Getting a glimpse of Tagore the artist

To mark the 150th birth anniversary of Nobel Laureate Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian Cultural Centre has organised an exhibition of Digital re-prints of Tagore paintings titled ‘Artist Rabindranath Tagore’ at the J.D.A. Perera Gallery, 46 Horton Place Colombo 7 from December 3- 8 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

This exhibition is a celebration of, and tribute to Tagore, the master of many art forms, and one of the greatest and best-known ambassadors of Indian culture– poet, essayist, novelist, dramatist, musician, philosopher, educationist, visionary, activist and artist, all rolled into one.

Founder of Santiniketan - a special school to promote education and the idea of a composite Indian culture in a pluralist and just society, he also composed the national anthems of India and Bangladesh. He was a great humanist whose ideas and ideals continue to be relevant and inspire thinkers from around the world.

As we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of his birth the Indian Council for Cultural Relations has put together this international touring exhibition of digital prints of a selection of his paintings from the collection of Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, as a manifestation of yet another facet of his creativity.

Though Tagore is better known as a poet and writer, his creative genius in the field of modern Indian painting is less understood.

He gave impetus to the emergence of a visual language that could speak of inner conflicts and spiritual depths of human mind very expressively. Although he started painting in the evening of his life, his paintings inspired many artists to pursue an art that manifest a modern way of looking at life and forms. A discrete colour scheme in an expressionist mode, with the central form in a pastel palette and surrounding surface covered in black or another dark colour, endow a restrained translucence to his repertoire.

Pilgrimages to the East (an exhibition of photographs) relating to Tagore’s travels to Southeast Asia, China and Sri Lanka accompanies this exhibition.

This photography exhibition is divided into three sections: The first is Rabindranath’s tour of Southeast Asia [which includes Burma, Singapore, Malaya, Java, Bali, Siam, as well as French Indo-China (now Vietnam)]. The second section covers his trip to China in 1924 and the third section is about his three trips to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1922, 1928 and 1934.

The curator for the exhibition is Supriya Roy. Rabindranath Tagore’s journeys to the East are quite distinct from those he made to the West. The poet was a young 17-year-old during his first trip to the West, which added a touch of romance and a light-hearted joy in life. While his travels to the West had an air of adventure, his travels eastward were like pilgrimages - in the footsteps of his ancestors who travelled to the East from India, carrying a message of Truth and Love.

Tagore’s visits to Sri Lanka in 1922 and 1928 were driven by his attraction for the Buddhist heritage of the island and also to explain his ideal of Visva-Bharati. His third visit to Ceylon, in 1934, was the last foreign tour that he undertook. During this visit, the troupe that accompanied him performed the famous dance-drama Shaap Mochan in various parts of Ceylon and held exhibitions of Indian art.

Tagore was received in Ceylon with a lot of warmth and enthusiasm by the art loving community. The third section of the exhibition is a testimony to the great cultural exchange that took place between India and Ceylon through Tagore.

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