I describe my approach to art as individual, always diffused, a constant response to other works of art-an upsurge of pran shakti or vital life energy. As this may mean I am plowing a lonely furrow in the present, I need to explain why I prefer to define my approach as being pranantarik, or guided by an internal force. Early in my career I built upon the trends that were current and on various movements that rose and fell in the contemporary art of the modern world. The preoccupation of those movements and trends was with mannerism, or formalistic problems of painting and its language. I and many of us in India were conditioned by those attitudes. Gradually, without fully separating, I became aware that the aesthetic insights and realizations of ancient Indian culture could still continue to be relevant today even though they appear opposed in the extreme to attitudes of the modern world. I, who had inherited the art insights and impulses of this ancient land, was at that point a stranger to them. It would be necessary to understand them and if possible correlate my new knowledge to those insights. Works of art in our tradition are symbols and iconic signs of the spirit conceived in a state of trance, embodiments of inner aspirations. The traditional artist was expected to project his vital life force - the pran shakti - and give it naam and roop (name and form) and a habitation. In this older tradition the language of art was the language of the spirit. Having learned this much, I felt a need for clarity in those realizations. It would be necessary to arouse, to discover a state of higher consciousness in order to produce a work of art. The experience was most important, as it triggered many other energies which directed the artist to represent a concrete image
- the image in fact had to emerge out the depths of the artist’s being. I also had to learn that energy released by the concentrated intensity of aesthetic experience appeared at various points in the human body. The artist, through deep absorption in himself, kindled those points. The artists in the ancient culture had to connect this energy with the cosmic energy of the universe, taking all human impulses into account in the process. There was an irrepressible urge and a devouring desire in me to reach out to higher states of consciousness. I firmly believe that it is by a process of unfolding the layers of consciousness that an artist is enabled to participate in the spectacle of the universal life spirit which merges into the life force of the artist accompanied by the majestic rhythmic cosmic order - the Rta in the cosmos. This joyous experience was manifested by Indian artists, poets and musicians in words, notes and lines in their poetry, music and art. By following the insights of the experience of poets and artists, my creative efforts received direction. I gradually understood that through deep and concentrated absorption in self, the process resolving different elements of correlating the art experience and producing a work of art could be directly and spontaneously realized. I was thus able to develop my work in accordance with the movements of the pran shakti or the vital life force which gave it a character of gati or life in action. Prana, or the vital universal life force, carries the artist’s consciousness upwards to higher and higher states. There is no occasion for the artist to make a conscious effort to will or form an image. It is significant that in the Indian tradition the art experience, the process of visualization, and the work of art were a simultaneous and single action, automatic and autonomous. -MORE-
“Yes, you have got it. You have caught my expression. There is character and strength in it. I like it very much.” It was 1931 when Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore had come with his troop of players to Lahore. The poet spoke while they were listening to the music of the Sikh Minstrels and Parasher sketched. Their meeting marks its stamp on the development of Parasher’s art career.
The Amnesia of Grief – Baldev Nagar Camp, Ambala : 1947 to 1949
S.L. Parasher's partition line drawings/sketches
Parasher spent 1945-47 as commandant of the Baldev Nagar Refugee Camp in Ambala. Wrested, like everyone else, from much of what he knew and loved, he spent sleepless evenings walking amongst the refugees and often stopping to sketch the visible evidence of all that was lost. The very fragility of these pieces, they are largely on scraps of available paper, is testament to the nearly impossible journey they have made from that moment to this one. Unlike written records, scant as those are, and unlike recreations such as film, these line drawings are a constant, as real now as they were in the muddy, fly strewn and exhausted moments of their creation.
The School of Arts was established in this quiet mountain town, the
former British summer capital at the foot of the Himalayas. With
brush, pen, and pencil Parasher captured everyday scenes — hill
people, wild mountains, donkey caravans, school children, women
dancing. Did he know this was the matter of a moment, soon to be gone
forever as the place and its 'new' country brought ever swifter changes?
The sketches and studies are often identified, but by a man with a unique
sense of the important: "2 p.m." "red hat, purple tassels" "Thursday" "no
puppets" The sudden community of the 1950's re-appears before us, all
fragments now, caught like late-season snow under the rhododendrons.
In the early sixties, Parasher was acclaimed as one of India’s most significant sculptors and painters. Despite the modern means employed, his works have the vital quality of rhythmic movement which Parasher claims to be the core part of the ancient Indian tradition; he was aware of the contemporary creative trends but found consanguinity where one might have anticipated conflict. He provides proof, if proof indeed is required - “ I do not believe in masquerading in outward trappings. I hold that art must communicate a deeper experience of one’s being, must express some vision, otherwise it sinks down to the level of external mannerism, just sound and fuss signifying nothing. It is my firm conviction that modernity is first and foremost a matter of consciousness. I do not make images because of my desire to follow any particular style. Nor do I make them to seek new or original means of expression. The aim before me in my work is to discover in my mind the lie of the land, and to strike upon the realm of that land, where it is said forms countless and innumerable are continually fashioned and chiseled. I have come to notice that the images I create carry me, as it were, toward that realm.”
In 1959, when Jawarharlal Nehru visited Parasher’s exhibition of sculptures in Delhi, he exclaimed, “Your works are very powerful.” When Le Corbusier selected Parasher’s design for a steel sculpture mural in Chandigarh, he was struck by the intense significance of the forms of his design in relation to the architectural space. “Parasher’s design is ‘most’ interesting.” About this sculpture mural Mulk Raj Anand writing in remarked - “a superb achievement of Parasher.”
Jasleen Dhamija in her article on found, “to my mind, the most exciting mural done so far is done by Parasher at Nirman Bhavan. He has created a mural which is more in keeping with today’s architecture. He uses a pebble surround, within which rise cement concrete shell forms, creating a movement of thrust and counter-thrust. One feels a certain tautness of line and balance of forms. The lines of the pebble background radiate outwards and carry the movement out to the open sky.”
"I describe my Iapproach to art, a constant response to other works of art — an upsurge of pran shakti or vital life energy. As this may mean I am plowing a lonely furrow in the present, I need to explain why I prefer to define my approach as being pranantarik, or guided by an internal force."
- S. L. Parasher -