Self-taught artist and author, Manish Pushkale lives in his South Delhi home with his studio in the basement of the building. The façade faces the Chor Minar (Tower of Thieves), a 13th-century minaret built under the rule of Alauddin Khilji. The back-yard of the house shares the wall with a temple. A trustee of the Raza Foundation, Pushkale literally and metaphorically lives between history and religion. We talk to him about his love for the arts and philosophy.
Tradition of hanging on the wall came from my maternal grandparents
I grew up in Bhopal and my grandparents lived in a small town, Sagar, in Madhya Pradesh. It houses the illustrious Gaur University that lead to the town becoming an educational hub for the region. My family never had direct interest in arts, but I distinctly remember seeing walls adorned with Ravi Verma oleographs, tapestry on the floor, and mirror-work on the ceiling of the living room. Aesthetics was a way of life.
Two significant events of 1983 shaped my life
I was ten years old when the Bhopal Gas tragedy happened. We lived just off the city centre. There was no television or mobile phones then, so news travelled slower. As a result, the morning after the incident was usual for us and I left for school. It was customary to see stray animals and busy road-side shops, but that morning I saw dead cows and silent roads. On reaching school, I was told school would remain closed. By the time I walked back home, there was mayhem on the streets. It was the biggest exposure to death for me at that impressionable age, and I too inherited breathing allergies and asthma having been exposed to poisonous gas on that ill-fated morning. It was also in this year that Bharat Bhawan, an arts complex and museum, opened doors in the city. It was early days of the institution but the energy was palpable. I had not seen architecture like that before. Everything at Bharat Bhawan was wonder for me. From then on, seeing exhibitions, experiencing artists working in studios, listening to conversations, I soon knew that art was my calling.
My exposure was to a holistic creative world
I am equally fascinated with tribal practices, as I am with urban arts. I saw all this in one space, in one frame. Watching Kumar Gandharv perform and witnessing intellectual debates between say a theatre actor and a painter was most enriching. And these were not formal discussions, rather casual conversations. For me it was an ultimate amalgamation. I hear poetry in a painting and see sculptures in theatre. I am therefore not a product of a Bengal, Bombay, or Baroda “school”. I am a product of an institution, both by way of my artistic choices and aesthetic sensibilities.
The first artwork I ever collected was a gift from the noted painter
Jangarh Shyam and I are probably the two artists who fully credit Bharat Bhawan for our education. We started our careers together and remained very close friends till he passed away. The first ever work of art that I owned was a gift from him. It was for no occasion and there was no commercial value for it then. I still have it preserved and honestly it is priceless for me. I distinctly remember that the second work I got was from Motilal Jogi, who I believe is an unsung song. He is a tribal artist who worked with tie-and-dye technique using paper.
Collecting art gradually became a habit
As my exposure expanded, my interest deepened into owning art. The motivation was never wealth or commerce or investment. It became incredibly important for me to surround myself with works that had depth. This was never restricted to fine art. Crafts, folk arts and even books became an area of interest for me. I continued to buy, but a large portion of my current collection is owing to art works exchanged; it was more an exchange of an idea, a belief system.
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