THE DAILY Bombay Saterday Nov 12 1988

ART NOTES

AT THE BajaJ Art Gallery this week(Nov. 6 to 14) we have Bhaskar Hande giving us an exhibition of exquisite paintings and drawings. Bhaskar has already given a number of group and one-manshows abroad during the last two years.

Bhaskar has had an interesting career starting in the film industry as a publicity banner artist, then emerging as an artist of distinction from the J.J. School of Art, Bombay. Thereafter, he has had a rewarding stint at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts at the Hague, in Netherlands and has obtained a diploma in monumental painting and design from the same institution.

In the present exhibition, he gives us 27 of his paintings executed in such different media as drawings with Japanese ink with brush, acrylics and oils on paper, oils and canvas, mixed media and so on.

An outstanding painting of his is one of a mixed media on canvas, a large square panel of great beauty with reds and yellows splashed in abundance which could well adorn any drawing room with distinction. The drawings on the other hand are exe cuted in somewhat gloomy tones.

- R.T. Shahani

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Bhaskar Handé: no more a country bumpkin

8 THE SUNDAY TIMES OF INDIA, DECEMBER 9,1990

Poised for a take-off

He might have been a farmer but chose to be a painter. And a poet. Dilip Chitre traces Bhaskar Handé's journey from the village of Umbraj, near Pune to the Hague. Handé's exhibition opens at Artists' Centre, Bombay, on December 17

CENTRESTAGE

BORN in a family of Maratha farmers in Umbraj near Pune, Bhaskar Handé was hardly likely to have gone to art school in Bombay in the first place. Art is not the sort of crop his family comprehends yet. All his surviving brothers are farmers and all his sisters are married to farmers.

After passing out of high school, Bhaskar came to Bombay looking for an opportunity to study further. But first he had to fend for himself. This he did by doing a variety of interesting odd jobs. He distributed newspapers to vendors, mixed prescription medicines for a physician as a com-pounder, painted cinema hoardings and so on, while finding admission to the Sir J. J. Institute of Applied Art from where he did his diploma in Commercial Art.

It was around this time, in the late '70s that I met him. At that time, I myself happened to be earning my bread-and-butter in that very profession as a copywriter and designer, occasionally making advertising short films on the side. Bhaskar was looking for work when he crossed my path.

Though he met me as a commercial artist, I recognised the Maratha farmer in Bhaskar at first sight. About three hundred and fifty years ago, Bhaskar's type joined Shivaji's guerilla bands and, when not at war, returned to farming. Many of them were devout varkaris who sang bhajans with poet-saints like Tukaram, in which case they had no taste for war and no great worldly ambition as farmers. In such a community, to become an artist seems to be a useless and disgusting novelty. But that is what Bhaskar was bent upon doing.

Bhaskar did not try to conceal gavran ("wild") Marathi accent.

Though he had lived in Bombay for a length of time, he had traces of the country bumpkin in him. These were only accentuated by his American style of dressing and "art school bohemian* behaviour. I was hugely amused when he told me that he could do anything and everything required of a commercial artist. Illustration? No problem. Layout? Of course. Typography? Sure. Photography? Why not? Graphics? Anytime. Exhibition displays? Love them. Film storyboards? Will try.

How could anyone refuse the opportunity to work with such a versatile fellow? But Bhaskar was not being boastful when he claimed that he was the artistic equivalent of a Swiss Army knife. He was indeed useful in many ways. He was innovative. He was

always willing to experiment and never afraid of learning from errors. He was very enthusiastic. He was hardworking and reliable. But his most endearing quality was that he was broke but did not want to stay in that divine condition forever. This made him work harder.

It always seemed that he wanted to get away to somewhere else and his present situation was only

some sort of a halfway stage. My instinct was right on. One day Bhaskar confessed to me that he wanted to go out of India, get advanced training in art, get the experience of working in a really competitive artistic environment, et cetera.

Now, many people say this. But there are varying degrees of seriousness and keenness, restlessness and ambition. Bhaskar seemed not only keen but curiously determined. It occurred to me then that Bhaskar knew no foreign language - not even English. The only language other than his native Marathi that he knew was Hindi. Where in the world could he go and join an advance art institute?

