LIFE, LIGHT AND MUSIC
IN THE MANDALAS OF OM PRAKASH
By - Jan Van Alphen - Asian Art expert


It is rather difficult, if not impossible, to comment on the work of a living artist who, for over six decades, has been admired, applauded, and awarded in many parts of the world.

Om Prakash is an Indian painter, born in 1932, who, since his general breakthrough in the 1960s, has been labeled as “Indian Modernist,” “Modernist Abstract painter,” and “Neo-Tantric artist.” He has been compared to or associated with twentieth-century Western modernist artists like Rothko, Reinhardt, Albers, Malevich, and many others. Apart from painting, he has also demonstrated his musical talent as a sitar player and was praised by the late maestro Ravi Shankar. What more could be added as a comment to the merits of such a rich, long artistic career? In this case, it’s perhaps not the art critic’s task to “comment”, but rather to try and approach, feel, and help to open up and to let the works speak for themselves, discovering the links that speak to the knowledge, sub-conscience, or experience of the spectator. The guidance of an outsider might be helpful even though it’s sometimes a risk to unload an overdose of words and definitions never intended by the artist himself. “Neo-Tantra” was proclaimed by art historians as India’s first modern art movement.

Already in 1971, Om Prakash reacted against being labeled a Tantric artist: “It bothered me to the extent that I said in an interview for the Lalit Kala Contemporary issue of April-September 1971, ‘I am no Tantric, and I am not interested in reviving or stimulating Tantra Art; I couldn’t, even if I wanted to…’” The artist added: “It was the Tantric philosophy of self-realization and the magnificent concept of discipline in everything and on the highest plane which could influence and inspire me.” With this comment he brought the essence and the standard of his art to the fore without concessions.

Om Prakash’s oeuvre inevitably landed up in “periods” and “-isms” that the world has created to label art. Such is not necessarily a bad thing but just a hanger to try and facilitate defining and understanding the movements in art. It gave him perhaps the advantage of receiving the stimuli of what he called the “neo-rich businessmen-collectors since the early 1990s.” In that sense the “Tantra-exhibitions” in Germany, Japan, California, Russia, Australia, and of course India, came at the right time for Om Prakash. The main fact, however, was that Om Prakash remained Om Prakash.

After all, besides being a painter, in real life he is also a musician, a teacher (the New Delhi School of Planning and Architecture 1961-1981), an administrator and a principal (College of Art 1981-1992) as well as a husband and father. Like many artists driven by beauty, he is also an admirer, an “amateur” (in the literally sense of the Latin verb “amare,” to love), of female energy and beauty. This last aspect made him state in a recent interview , “I have never flirted in my life of 85 years. Rather, I have loved and respected all of these extremely intelligent, beautiful, and accomplished women who came in my life on their own.” A vocation in life is not always one simple, clearly defined message but a multifaceted challenge that entails constant adaptation.

Om Prakash has come a long way, especially if we consider that he came from a very humble background in a village in Haryana where he, as a child, collected cigarette packets found along railroad tracks purely out of admiration for their design and color. He witnessed the India-Pakistan “Partition” as an adolescent and kept an acidic memory of the Hindu-Muslim divide, the fear, and the atrocities of those days.

But his artistic ambitions brought him out of India, doing Fine Arts and Art History post-graduate studies with a Fulbright scholarship at Columbia University in New York (1964-1966). That is the time when he met Mark Rothko, Frank Stella, and others.

If the Partition of India was a traumatic experience to overcome, the young Om Prakash also had to struggle his way through the inevitable East-West divide: his Indian or South Asian cultural formation versus the globally settled Euro-American ranks of famous artists at that time. But he was eager to learn from, absorb, and comprehend as much “Western Art” from classical to modern as possible. He travelled all over Europe, America, and Russia and formulated his own definition of the “postcolonial world” of the early 1960s.

While it doesn’t do justice to the artist to comment on just a small selection of his vast oeuvre , out of necessity, and for the sake of the reader’s understanding, we limit ourselves to mentioning a few clarifying characteristics, which, in this case, should lead to the shape, role, and definition of what Om Prakash calls “mandalas” in his work.

Om Prakash’s work should first of all be experienced and enjoyed. But when asked to analyze his work, we could start with one remarkable and overall characteristic: luminosity. His work is shining, radiating, brilliant like a gem against the sunlight. Is it a coincidence that his name, Prakash, is the Sanskrit term for “brilliant” and “shining light”? Even so, when required, Om Prakash manages to modulate this brilliance to an ephemeral kind of light as well.

