ASHWINI – An exhibition that inhabits within, the relationship an artist holds with his wife, how the practice is collective and that their children and canvases inhabit a precarious economy that is survived through love. Ashwini means ‘Powerful and Complete’. The Sanskrit etymology of word comes from the one who tames the horses or light. Ashwini is the artist’s wife.
Pisurwo, the living incarnation of Picasso and MF Hussain explores in his solo exhibition a front that is personal and existential. Stories inhabit the show, of how his wife had saved the brush that had been signed by Hussain, she stuck translucent, preventing the deluge of Bombay from rubbing off the black marker signature on the wooden handle. Since the deluge in 2005 where he lost innumerable paintings Pisurwo has contested his space in the art world. Rather than succumbing to mockery or contempt, he has laboured on to make exhibitions in Bangalore, Delhi, Jalgaon, Mumbai, Dubai, Paris, Kuwait, London, New York and other cities, disrupting the conditions that allow one to be an artist today.
He is sure to receive the recognition his predecessors of his incarnation have arrived at. Picasso after his death went to live in the in the caves of Ajanta, away from Europe taking birth as Pisurwo in 1977, Hussain upon meeting Pisurwo realised who he was and decided to hand over his brush, this brush was akin to the Guru handing over his wisdom and taking samadhi or blissful eternal death. Pisurwo continues his practice with his wife, daughter and son. A story he believes and we believe as his friends.
“TO LIVE TO PAINT TO LIVE”
Looking at Pisurwo’s work, the first thing we notice is the omnipresence of the human face. The more naturalistic works and the portraits, practiced by the artist since the beginning of his career until now – and probably forever – give us the entering point in his world.
His way of engaging with the portrait, which could be wrongfully read as a classical attitude, is very much influenced by the years passed as a street portraitist, by all the constraints and the context of the job: the drawing has to be fast, the result must be resembling and satisfying for the subject/buyer. There is no study of the psychology of the character, no gaze through his mind and soul, just his blank appearance – just Pisurwo’s swift and secure lines. Nothing but pure drawing. And when this manner is freed by those constrains, it becomes the medium for the real content of his portraits and naturalistic sketches: his relationship with the characters. His wife, his children, his family, the professors that helped him, the painters that inspired him, everyone is there in a familiar and intimate universe held by Pisurwo’s care and will to honour them. His numerous sketchbooks are filled to the brim with drawings, faces, bodies, and always his signature, that he marks on the paper as a real creative act, along with the date and, strangely enough, the time at which the sketch was taken. This seemingly irrelevant detail demonstrates that for Pisurwo drawing is more then the simple registration of world around him, it is the immediate translation of that world, the almost instantaneous transcription of forms. Simply put, sketching has become one with the act of seeing, his own way of perceiving reality.
In his studio near the Ajanta caves, portraits are not Pisurwo’s only occupation. Next to this mystical site, Pisurwo seems to be visited by all sorts of images, or even, of spirits. Yakshinis and yakshas, kings and queens and mythological figures invade his canvases in a dreamlike state that echoes cubist aesthetics and M.F.Hussein work. An immense cosmogony unravels before us as we witness the spirits suffer, rejoice, engage in dialogue or in sexual acts; we see them merge and overcome duality. As an obsessively repeated facial pattern, they saturate the page or the canvas, leaving nothing except their presence for us to see. From the smallest drawing to the largest canvas, this horror vacui could come from his relation and incessant observation of the Ajanta cave paintings themselves, evolved and transformed through Pisurwo’s sensibility. This overflowing of signs, lines, marks and gestures is profoundly characteristic of his work. Plates, family photos, house walls, insignificant objects, leafs, stones and even a dead cockroach, nothing is spared, everything is a suitable support for his magmatic creativity: an all-over that could cover hills, mountains, us all and the entire world.
A personal quest for meaning that, by engulfing everything around him, engages us in a journey beyond reality itself.
Painting as breathing,
drawing as living,
art as a way of being.
– Niccolò Moscatelli
One Wednesday afternoon in 2003, as I walked to the Goethe Insitut at Max Muller Bhavan, Kala Rhoda, Bombay, on the pavement art gallery a young man was drawing with fat black ink stokes cubist renditions. Those portraits were immediately pleasing and curiosity made me strike a conversation with Pisurwo Jitendra Suralkar. I was 20 and had started a gallery in the apartment of a relative which metamorphosed into Gallery Art & Soul; it still exists in a larger space and concentrates on the decorative art scene. But somehow among the many exhibition happenings I curated in her space, Pisurwo’s drawing would form part of the exhibitions. Soon I left for France, we lost in touch until we reconnected through Facebook in 2015.
He is a loner, born into a family of cultivators on a hill above the caves of Ajanta, Buddhist Caves that date from 2nd Century BCE he studied in a local art school that was run by the surrealist painter Gulzar Gawali. He lives in a distant suburb of Shahad, in the Thane district, and since 2015 has been Clark House’s warhorse, for Pisurwo is the embodiment of our energy and the quest for collective emancipation. Pisurwo does not shy away from his ambition to break through dungeon of misrepresentation and inaccessibility. His performance is relative and real and ongoing. Pisurwo (1977) is a performance, or as the art critic Abhijeet Tamhane would say a retrospective in life.
Pisurwo stands for the initials of his parent’s names, MF Hussain and Picasso. Pisurwo will make you accept and understand that he is the living incarnation of Picasso and Hussain, its rightful inheritor and for good reasons. I haven’t met an artist who has had an independent view on life, more vehemently defended if questioned than Pisurwo. He had been one of the founders of the Street Art Gallery at Kala Ghoda initiated by an artist Shenoy and the municipal commissioner to help poor artists who could not afford the rent of the Jehangir Art Gallery. A motley group of men and women would then organise shows on the street on metal hangars largely producing art for tourists and passerby aficionados. But Pisurwo soon rebelled at the easily peddled aesthetic that was introduced as a clause to membership.
– Sumesh Sharma, Paris 2017