'We short-listed the institutions which we thought would accept

Bhaskar without any great hitch and which would suit his plans for the immediate future. I knew that Bhaskar had absolutely no money and he would have to raise it all alone if anyone offered him admission. He would not be allowed to work in most foreign countries and at least in the first semester anywhere, he must pay for his tuition as well as boarding and lodging. Eventuallly, Bhaskar got an optimistic response from the Netherlands. The rest, as they say, is history.

Rules for getting visas are tough, especially for Indians. So Bhaskar was an acceptable export. Since he was an art student, there was no question of brain drain. Nobody wept. The country lost nothing. On the contrary, it gained a potential N. R. I. Everything was perfectly in order.

But this is only the beginning of the story. In 1983, a new chapter open s in the life of Bhaskar Handé. He leaves his native village, Umbraj in Pune district, behind. He leaves his contemporaries in the Sir J. J. Institute of Art as well as in the advertising profession .in Bombay. He begins to struggle with the Dutch language and the European life-style. He starts school in a very unfamiliar environment. He has very littie money and a very uncertain life ahead. Bhaskar Handé had started writing poetry in Marathi a little before he left India. In the Netherlands, writing poems became his regular encounter with himself in his mother-tongue. His poems became for him a sort of journal of his soul, a self-accounting activity.

He had kept in touch with me through letters and during his occasional visits to India. I had been seeing his drawings and paintings at least through the medium of transparencies and prints, catalogues and brochures; but I had not seen his poems all together. When I did see them, I was impressed.

It was very obvious that Bhaskar Handé needed to write poems as much as he needed to draw and paint. Without making other kinds of value-claims, I would like to remind readers here that this used to be a characteristic of 'the Renaissance personality". Being specialists is the sterile and defensive pride of alienated and fragmented people. It is proof of vital rapports lost while succumbing to the division of labour that rules our present systems-society. I am glad when a practicising physician like Gieve Patel paints, writes poetry, and conceives plays. Or when a Bhupen Khakhar writes prose. Or when an Arun Kolatkar sings and a Mani Kaul paints. Doing other things as well is having other dimensions as well. To be valuable to oneself is the beginning of the awareness of the value of mankind as a whole.

Bhaskar Hande's first collection of poems, 'Dashak' - which means "Decade* - is being published now in Marathi. This handsomely designed book also contains Bhaskar Hande's drawings. Ten selected poems from *Dashak" - one for each year of his life starting from 1981 - have been turned into poster-poems by Bhaskar.

I feel that Bhaskar Hande's career as an artist-poet is poised for a take-off. The work he has recently exhibited in the Netherlands and in France is beginning to show his strongly emerging individuality. All of it is non-representational painting but it has remarkable technical and thematic coherence. His current work is almost an illustration of the process of an artist's moulting, ' when he is shedding his stylistic feathers and changing plumage.

A 'decade* in anyone's life is a long time. In visual arts terms, it is mural-size space. 'Dashak' contains a personal history that can be read as objective history as well. The "80s was not a tranquil decade for India and Indians. This i s reflected in Hande's poem s though it does not surface in his work as a painter. I see Hande's work in both painting and poetry, however, as a criticism of the culture that produced himself. The poetry counterbalances the painting: it is turbulence versus tranquility in a delicate equilibrium.

During the last seven years, Handé has had one foot in India and the other in Europe. His dual mental life, his work as a painter and his self-reflection as a poet, must provide a different kind of energy as well as unique thematic substance. His umbilical cord buried in Umbraj, this lonely mavla now lives in the Hague and wanders all over Europe. That is quite a psychological distant" even this day!

Independent Bombay Nov 23, 1990

Bhaskar Hande: he travelled to many places in India and Europe, looking for a village that in some way resembled the one in which he had spent his idyllic childhood

Looking for a village that got lost

Bhaskar Hande, who spent his childhood in a lovely village near Pune, was shocked to discover one day that the village ceased to exist: it went under the waters of a dam. The trauma made him turn inwards, and seek his roots in poetry and painting. Santan Rodrigues meets the artist, who now lives in Holland

A DESERTED village inspired Oliver Goldsmith to write an entire poem which became a part of English literary history. How does one react to a missing villa-ge? Does one write an eerie poem as Edgar Allan Poe did or resort to the mystery novel genre? For Bhaskar Hande, the experience of the lost village was traumatic, and it transmitted itself in poems and paintings. His search for a village resembling his own took him to various places in India and Europe but he did not find what he was look-ing for, and ultimately had to be content with expressing his vision in words and colours.

