On Independence Day last month, I cut the ribbon for the opening of “Chitralaya”- a gallery that nestles in a picturesque locale amidst green woods and meandering streams, in proximity to the Arabian Sea. Art that derives inspiration from these very locales could not have a better home.
The art in question is the passionate output of Peter Lewis, a richly awarded and acclaimed artist who turned 75 that day. A proud statement of Indian art on Independence Day 2011, I thought, since the brush of Peter Lewis displays a very indigenous sensibility.
When I did a write-up on his paintings for a previous exhibition “ Me and My Coast” at Orchid Art Gallery, I recalled that the quest to be authentic took the Painter Paul Gauguin from Paris to the desolate island of Tahiti in the pacific where he ultimately died a lonely death. Beautiful beaches and simple people were the exotic images he craved for his inspiration. For Peter Lewis, this natural and social pageantry is native to his coastal birthplace. His paintings convey this heritage of riches with an intimate eye and affectionate touch.
I myself own one of his paintings of a vivid farming scene. The richness of his landscapes and seascapes compel one to realize both the power and fragility of nature and urge a message of environmental prudence on the thoughtful viewer.
Equally, his portraits of local life capture the growing marginalization of local people and traditional artisans. I remember being moved into a greater sensitivity with his painting of traditional potters waiting for elusive customers in the modern age. I myself wholly abhor blood sport, but his depictions of bull races and cockfights are energetic and authentic to their socio-cultural setting.
Peter Lewis’ paintings reflect his deep faith in the depiction of Christian themes. His secular spirit is on display when Lord Ganesha is evoked as a patron of the creative process, enjoying an expanded role as a Painter wielding art materials.
Many of the paintings evoke the genre of 19th century French Impressionist Painters whose works are auctioned for astronomical sums today. This style is wedded to native themes to constitute a distinctive artistic corpus.
A gallery is a logical outcome for this large body of work, which is also showcasing the evolving young talents in his own family. The American painter grandma Moses was painting at 100 years of age, and the years ahead may see an ever more seasoned touch and mature perspective from this dedicated artist. ” Chitralaya” and its offshoot www. indiancoastalart.com will surely impress the natural and cultural images of a beautiful land in the art consciousness of the world.
– GISELLE MEHTA