A magnifcent series of 21 oil paintings sponsored by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations will be exhibited at the Waterhall,Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery from November 5th to 18th.This unique and extraordinary set of canvasses by Kevin Pearsh – the Ganga 21- comes to the UK for the first time.
It marks not only a high point in the history of Anglo-Indian painting but an important climax in the career of the painter.
European artists began to arrive in India during the 18th century to explore and to record begining with the Daniells. This tradition has been strikingly maintained by Kevin Pearsh who began his own study of the life and topography of the sub continent in 1978. Travelling frequently and widely,he has built up a wealthof experience responding to the vibrant colours of India and it’s people and landscapes,and above all perhaps to the light and it’s interaction with water,a major theme of all his work. But,unlike his forebears ,Pearsh, a native Austalian born in Melbourne in 1951,brought with him the inner eye of an artist acclimbed to another vast continent... This innate sense of scale proved a decisive advantage when,in 2006 he conceived the project of traveling the entire 2,500 km length of the Ganges from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal- perhaps first artist to ever do so..
Deeply aware of the intense spiritulity of Indian culture,he was determined to capture not only it’s geographical reality but also the prfound religious significance of the sacred river and mother of Hinduism ,Ganga Ma.
In the spring of 2006 Pearsh begins his journey at Gaumukh in the remote ice ave high in the snow capped mountains where the river first trickles into life,its presiding deity the god Shiva.From here ,he hikes to Gangotri. He resumes in october travelling by every possible means to Varanasi for pictures of Dashawmedh Ghat bursting with animated life and a quiet evening river scene.These flank,at 3.2 metres ,the largest and most complex painting of the series,a multi coloured swirl of water and reflected light,the soul of all. Ittook a third voyage in 2007 to reach the Delta and, finally, two tiny figures tirually bathing before the immensity of sea and sky with,the artist’s title,’A sense of Eternity’.
Two of the most striking images of ‘Ganga 21’ show the giant statue of the Lord Shiva,the sacred presence of the Ganges,looming accross the river. Pearsh likes to think of this ‘more as a curious welcoming than a sculpture’. Another presents a poetic evocation of the Howrah Bridge in Calcutta,it’s gigantic girders,the only evideb^nce of man,a mere cobweb against the misty blue of river and sky dissolving into ether;
A remarkable feature of this impressive series is that humanity,with the exception of the typically crowded scenes of the burning Ghats at Varanasi,only edges quietly into the compositions. A full length figure of a priest stands on the steps of Gangotri which lead from the river up and out of the picture perhaps to heaven itself...A lone fisherman emphasizes the solitude also offered by the Ganges while,in another ,a small boy is seated on a set of huge buttresses gazing out over an infinite space of water ‘Eternal as Ever’.
Nature itself rules most of the other paintings from the turbulent convergence of the two minor rivers at ‘Devprayag’ where the Ganges proper begins to the mysterious mid-stream and temple covered islands of Kahalgaon.Pearsh hints merely at deeper issues in the occasional small details of two floating flower and candle votive offerings or a fragment of plastic indicating the severe pollution problems now facing the Ganges.
In the course of this epic journey ,Pearsh produced a mass of waterclours with the very liquid of the river itself..a selection of which are in a private swiss collection.
Kevin Pearsh was born in 1951 in Melbourne, Australia. Before moving to London in 1972, he attended fine art school in Perth and later lived in Zurich. By the age of twenty-five, Pearsh had works within the permanent collections of the Tate Gallery. He continued to live and work in London until 1983.
In 1982 Kevin was commissioned by American diplomat Robert H. Thayer to paint his 12th century chateau in Burgundy, France thus introducing Mr. Pearsh to the region that would become his artistic base, and place of residence.
While visiting Tasmania in the early 1990's Kevin was inspired by the power and beauty of the island's unique waterfalls. A phase of work resulted where water becomes the catalyst combining elements of luminosity and serenity.
In addition to the Tate Gallery, works by Kevin Pearsh can be found in the permanent collections of the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge and the Santa Barbara Museum in California as well in numerous private collections throughout the world.
From the start of the new millennium through to the end of 2002, Kevin developed a water series influenced by visits to China. Between 2002 and 2005 Kevin further expanded his work on the subject of water through aspects experienced while regularly travelling throughout India and Morocco.
Kevin Pearsh's work is infused with an intuitive perception of light and reflection. Regular travelling throughout India has heavily influenced his palette of colors and resulted in several projects for Air India.
From 2006 to 2009, Kevin Pearsh produced a collection of 21 large format oil-on-canvas works depicting the inner character of the Ganges River. These works highlight geographical features and illustrate a pilgrimage along the entire length of the river. The artist has journeyed by foot, boat and land vehicle from the river's source within the ice cave of Gaumukh in the Himalayas to the delta where the Ganges flows out into the Bay of Bengal. In 2010, the "Ganges 21" collection of oil paintings was inaugurated and exhibited under the high patronage of the Indian government – ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) - at the Azad Bhavan Art Gallery in Delhi. The exhibit then traveled to the Rabindranath Tagore Centre in Kolkata, and in early 2011 opened at the Bharat Kala Bhavan Gallery of the prestigious Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi.
In 2012, the Ganga21 collection travelled back from India to Europe and will be exhibited at the Waterhall of the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery from November 4th to 18th, 2013.