The Hague-based Hande was born in 1957, in Umbraj, a village near Pune. It was a typical countryside scene-an old village based on Hindu architecture. The village, nestling beside a river, was a world complete in itself with just a gate as the point of entry. Once the gate was shut, the village was closed to the world outside. In such idyllic settings did Hande spend the first 18 years of his life, swimming in the river, striding up the village paths and exercising his body and mind in a rural haven.

His first culture shock came during his visit to Bombay as a student at the J J Institute of Applied Arts. He was studying advertising which exposed him to the modern world where speed was of the essence. It forced him to re-orient his thinking. But soon another sense of loss overbook him. In 1976, his entire village went under the waters of a dam that was just coming up. Suddenly, the place ceased to exist: there was only a reservoir now. He had to accept the fact

that the world can change, just as life does, and this truth began to haunt him till the artist/poet in him began to emerge.

Hande however denies that this loss of familiar symbols of early childhood forced him to abandon figurative painting. "Figurative painting is just object drawing. It comes in poetry and painting as mere symbols. I study every time I paint. I enjoy myself with colours. The forms that come on canvas are different from what I see every day. It is a combination of expression and impression. What I see sometimes lingers in my mind and then struggles to come out. It is a combination of poetry and painting. But the poems are not about my paintings nor are the paintings about my poems. They are separate entities and have a life of their own. One can call the paintings colour poems. The poems are more spontaneous thoughts that get processed before being written down."

His meditative and philosophical attitude comes through his work. His poems do take in

the folklore of the village, but they have been transformed. and take on an universal meaning. This is true of the paintings in which he uses primary forms like the sphere, the circle, the triangle, and the point. The concept of duality and interdependence also occur in his work. The interdependence of the heart and the mind is reflected in the interdependence of the abstract and the real. His old village which is an abstract world is juxtaposed against the new settlement that has come up for the uprooted villagers.

Though Hande has studied commercial art, he has always been interested in paintings. He also did cinema hoardings for a while. Then, in 1985, he went to study monumental designing and painting in Holland. Bombay's lifestyle had stifled the artist in him. "I chose Holland because I wanted to get to art through a new language. Also, since Paris and London were passe, I wanted to experience a new world altogether."

Did the Dutch masters influence him? "I was influenced by Rembrandt's use of light and Van Gogh's determination to paint what he liked. In my film poster period, I played around with colour combinations and colour schemes. I have now begun to search for real colours. I had started painting opaque colours and then switched over to the light method. Now I use both.

"In Amsterdam, people saw my paintings and invited me to exhibit in their galleries. Since my subject is not regional, but universal, it is very easy to relate to my work." To ensure that more people would get an opportunity to see his work, Bhaskar has published Kaleido, a uniquely designed set of nine print of his paintings (silk screens and hand paintings) that comes wrapped in cloth and gives the impression of a kaleidoscope. Earlier, he had published a book Encounter, where his woodcuts and graphics 'encounter' the poems of the Dutch poet Adriaan Mor-rien. Both worked completely independently in this book. The universal and philosophical elements in their work converge, giving art and poetry lovers a rare treat.Soon Hande is to have his. exhibition in Bombay. His collection of poems in Marathi, Dashak - The Decade - will also be published on this occasion. The paintings will be based on these poems, which cover the last 10 years of his life. Hande, who also writes poetry in English, plans to employ animation, which he studied, to open new vistas to his art.

Times of India/Pune Plus Wednesday, March 9, 1994

Visual tribute to Tukaram

Bhaskar Handed depiction of Vithoba.

TUZE Roop Maze Dene,'

a unique visual arts exhibition about Marathi devotional poetry, will be inaugurated at the Mahatma Phule Museum here on Thursday.

