For the love of art...
“While Roohi described the christening of these paintings called The Needle, and reflected on the
Even as I hear Manisha Gera Banswani talk about her friend, the Pakistani artist Roohi Ahmed while taking me through the austere but sharp works of the latter in her eclectic Gurgaon home, I can sense that for the painter art is something that touches the soul, a calming balm that she has secured a relationship with. Why else, would she narrate this poignant story to me while talking about Roohi. Because somehow, when she sees these works in her bedroom, she is reminded not just about her Roohi but also about her own parents. In that, her ties are deep…
Spending a balmy December afternoon with Manisha in her nest, accompanied by anecdotes from her sojourns with art, artists, travels and life, can be quite an intoxicating reverie. Especially when the strains of Ustad Amir Khan’s thumri and a warm homemade lunch heightens the experience. To watch the painter in her studio poring over her latest creations as you take in all the prettiness that the home contains, is something I hadn’t experienced in a long, long time.
Manisha does not take credit singlehandedly for the gorgeous collection of art the Baswanis have collated over the years. It is a labour of love of her and her husband, Rahul, whose taste and eye was honed as a child when he was growing up with his paternal uncle, Ravi Baswani, the popular actor. “Their house used to reverberate with the jocund
We cannot help but be affected by the antique Pichwais, the sizeable owl memorabilia collection, the banana fibre pieces from Kenya, the bowl of feathers (something that has piqued her creative faculties more than enough) and a tray of shell installations that the couple bought from a random shop in Goa. “We started collecting when art wasn’t an investment and stopped when everything became so commercial. We chose artists who were yet to be famous because we gravitated towards them out of love. That’s why we feel so deeply about our collection that includes all kinds of names like Jeram Patel, Gopi Krishna, Jyoti Bhatt, Attiya Shaukat, Nasreen Mohamedi, Aisha Khalid, Sarbari Roy Chowdhury, Laxma Goud and FN Souza.” And, every piece of work elicits a different feeling out of the house-proud lady, thoughts that fill up the better half of our afternoon.
An artist who was mentored by A Ramachandran, Manisha broke into the art aficionado’sGita Govinda by Jayadeva. Rooted deeply in her Indianness, the artist’s works reflect her ethnic and earthy fervour. However, there are the contemporary flickers that appear through James Bond and Elvis Presley in her interesting canvases.
We notice a certain inclination towards the miniature style in her paintings because of their intricacy and finesse. She also has a knack to seek beauty in things that wouldn’t mass a muster in our eye. A motley of pebbles, a raincoat from the Northeast, beehives and wasphives… for Manisha, every single thing that affects her mind’s eye, finds a place in her home, a space, replete with a bunch of chirping parakeets, which has grown organically with its owners.
At Manisha’s home art and life seamlessly blend to form a harmonious world. You hardly recognise