Between Rrichness And Austerity

by Christian Noorbergen, Artension n°7, september/october 2002


Madhu Mangal Basu was born in Calcutta (present day Kolkata) in 1956. After graduating in Fine Arts from his home town, Madhu left India for Europe as an invitee of the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts (College of Fine Arts), Paris in 1989. One of his earliest exhibitions was held in the austere, sacred precincts of the Molesmes Abbey on the Côte d’Or, far removed from the temptations of modern life. Here Basu exhibited an entire series of men-universes-painted bodies, sketches and nudes clothed in colours seemingly cutting across infinite space. In his paintings, the body, still in the process of being born, real and unbounded against the impervious, undefiled background that resembles the vastness of flat, open space, violates the void with the promise of delivering the world of its sorrows.


In Egypt, it is said that a potter–God created man by transforming the light of the sun into earthly clay.  After his series on the living, Basu now paints plates of fabulous, archaic simplicity. In India, “the pot symbolises the maternal womb” (M. Basu) but the limited space of this primordial receptacle is both infinite and eternal in time and space, its voyage  being perpetual and timeless. From this play of contrasts, emerges a sense of austere shock.


M.M. Basu paints his pots in pairs to reflect the harmony of the couple and the light and dark of the first night of Chaos. The figure two is the basis of all man-woman unions and the origin of life itself; Basu’s plates transform themselves into the world and all culture is born of this silent dialogue.


Circular and unavoidably present, Basu’s pot may be compared to an inanimate eye; this slender but dumb receptacle simultaneously opens and pervades space. An instrument of the soul, a fragment of the light of the mind, the pot is the first letter in the unfolding alphabet of the human endeavour. Its creation involves the hand as well as the mind and incorporates all the primal elements within its circle of light. Basu’s work testifies to an unavoidable need to strip away images. The artist, distrustful of the surface of things, distances himself from the contagious fullness of materiality and the proliferating profusion of creation.  But paradoxically, through the starkness of his art, Basu teaches us greater humanity. His is a severe art capable of resisting all temptations so that the eye and the mind can finally give itself up to essentials. In Basu’s work, the void represents the blackness of the abyss from which every thing is born and the two clay bodies  appear to resound with solitude in a universe without limits or landmarks. Created out of pure light, they carry the eye to the outer edges of the horizon.





by Jacques Depauw
by Gérard Xuriguera
by Françoise Monnin

by Christian Noorbergen