Mr Bhaskar Hande, a Marathi artist from Holland, told pressper-sons here today that on display would be paintings in various media, graphic in different techniques and models of sculptures.

These are a response of a modern artist to one of India's greatest poets, Sant Tukaram.

Mr Hande was born in Umbraj, near Dehu where Tukaram was born, but has been living in Europe for the past 9 years.

The exhibition has been sponsored by, the 'Bhakti Abhyas Peeth, ' because it is the first large scale effort by any contemporary artist to interpret the work of a poet, famous for his devotional poems. Hande's leitmotif is the key image of Vithoba, which has been given varied geometric and perspec-tival treatment. Semi-abstract objects familiar to the people of rural Maharashtra, tools and implements used by farmers or rural housewives for example, spring up in striking forms and compositions throughout these works. Many of

Tukaram's poems have picturesque, vivid visual imagery. They become texts for Hande's paintings.

'Bhakti Abhyas Peeth' has been founded for the study of 'bhakti' in all its .socio-cultural dimensions. It proposes to establish four centres of research and museums at Dehu, Nevase, Paithan, and Pandharpur.

By A Reporter PUNE, March 8

Pune Times of India March 23, 2000

Dehu's Dutch connection devotes art gallery to poet-saint Tukaram

Rahul Chandawarkar

ASK 43-year-old artist Bhaskar Hande of Pune, now a Dutch citizen settled in the Hague in the Netherlands, what the secret of his happiness and success is, and he simply says, "Tukaram". Not surprisingly, Hande is about to throw open a nearly 2,000 square feet art gallery in Aundh for all forms of art and crafts related to the poet saint of Dehu. For Hande, who grew up in the village of Umbraj, a few kilometres away from Tukaram's Dehu, this is his way of giving back.

It was a childhood initiation for Hande, as he grew up on a diet of melodious Tukaram abhangs and village theatre based on Tukaram's life. Hande had a tough life as a youngster, having painted cinema billboards in Mumbai for a living. However, a formal diploma in applied art from the reputed J J school of art in Mumbai changed his fortunes permanently. He winged his way to the Netherlands and has never looked back. Today, the unassuming Hande is as successful as they come, what with 40 one-man shows and 75 group shows behind him in Europe in just the last ten years!

Hande, however, says he has had a roller-coast er life, with plenty of ups and downs. A life that ha' seen him criss-cross the globe between the I Netherlands, Umraj, Paris, London and Pune for the last 20 years. Hande say: he has kept his peace of mind through a thorough reading of Tukaram's works. "It is largely Tukaram's messages and

my village moorings that have helped me appreciate the deeper meaning of life," he points out.

Hande has gained fame for his abstract interpretations of Tukaram's abhangs which, he claims, have provided discerning audiences in Europe with peace and tranquility. Hande has also been a prime mover in an annual exchange of artists between India and the Netherlands since 1997.

However, Hande is not just an artist. He is a poet also and has penned his first Tukaram-inspired poem at age 21 and has been writing regularly ever

since. However, it was the joint literature-cum-art exhibition that Hande did with Tukaram scholar and poet-writer Dilip Chitre in 1989 that actually triggered off a series of exhibitions on the Tukaram theme. In fact, creative personalities like Chitre, Hande, Mehboob Shaikh and photographer Sandesh Bhandhare have come together to exhibit their respective works in a unique literature, art and photographic exhibition at the Balgandharva Rangmandir from March 21 to 24. The exhibition is scheduled to end with a symposium on personal interpretations of Tukaram to be aired by several scholars on March 24 at the Phule hall on Kumtekar road.

It is precisely this need to preserve creative work on Tukaram under one roof that has inspired Hande to start the art gallery in Aundh. Hande says the art gallery, which will be run by a trust, will allow free access to anybody wanting to study Tukaram under one roof. As Hande says, "We are just trying to emulate Tukaram, who managed to preserve his lifetime's work in one volume. We are trying to do our bit under one roof. That is all."

