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Your Form is My Creation

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"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.


The  exhibition  "Your  Form  Is My Creation"  consists of about  200 artworks made by the painter and poet Bhaskar Hande.

Bhaskar Hande hails from the state of Maharashtra in India and lives now already for seventeen years in The Hague, The Netherlands,  as an independent artist. In our "Western" eyes his work could be placed within the abstract-expressionism, but on further consideration we find also symbols, colours, forms and shapes reminding us of the culture of his land of origin.

Bhaskar Hande has grown up in the rural parts of Maharashtra where also the great seventeenth-century poet and saint Tukaram lived. The poems and hymns of Tukaram are in our time still part of the everyday life of hundreds of thousands of human beings. The  300  artworks   (paintings,  gouaches,  drawings, lithographe, silkscreens and schulptures) are inspired by the ideas of Tukaram and the  purpose  of  this  exhibition  is  to make  the world of Tukaram accesible  for  a  western  audience,  for  people with  so many other languages in the East, and to enliven it for Marathi-speaking people. It is the intention to circulate the collection in India for one or one and a half  year. The collection  will  travel  further  in  The  Netherlands  and  European Countries.

Every exhibition of the collection "Your Form Is My Creation" will be accompanied with a introduction with the viewing  of  two  films;  "Vari",  a  40-minute  documentary  on  the reformatoric Bhakti-movement in which Tukaram took  part, made by the German professor Gunther Southerner (University of Heidelberg), and a film "Sant Tukaram", made in India, on the life of Tukaram , For this series of exhibition an extensive and multilingual catalogue will be prepared.



Tukaram's stature  in Marathi  literature  is  comparable  to that  of Shakespeare in Engiish or Goethe in German. He could be called the quintessential Marathi poet reflecting the genius of the language as well as its characteristic literary culture. There is no other Marathi writer who has so deeply and widely influenced Marathi literature and literary  culture  since.  Tukaram's  poetry  has  shaped  the  Marathi language, as it is spoken by 50 mil ion people today, and not just the literary culture and language, Perhaps one could compare his influence with that of the King James version of the Bible upon speakers of the English language.  For Tukaram's poetry  is also used by illiterate mill ions to voice their prayers or to express their love of God. Tukaram was born in 1608 and vanished without a trace in 1649. What little  we  know  of  his  life  is  and  reconstruct ion  from his  own autobiographical poems, the contemporary poetess Bahinabai's memoirs in verse and the later biographer of Mar at hi poet-saints,  Mahipati's account. The rest is all folklore, though it cannot be dismissed on those grounds alone.

Tukaram was born a  vaishya at the  middale of the caste hierarchy. A series of traumatic events  in his life,  including the devastating famine of 1629 in which he lost his first wife, made him withdraw from normal life and turn to religion. However, his writing and singing in praise of Vitthal (Vishnu) to ecstatic audiences was unacceptable to the Brahmins who took religion to be their preserve. Consequently he was forced to drown his entire work in a river. He was presumably told by his mocking detractors that if indeed he were a true devotee of God, then  God  would  restore  his  sunken  notebooks.  Tukaram  then undertook a fast-unto-death praying to God for the restoration of his work of a life time. After thirteen days of fasting, Tukaram's sunken notebooks reappeared from the river. They were undamaged.



Tukaram became part of the Bhakti-movement, which was the middle-way between the externes of the Brahmins on the one hand and folk-religion on the other.  Like during Reformation time in Europe there was a tendency towards a direct contact between the devotee and his Gold in his own language, without interference of priests - a pure religion, disposed of the frills added by time and convention. Bhakti was also the most  democratic and egalitarian  community of worshippers, sharing a way of life and caring for all life with a deep sense  of  compassion.  Bhakt i  is  founded  in a  spirit  of  universal fellowship.  Its  basic  principle  is  sharing.  The  deity  does  not represent any sectarian dogma to the worshipper but only a common object of universal love or a common spiritual focus, Poetry is an other express! on of the same fellowship. Tukaram may have written his poems in loneliness but he recited them to live audiences in a shrine of Vitthal. Hundreds of people gathered here to listen to his poetry. There has been described by a contemporary poetess how Tukaram, in a state of trance, chanted his poems while an enraptured audience rocked to their rythm.



Tukaram saw himself primarily as a poet. He has explicitly written about being a poet, the responsibility of a poet, the difficulties in being a poet and so forth.

Tukaram's  genius  lies  for  an  important  part  in  his  ability  to transform the external world into its spiritual analogue. The whole world became a sort of functional metaphor in his poetry, a text. His poems have an apparently simple surface. But beneath the simple surface lies a complex under structure and the tension between the two is always subtly suggested.

The famous "Signature Line" of each poem, "Says Tuka" opens the door to the deeper structure. Aphoristic, witty, satirical, ironic, wry. absurd, startling or mystical, these endings of Tukaram's poems often set the entire poem into sudden reveres motion. They point to an invisible, circular or spiral continuity between the apparent and the real, between everyday language and the intricate world-image that it often innocently implies



The  translation  of  seventeenth-century  Marathi  poetry  in  modern English is a very complicated thing to do, During many periods of his life has Dilip Chitre been doing this, fascinated again and again by the beauty and the relevance of Tukaram's work for present-day life -and  to  make  Tukaram's  poems  and  thoughts  within  reach  of  an international audience.  Dilip Chitre was born  in 1938 in Baroda, India. Among his published works are two collections of his Marathi poems a collection of short stories and an anthology of contemporary Marathi poetry in translation.  Dilip Chitre has so far authored eighteen books, of which the latest is his translation of the 3200-line mystical Marathi poem Anubhavamrut - The Immortal Experience of Being written by the pioneer Marathi poet Shri Jnandev in the 13th century.

Dilip Chitre's Hindi feature film Godam (1983) won the Jury's Special Prize at the Festival des Trois Continents, Nantes, France in 1984. He has recently co-directed and scripted a film for Second German Television (ZDF) Bombay: Geliebte Moloch (Bombay: Beloved Hungry Monster).

Dilip Chitre was a member of the International Writing Program, Iowa, U. S. A. in 1975-76. He has lived and worked in Africa, the U. S. and many parts of India and has lectured in universities in Europe and the U. S. A.He lives at present in Pune. India





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.