Oil on canvas, the key to the painting’s theme reflects in the old proverb : ‘the walls have ears’, that is, ‘the walls do hear’. In the painting the proverb seems to have changed to ‘the walls have eyes’, that is, the walls do witness whatever takes place and store it : rise and fall of empires, magnificence and grandeur, cruelties, betrayals and instances of injustice, blood-shed and vengeance, annals of mad love, great sacrifices, and love’s failures, unnourished children crawling deathwards, helpless parents selling their loved daughters for money, great masters with compassion in eyes for suffering masses … With the mad pursuits of love of Baz Bahadur and Roopmati the walls of their palaces at Mandu, their love’s witness, still seem to move. On the marble-clad walls of Musammam Burj at Agra’s Red Fort, where the Mughal emperor Shahjahan was his son Aurangzeb’s captive, the agony and the painful death of a helpless emperor, the most luxurious of all Mughal rulers, more blatantly reveal than does the marble’s translucent brilliance.
The mud-wall of a poor man’s hut is Iravan’s lifeless severed head that witnesses what even the living eyes fail to do : a dream emerging in an eye and dying pre-mature; a grain of food taken away even before it reached the lips of its inhabitant’s child, a helpless father with bowed head bidding adieu to his daughter bare-handed, deaths without medicines, childhood without milk, bodies in bare loincloths, a bent spine at thirty, a child, a girl or a boy, put at a construction site at seven or eight ... In a subsequently added tradition to the great epic Mahabharata Iravan, the Arjuna’s son of Ulupi, a princess of a serpent clan with half serpent-half woman form, was killed the eighth day of the Great War but his spiritual desired prevailed and he was able to witness with the eyes of his severed head hung on a tree, to the last and far and wide, even the minutest event taking place in the Great War. Not human anatomy, walls have perhaps Iravan’s severed head and the spiritual desire to witness, and this face : a wall’s face, manifests it.
A simple piece of canvas, rendered using oil colours, or rather a blend of them except red used in its basic tone for drawing an electric wire and a few rose-petals, it seems to represent a wall-part carved with features of a human face contained in a square frame : elegant and perfectly modeled lips, a nose as composed of two separate parts, the cylindrically terminating vertical, and the symmetrically carved well defined nostrils, curving thick roundish eyes fully covered under bell-like shaped eyelids, as if assembled separately, and the eyebrows perfectly aligning with nose-line creating the effect of a typical Victorian building having a front elevated with a pair of tall portals with circular apexes joined by an intermediary pillar. Cracks revealing all-over is obviously suggestive of a wall with stucco forms. The artist seems to have used the negative and positive energy wires to symbolise the energy’s under-current which defines both, the face immersed in deep thought, and the two wires.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.