Book Encounter\ Ontmoeting 1989 BHASKAR HANDÉ AND HIS WORK

The Artist

The Hague-based artist Bhaskar Handé was born in India in 1957 in the village of Umbra] near Pune in, Maharashtra state. His family was of the Kshatriya caste, a high order of warriors from time immemorial. From generation to generation his forefathers were among the leaders and custodians of the village. The past lives on vividly in this small community and until recently the village had maintained its medieval circular shape with one central entrance. The inhabitants are largely tillers of the land who supply every day one of the most important fruit markets in Bombay, 'Crawford Market'. The village, now housing five thousand inhabitants, maintains original artistic traditions such as the performance of folk dramas, in which Bhaskar a/so took part as a boy. The atmosphere of life in this rural area of India is evoked excellently in the poems by the poet Arun Kolatkar, now also well-known beyond India and part of whose poem 'The Bus' is included here.

The tarpaulin flaps are buttoned down

on the windows of the state transport bus

all the way up to Jejuri

A cold wind keeps whipping

and slapping a corner of the tarpaulin

at your elbow

You look down the roaring road

You search for signs of daybreak in

what little light spills out of the bus

Your own divided face in a pair of glasses

on an old man's nose

is all the countryside you get to see

You seem to move continually forward

towards a destination

just beyond the caste mark between his eyebrows

Outside, the sun has risen quietly

It aims through an eyelet in the tarpaulin

and shoots at the old man's glasses

The adventurous spirit of the young Bhaskar led him at the age of 16 to exchange his sheltered existence in Umbraj for the challenges of the big city Bombay. Thanks to his artistic bent he received commissions to paint cinema hoardings for the great Bombay film industry.

Returning to his native village after several years, the whole world of his youth had disappeared. The authentic historic village had been swallowed up by a reservoir. His parental home, the school, the houses of friends and relatives, the places he had played: everything lay deep underwater with the exception of the age-old temple built high on a hillside which is now only accessible by boat in the rainy season. For the local inhabitants, a new and anonymous village has been built on the edge of the lake. That is how fast things change in the new India. An uprooted Bhaskar Hande returned to Bombay to become a working student at the local art academy. During his study he became friends with part of the new generation of artists: film-makers, actors, writers and poets, fine artists. He performed in a theatre group, travelled much of India with the group and got to know other large cities such as New Delhi and Calcutta. He graduated in 1981 and acquired work at an advertising agency.

At the academy he became acquainted with Western art history and he felt the need to continue his studies abroad. On the advice of friends who had already visited the 'West', he did not select London or Paris, but sought contact with art academies In Japan, the United States, Canada and The Netherlands. The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague was the first to react and he was admitted to the Monumental Painting and Design course in 1982.

A complete outsider, he found himself in this unknown world.

In 1984 he graduated and embarked on the Animation Film course at the Vrije Academic in The Hague, still as a working student.

Since 1987 he has put his paintings on show regularly in The Hague and Amsterdam. He has also developed as a graphic designer and in 1989 he founded his own design studio in The Hague. From time to time he returns to India to see how fast things change in that ancient country. In his work he

has maintained something of the great traditions of his country, only descernable to initiates in the glowing tones and the wilful stylistic language.

His Work

The work of Bhaskar Hande has a meditative and philosophical background and evolves from many biological, economic and sociological systems. His thoughts on this are never still. 'In process', as he himself says. A thought hangs on, attracting more and more attention and then acquires a fixed form that is abstract, combined with thoughts of complexity, parallels and aspects.

Bhaskar is also inspired by time passing, knowing that he himself has to work. His sketches and forms are also a reflection of time, developing in works in different techniques and materials, which in turn contribute to further thought. He has not acquired any specific examples or inspirations from art history. He reads Indian philosophy but also follows the contemporary media and uses it all in his ideas. He does not want to copy or duplicate but to do what he can, be what he is: original. 'It is an individual thought that becomes universal. '

He reproduces his thoughts and influences in visual forms on canvas. Not everyone can read poetry - everyone can experience a painting in his own way. The material must contribute to the whole concept of the work. The invisible thought can be formed with colours, materials, measurements and forms. The mind and the heart are in continuous interaction and cannot be separated. The natural process of thought is meditation. Harmony and balance are the universal values which he wants to express. The circle, the square, the triangle and the oval form symbolize in his work eternal stable values. Intuitive and emotional lines meander within these forms. Rest and restlessness keep each other in balance and the colours provide evidence of a search for this balance. The ratio cannot survive without emotion and Bhaskar Hande's work is as filled with contrasts as life itself.

