Untitled 9, 1980 Pigments on canvas 100 x 100 cm 39.3 x 39.3 in 3.2 x3.2 ft
The collaboration between Prafull Davé and Chemould, that started in the 1960’s, finds its continuation coming full circle in an online virtual exhibition ‘Into the Light' at Chemould Prescott Road Prafull Davé is of Indian origin born in Gujarat in 1934. He has been living and working in Zürich Switzerland since 1970. He studied art at the Faculty of Fine Arts Baroda, under the mentorship of N. S. Bendre and K.G. Subramanyan. He then worked in the design Centre Mumbai, later known as The Weavers’ Service Centre, under the auspices of K.G. Subramanyan where he helped the weavers creating new designs in order to sustain himself. From 1958 to 1961, he had his artist studio at The Bhulabhai Institute, one of the very first artists studios after India gained independence, where he continued to pursue his painterly practice.
He studied further at the London Film School doing a diploma in cinematography and finally moved to settle in Switzerland in 1970. Among the many exhibitions that Prafull Davé has had in his life, his second solo show was with Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy’s Chemould Gallery Mumbai in 1969, followed by another in 1970. In the latter year, Kekoo mounted an exhibition titled Contemporary Indian Art; at Gallery Coray in Zurich, where he invited Prafull as one of the participating Indian artists. A poster of the painters whose travelling exhibitions sponsored were by Gallery Chemould held in Tehran, Zurich, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Essen, Kronberg, 1970-71. Their works constituted the inaugural exhibition of Surya gallery at Frensheim, Germany, 1972.
Rashna Imhasly - Gandhy (sister of gallerist Shireen Gandhy) who helped put together this show adds, “When I visited Prafull at his studio in Zürich in the summer of 2019 and saw the cachet of his many paintings, all stacked and carefully wrapped in plastic except for the later ones ones exhibited on the wall, the idea of an exhibition was born. Being a transpersonal psychologist myself, I have always been fascinated by Prafull’s paintings and by his explorations into the transpersonal realm. He compares the visions that manifest in his works as being part of what the Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung called the ‘collective unconscious’ or the dream state; a transpersonal state shared by all of humanity.
This archetypal energy is where we discover cosmic forms of impersonal origin. This is why Prafull’s paintings have no title as the oneness of all beings, shunyata, the voidness that constitutes ultimate reality, is his creative source. The paintings exude an ambience of peace and demand contemplation. His painterly process is of meditative nature, surrendering for hours on end to the mixing of pigments that are saturated with sand and streams of colour. His compositions oscillate between dream states of knowing and not knowing, having no beginning or end.
Untitled 12, 1980 Pigments on canvas 50 x 50 cm 19.6 x 19.6 in
Layered surfaces and accidents, Prafull is a painter of uncertainty, with a level of suspense, and chance. His process is one of gradually finding the image through a progression of overlappings, revisions and erasures. Without any preliminary sketches or reference material, he begins by pouring pigments onto unprimed canvases lying directly on the floor of his studio. Placing color upon color, he builds numerous thin layers: until his pigments blend seamlessly into one another, and balance, lightness, and chromatic compositions emerge. He often makes his own pigments: a rigorous process which gives him complete command of color. He creates many paintings simultaneously, working in various formats, adopting different techniques, and embracing new discoveries as they arise.
Seen from a distance, Prafull’s canvases at first appear airy and atmospheric - a hazy expanse of colour where the eye can roam freely around. Throughout his oeuvre, colour varies greatly. The primary hues of red and yellow evoke expansive landscapes: soft skies and sunlit water, while other works are composed of dark, brooding maroons, blues, and greens. Seen together, his Untitled series immerses us in sensory perceptions of light and colour, and require an exhibition (such as this one) to bring them into conversation.
I invited Jacqueline Burckhardt - an eminent art historian and co-founder and editor of the art magazine Parkett - to be the curator of this exhibition. After her first and only visit to Prafull’s studio she expressed her impressions: “I was thrilled by the subtle colour gradients that set the poignant mood of his paintings. They are imbued with creative and spiritual energy. Therefore it seems to me appropriate to arrange them in a sequence from dark to light. In this passage, between the more abstract paintings some seem to allude to landscapes. So following the sequence as a visitor it is like traveling from outer space, touching the earth and leaving it again. Finally it is like the course of a day or of a life time of any existence. It is a beautiful materialisation of energy, time, space and light with all its spectral colours that finally point us to the invisible."
Prafull Dave Untitled 13, 1991 Pigments on canvas 50 x 50 cm 19.6 x 19.6 in