in the likeness of Uday Shankar, tiny masterpieces!


Thanks for introduction to the 'Triptych'.