Robert van Tour

 

PRINTS BY BHASKAR HANDE Part One

The works of Bhaskar Hande originate on the tangent of two cultures and thus occupy a special place both in the Dutch and Indian worlds of the plastic art.

For the Western observer above all the colours he uses in his abstract expressionistic forms are far from commonplace; the yellow, orange, red, ochre and ma genta refer to specific elements of the Indian landscape with its deserts, flowervalleys, mountains, blue skies and purple moonscapes. For this reason his work sometimes becomes figurative, as shapes of leaves and fruits appear.

For instance in a double painting from 1991 the colours the artist uses now to each other remain surprising. The ochre, light green and grey on one side/ the lilac-grey field with the intense grass green on the other, contained with black leaf-shaped motives, cause a rhythm that extends beyond the frame.

Also in the double painting "Between me and myself from 1995 in which he Integrates a kind of fruit motives, Hande creates unexpected and exciting combinations of colours.

In a dynamic arrangement of lines and forms in screen print he sets off a velvety pink against a cornflower blue, which in its turn forms part of a scale of colours varying from aquamarine to purple-blue and grey-black hues.

Bhaskar Hande's paintings and graphic works are never heavy, but rather expresses an uplifting clarity.

In-spite of the above mentioned figurative elements, the abstraction of alternating geometric and irregular forms predominate. It's especially striking that whosoever looks at these works, whether an art expert or not, experiences the calm and equilibrium they radiate. This is the harmony one may reach after a long way has been covered and this is what Hande wants to convey with a total utilization of his craftsmanship and creativity.

But there is more. And it is certainly worthwhile to consider this work on another level after a first perusal, because the artist is showing how he, though connected with his Western environment has his roots in the area around Pune, where he was born. In 1982, at the age of 25, Bhaskar Hande came to The The Hague, where he studied for two years at the Koninklijke Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten. The confrontation with the West gave him a true culture-shock, but he consciously opened himself to the new influences.

It was not the first time in his life he made such a radical change. At 16 he left Umbraj, the village where he was born, to study literature in the hectic city of Bombay.

To make a living he painted huge billboards for the movie industry and so discovered his natural talent for drawing. This made him decide to attend a course at the Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Arts, which he successfully concluded in 1981.

Already in Bombay he resolved that adaptation is the only survival strategy. He also discovered how important it is for him to go on reading philosophical texts and to write poetry. In this way he remained in touch with the Bhakti-movement in which he grew up.

Especially the texts of the 17th century poet Tukaram were decisive for his attitude to life. Text and image were increasingly influencing each other and even-tually Bhaskar Hande found a language of abstract forms to visualize poems by Tukaram

The figurative elements that sometimes appear, directly refer to texts of the poet dealing with everyday things like the tools of farmers or domestic objects.

The stream of creativity springing from his religious view, also expresses itself in his paintings and graphic art in which these symbols are absent. As his work is in perfect harmony witless importance and he easily switches from one culture to another.

In his work Bhaskar Hande tries to attain an individual expression of universal art-forms and thus to contribute to a better understanding between people. The numerous manifestations in which he took part in Europe and in India convincingly prove his idealistic thrust.

Anne Matena Amsterdam .

Your Form is My Creation

"Your form is my creation" is a visual arts exhibition with a difference. It is the first large-scale effort by a contemporary artist to respond to traditional Marathi bhakti poetry. These paintings in various media, graphics in different techniques, and models of sculptures conceived on an architectural scale are the response of one modern (or should one say postmodern) artist to one of India's greatest poets, the Marathi mystic Tukaram. This exhibition is unique on several other counts, too. Bhaskar Hande was born in Umbraj in the Maval region not far from Dehu where Tukaram was born. Though four hundred years apart in time, both share the same native universe. Though Hande has been living in Europe for about thirteen years now and has become a Dutch citizen, his cultural signature has remained the same. He continues to write excellent poetry in Marathi and his paintings are nourished by visual forms that can be traced back to rural Maharashtra. His sense of colour, texture and form is distinctly Indian. In "Your form is my creation" his Indianness comes out even at the conceptual and thematic level. Yet Bhaskar Hande's Indianness is not ethnicity worn on the sleeve. It is the very substance of his cultural identity in a multi-cultural global community of