A second obvious characteristic is his striking use of color. Bright and strongly contrasting colors seem to enhance each other. In combination with the luminosity, these colors are extraordinary.

A third characteristic is the geometry in his work. A lot has been said about the patterns that result from his “play” with geometry in a panoply of terms like prisms, crystals, kaleidoscopes, magic windows, magic squares, etc. Symmetry seems to belong automatically to the set of geometrical characteristics, although on second view, it is sometimes the breaking up of this symmetry that makes the composition so strong.

It is basically with these formal components that Om Prakash created his typical personal style in an attempt to express something that wasn’t done in that way before. In his own words:

“Breaking and making the symmetry in my paintings is like the congruence of the Nirankar (formlessness) as well as manifestations into a spectrum of forms to support my paintings… It has been leading me to create the unknown in form, color, and content to strive for miraculous magic like a shadow of the divine perfection, which Michelangelo said to be the true work of art.” But if Om Prakash’s oeuvre were just a trick with forms, light, and colors, it wouldn’t have become so famous. There is also something like a “soul” in his work that brings it to life. This soul is perhaps the most mysterious aspect of his art, an aspect which has been explained in diverging terms, touching on complex formulations in Indian philosophies, tantrism, and shamanism. If we try to make a very general and therefore inevitably oversimplified chronological overview of Om Prakash’s art, we could distinguish some evolutionary stages.

Naturalistic subjects and the use of grids, geometry, and symmetry
Much of Om Prakash’s earlier work shows human figures, pleasant landscapes, paradisiac natural scenes, mountains, fresh greenery and trees, seascapes, blue skies and clouds. The mystery is already there as these framed depictions of nature raise expectations for something to be revealed. [Internet. Asavari, 1959; The Cloud, 1979; On Top of the Clouds, 1991; Double Rainbow, 1996; Vision of Deep Waters, 1996; Splendiferous Vision, 1995] Some of the paintings are broken up in a kind of mosaic. As the edges of the mosaic parts are sometimes marked with black contours, they give the impression of stained glass. The bright light and colors enhance and amplify that impression. But in other cases the image gets fragmented by a grid of dark bands. The subjects thus separately framed and multiplied look like vistas through a window. At the same time, the “Mondriaan effect” that must have made an impression on Om Prakash in the early 1960s becomes apparent and gives the painting a strong composition.

Moreover, geometrical divisions add to the balanced feeling of the overall painting. On top of that, symmetry in the composition reinforces the balance. Symmetry gives a feeling of natural beauty and perfection in the depiction of human beings, nature, and even in the cosmos. With kaleidoscopic divisions [Internet. Mandala Neelam, 2014], Om Prakash adds another strong visual effect to his already intriguing works. Now the particles seem to move over the surface like in a dream. In this way, with the basic elements out of his “toolbox”, he achieved a multitude of effects in an early stage. Although we reluctantly classify this “naturalistic” period as somehow belonging to an earlier stage in Om Prakash’s art, there is a constant presence of these paintings throughout his career. And so far, the material available to us suggests that these characteristics and figurative elements reappear even more strongly in his latest works (since 2016) with titles such as “Sylvan Glory 1-2-3-4,”, “Night Sea,” “Vertical Spurt,” and others. [Internet. Sylvan Glory, 2016; Night Sea, 2016; Vertical Spurt, 2016]

The Tantric Element
Whether Om Prakash was inspired by tantrism, its practices, its theories, or its art has been partly answered above (see his quote on not wanting to be called ‘a Tantric’ or not wanting to revive or stimulate Tantra art). He rather appreciated its philosophy of self-realization and its concept of discipline. It is most probably because of his use of visually recognizable classical Indian symbols and diagrams combined with sexual or erotic elements that has been labelled a Tantric. And it is not a surprising conclusion, for often the central circle or the axis of a painting suggest stylized female genitals. This can look almost floral or vegetal (see ‘Flight’, 2006) in the manner the American artist Georgia O’Keeffe presented this. But it also appears in strongly stylized upright ovals containing smaller ovals and circles that suggest anatomical details (see “Instinct Rhythms,” 2008). Sometimes the surrounding area suggests the rounded female forms of that part of the body. Variations on this sometimes result in a pillar with rounded ends that could well be interpreted as the shaft of the male organ. Thus Om Prakash creates forms that do come very close to the converging of male and female elements as classical Indian and tantric art used to do with the female triangle pointing downwards and the male pointing upwards. Examples of arguably tantric inspired paintings from the period 2007-2009 are:

Mandala
As suggested by the examples of “tantric” paintings above, the “Mandala” became increasingly important in Om Prakash’s works. The period 2010-2015 hosts a relatively high concentration of mandalas.

