June 21, 2014: Meet Anjolie Ela Menon, who is one of the most celebrated artists of India. She is of mixed Bengali and American parentage. Born in 1940 she did her schooling in Tamil Nadu and by the time she was fifteen she had already sold a few paintings. Her art was refreshing, deep and complex. Menon likes to divide her life in four phases. She turns back time to her early style of painting. “My earliest work, which had all the vigor and brashness of extreme youth. There was an untrammelled energy, an impatience with technique. It was truly expressionist without any conscious effort or knowledge of formal qualities. I learnt to draw long after I’d begun to paint. I painted in this manner till I was eighteen,” she revealed in an interview with The Indian Art Circle.

 

After completing her graduation from Delhi University, she went to France to study art at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris. She was highly influenced here by a fellow Mexican painter, and other fellow art students. After this she travelled extensively through Europe- which clearly did influence her work in a major way in future; before she came back to India to marry her childhood love.

 

Menon confesses that after she got married and had children, she didn’t paint much for a few years. Later, between 1970-1972 she started to paint professionally again. “This is a struggle many women go through-coming back into their own after a period of intense domesticity which usually covers the child-bearing years,” she shared in that interview. She then had a series of exhibitions in Calcutta and Delhi. A few years later she had a solo exhibition at a major gallery in Bombay. In the city she first got acquainted with M.F. Hussain and Amrita Shergil’s work, there was no looking back after that.

 

Menon doesn’t follow any school of art. She has lived in many countries and comes from a family of mixed ethnicity; and that is what she believes influences her work. While giving a lecture at IIT Madras she told the audience that even though she doesn’t follow any religion, she believes great art and music come from religion.

 

Picture Courtesy: British South Indians