artists. It is remarkable that he brings the refreshing force of Tukaram's poetic vision into his paintings and sculptures giving them a comprehensive cultural context. Any serious evaluation of these works will have to account for their cultural origin. 'Bhakti Abhyaspeeth' decided to sponsor in India 'Tuze Roop Maze Dene' precisely because it is the first large-scale effort by any contemporary artist to interpret the work of a major bhakti poet or to claim inspiration from traditional bhakti poetry. This is a novel dialogue between the language of poetry and the language of painting in which motifs from the unique religious culture of varkari pilgrims figure prominently. Hande's leitmotif is the key image of Vithoba given varied geometric and perspective treatment by the artist. Semi-abstract shapes and figures of objects familiar to the people of rural Maharashtra. tools and implements used by farmers or rural housewives for example, spring up in striking forms and compositions throughout these works. Many of Tukaram's poems have picturesque, vivid visual imagery. They become texts for Hande at the level of painting. Yet Hande's work is not crudely illustrative or elaborately narrative though subtly suggestive of its cultural origin.

Dilip Chitre

 

BHASKAR HANDE - AN ACCENT NOT WITHHELD

Bhaskar Hande comes from a traditional farmers family in rural India. Though, by choosing to go to Arts School, he distanced himself from traditional parental expectations, his attachment to the land - its past glory; its inherent fertility; its myths and its light and colours - remains the most pronounced accent in his work as well as in his person. Also it is the inherited tenacity and boundless energy that has helped him to arrive at where he is today.

In the early Eighties Bhaskar Hande came to Europe. First as a student at the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague. Then back again to clarify or in a sense to put himself together. Now a naturalised citizen of the Netherlands he is what one might call an "exile" - by choise ofcourse.

The first act, that of discarding a traditional and secure occupation for something as fanciful as Art left him, in the eyes of some, very poor. The second act, the decision to take shelter under the North European sky made him, in the eyes of the same, quite rich. All through this Bhaskar Hande has only been pursuing his own dreams and doing his best to give expression to his own creativity.

Question him about this 'loss and gains' and Bhaskar would just shrug his shoulders and talk to you about the colour yellow. He would point it out to you that transience is characteristic of the colour yellow and therefore traditionally used to represent wealth.

Press on and as he begins to articulate, descriptions become graphic and imagery poetic and one is left in no doubt that not only has he very well preserved the impressions of a childhood spent and a way of life participated in that rural Indian village of Umbraj but what he attempts is to convey all that, selectively, through visual means or at times through poetry.

Every exile, voluntary or otherwise, knows how at times the roots left behind take on the role of a remote controller and momentarily holds way over ones thoughts and actions. Bhaskar Hande when at the receiving end, unsolicited or not, of such jolts from the remote controller, sits of with a bemused smile and tries to work out how he can transmute that in terms of colour and shape. Or perhaps a couplet.

The feelings evoked, he like? to call them 'thin feelings'. Bhaskar can not live with complexity. He must reduce it to its bare minimum. And it should make sense in a larger pattern. A feeling picked out and lit up for scrutiny or contemplation or pure joy before it descends and dissolves in the greater entity.

The Indian writer Dilip Chitre, friend of Bhaskar Hande, wrote a while back -' In the Netherlands, writing poems became his regular encounter with himself in his mother-tongue. His poems became for him a sort of journal of his soul, a self-accounting activity.

The poetry counterbalances the painting: it is turbulence versus tranquillity in a delicate equilibrium".

This distance is far.

This company of incidents;

This sorrow of conjunction.

This night is unquiet.

This bed is motionless.

These crickets,

Nights-worms under the bed

Humming tunes classical

Sings sambhog-rag.

While listening To the breath held.

Poem 1981 far distance, translation DASHAK (Decade) published 1990, Bombay India

The West has provided Bhaskar with a freedom to explore the possibilities in all kinds of materials. He considers that very freedom to select as a great challenge. He seems to cherish it and enjoy it.

