Born in Dhuri, Sangrur, in 1941, Manjit Singh Bawa studied fine arts at the School of Art, New Delhi between 1958 and 1963, where his professors included Somnath Hore, Dhanraj Bhagat and B.C. Sanyal. He went on to obtain a diploma in silkscreen printing from the London School of Printing. From 1967 to 1971 he worked in London as a silkscreen printer.
Bawa along with artists like Krishan Khanna put Punjab and Punjabis on the international art scene. His use of flat colours, series on mythological figures or the series on 1984 Sikh riots are simply great. His canvases are distinguishable in their colours – the ochre of sunflowers, the green of the paddy fields, the red of the sun, the blue of the mountain sky.
Bawa and Madan Gopal Singh started weaving spells of Sufi music in the early 80s. The anti-Sikh riots lent a degree of emotional depth to their music. The infamous Rath Yatra against the Babri mosque brought many Indian painters together so many times on the Artists Against Communalism forum under the aegis of Sahmat and they became integrally woven into the pan-Indian campaign against the demolition of the mosque, ‘Anhadd Garjey’. Bawa had given up silk screen printing and became arguably the most important painter to have emerged from the Punjab. Even as his stature grew as a painter he continued to wash his own clothes and cook his own food and sing.
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