Publication: The Times of India
By Misha Pillai
CHANDIGARH: Manu Parekh\'s matter of fact simplicity is in sharp contrast to the studied sophistication of the art circles he inhabits. In the city for a five-day art workshop being organized by the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi from September 12 to 16 as part of the Chandigarh Arts and Heritage Festival, 2014, Manu and Madhavi Parekh appear to be at ease in an otherworldly sort of way.
Small talk certainly does not come easy to the couple and this is one of the contradictions their work is known for. Manu Parekh\'s art shakes you up, forcing you to think and acknowledge the deeper reality within. He looks for humans in people, capturing every moment of humanity in consort with nature. His work, whether in the field of art or craft stems from the soil. The bright colours and rich symbolism could tempt you into calling his work abstract but there\'s something undeniably realistic on the canvas. The reality in abstraction comes from watching people up close and feeling every frisson of emotion they evince. That depth of perception is what he got from Calcutta and Benaras.
"There\'s such life in the two cities. I lived in a dingy room in Calcutta but felt so alive in the sea of humanity. In Benaras, I was fascinated by the play of light. Both God made and man made. God\'s light was visible in starlight, the changing hues of the sky and the playful ripples shimmering in the waters. Man\'s light was at its mellow best in the evening aarti. There was light and learning," he said.
There is no dearth of light and learning in the work of Madhavi Parekh, his wife. Dressed in a grey-brown sari with her salt and pepper hair bunched up in a severe bun, she peers at the world through her glasses, giving you the feeling she is looking through you.
Madhavi\'s life has been influenced by Manu, who she was betrothed to as a child. Years of international recognition has not weathered down the village woman from Gujarat who carries her rural identity with elegance. "I have seen the world but I always carry images from my village in my mind. I visualize the fields, the sky, the birds and the life." Sure enough, these are recurring themes in Madhavi\'s art.
Respect for rural life is a common element in Manu and Madhavi\'s work. "You find such strength in a village. There are strong women in the hinterland. There was one Gangadevi in our village, who was turned out of the house because she could not have children. She went on to become a famous artist. There are intense stories of personal transformation in villages," said Manu, as the couple walk off to a bunch of young art students waiting for them. His parting remark is, "You need special cunning to look for the light when everything around you is dark."