Anyone who has been in India must be familiar with the sight of these dark green oval objects plastered up on large areas of walls, left out there to dry. Cow dung cakes, they are. Once dry, they are used as fuel for cooking. To convey this in painting, Bhaskar was looking for a material that would not only provide the texture but would project the heat and warmth that these cakes have absorbed from the sun. Typically, he took it as a challenge and found the answer in a piece of carpet.

Bhaskar Hande is also an avid collector of childrens' drawings and paintings. The child dares to portray the complex world around him or her through simple lines or through bold patches of colour. Bhaskar dreams of being able to plumb the depths of his alienated worlds with the same boldness and daring.

An exile does not really belong. His or her contributions are not readily claimed. Bhaskar Hande is aware of it. But he is not at all fazed by it. What is important to him is that he does not withhold his accent.

To quote Dilip Chitre again - 'During the last seven years, Hande has had one foot in India and the other in Europe. His dual mental life, his work as a painter and his self-reflection as a poet, must provide a different kind of energy as well as unique thematic substance'.

Den Haag, 17th Nov. 1991

Sankaran Harikrishnan .

Blackheath Gallery 1998

As you may have gleaned from his biography, Bhaskar has travelled around this planet a number of times tasting cultures very different from his own Now, with a Dutch citizenship and a house and studio in The Hague, he spends a good proportion of his time in Europe

Having said that, he is still very much a child of his mother country India and commutes regularly to and from Pune, his hometown

Both, his visual work in paint, print and sculpture along with his literary pieces in poetry and verse, give us an interpretation of life as Bhaskar sees it and he displays a deep, sensitive intuition that one would expect from an artist from his culture

I find it difficult to study his work without being reminded of the great artist Brancusi and his preoccupation with equilibrium There is a purity and a sense of balance in the work that is most satisfying to the eye and in many instances achieved with the minimum of imagery He is a man who has tasted success many times for his art and I am pleased to welcome him to Blackheath and to be involved with him and his work on this occasion

New year 2000

I feel that it is right and proper that Bhaskar be included in this significant exhibition celebrating this remarkable year. As I have mentioned previously on other occasions, Bhaskars' painting radiate a warmth and spiritual element that echo the kind of person that he is. Having had a brief glance at some of his latest pieces, I found that the standard is even higher than last years successful exhibition and I assure you that you will not be disappointed.

Join me in making a resolution to take a little more time to enjoy and appreciate those things that elevate the soul and start by making Bhaskars' exhibition a priority

James V Corless NDD Sculp

Blackheath 2001

When one considers either, the structure of a painting, the colour or the subject matter, it is quite common to be disappointed with at least one of those factors within the painting. Of course ones brief differs from person to person and the importance of any one of the above considerations may also differ, and so it should.

When I first saw the paintings of Bhaskar Hande, I was impressed. I had found an artist, relatively unknown in Europe, whose paintings generally satisfied all of the aforementioned areas.

Firstly the question of structure is answered differently in each painting. There is not the stricture; of the 'golden section' with clinical regimentation, instead, with intuitive sensitivity, Bhaskar seems to find an equilibrium in his paintings that would satisfy most.

Again, the colours used in Bhaskar's painting give a satisfaction that I rarely experience. Having sat for prolonged periods in the 'Rothko Room' at the Tate Gallery I have absorbed the wonderful waves of subtle colour that emanate from the great mans paintings, my standards for such have been set very high. Although Bhaskar has an obvious respect for the physics of colour and the juxtaposition of one colour with another etc., he introduces a subtle nuance of colour within each painting that gives that extra magic.

Although I mention the 'subject matter' consideration lastly, I only do so because it is the cohesive component that brings everything together. Most of the paintings have titles that are very personal to the artist and only hint at the message. The rest is for you to interpretate after affording a little time to observe. Here also we have an artist that paints with words. His poetry is very important to him and conveys his attitude to the metaphysical world and one can easily see the natural evocation into his paintings.

I look forward to his next exhibition when I can, if the moment allows, sit in front of my favourite Bhaskar Hande painting and feel satisfaction and peace.

James V Corless BA