Together with “geometric” and “tantric,” “mandala” is perhaps the most commonly used terms in relation to Om Prakash’s work. The word “mandala,” however, perhaps hovers in the same emotive field as “tantric” without necessarily covering the classical definitions of these ancient Indian diagrams.

In the Iconographic Dictionary of the Indian Religions , “mandala” is defined as: “‘magic circle’, name of a kind of yantra. The circle is, in itself, of magic nature, and a mandala is a picture, containing a geometric disposition of mystic figures and diagrams of symbolic attributes, germ syllables (bija), and figures of gods and goddesses; a mandala signifies water and cosmos and this device is used in all Indian religions and held in all to be endowed with magic power. It is also used as a mechanical aid to meditation. It is further a geometrical diagram of a temple, the plan according to which it is constructed.”

In art and meditational practices, the mandala is best known from Tibetan Buddhism in its two-dimensional form. To summarize a very detailed description in Mandala, Sacred Circle in Tibetan Buddhism by Martin Brauen:

“As a rule a mandala is a strongly symmetrical diagram concentrated about a center; it is built up of concentric circles and, in most cases, squares possessing the same center… The basic construction varies only slightly. About a round, central disk, in the middle of which there sits or stands a deity – four, eight, or ten deities, occasionally six or twelve – are set in an additional circle… A mandala can belong to one of four main categories on the basis of its center: lotus, wheel, disk divided into nine cells, and triangle. The lotus stands for pacification and the principal deity is situated at the center of the mandala. The wheel stands for prosperity and the principal deity is in the hub of the wheel. The disk stands for subjugation, it forms the innermost circle and is divided by a grid of four lines into nine cells, each one reserved for a deity. The triangle stands for destruction; there is simply a downward pointing triangle in the middle or else two interlocking triangles forming a hexagram; further circles surround the triangle(s) and the square area is completely absent in these mandalas, which are mostly dedicated to a dakini or yogini…” Nowadays, more general definitions can be found on the internet:

“‘Mandala’ has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically, a microcosm of the universe… The basic form of most mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point…”

As one could expect, living in the “source-world” of mandalas, Om Prakash created his own interpretations, variations, and combinations of mandalas. And as one could also expect, his mastering of the geometry, especially the circle, combined with the strong colors and lighting parts and details, became an alchemic cauldron that released innumerable fantastic mandala creations.

The innate Indian awareness of micro and macro cosmos brought Om Prakash sometimes close to the ancient Jain interpretations of Jambudvipa, our place in the concentric islands and oceans of the universe. However, the mandalas with classical Buddhist elements, like the four gateways in Mandala Divine Enigma, 2012.

It would take long to describe the panoply of mandalas that Om Prakash has concocted. And it would be impossible to render all his interpretations in words. Here it is the works themselves that want to be seen, admired, and contemplated. It might seem that anything put in a circle and a square makes a mandala, but a closer look at Om Prakash’s mandalas shows that this is certainly not the truth. The precision, the vibration, the movement, the traveling light, the stellar constellations, and galaxies he evokes show that the artist brought an inner light, a soul, into his creations.

We will only mention a few titles out of the abundance of mandalas:

Sound And Music
We mentioned that music plays an important part in the life and career of Om Prakash. The importance of sound and music cannot be overestimated in the creation of art, especially, of course, in every from of music and dance. But that sound and music are the underlying source of visual art forms is also evident in human history.

Sound was the means of creation for the Hindu god Shiva who produced the first sound on his damaru (double-sided hand drum). These sound vibrations started creation. The Christian Bible also mentions that in the beginning there was sound, the word. And in Shamanism, accepted by some as the first kind of religion, sound is considered to be the foremost attribute of life and balance in the shamanic universe. The sound of the drum can invoke spirits and even compel them to be benign for humankind. [Internet. Svar Mandala, 2009; Mandala of Mantra, 2008] And in the ancient Indian context of the Veda, hymns and mantras were the tools of Rishis and priests to beg the gods for the wellbeing of society. According to the Natya Shastra, these sounds were the basis for the Sama Veda and later for the complex and rich Raga system. Furthermore, in the late middle ages, ragas were visualized in paintings that describe the time and the mood of particular ragas in a cycle called Raga Mala (a garland of ragas).

Om Prakash, also a musician, gave expression to this inner feeling by painting many images inspired by music. He mostly visualizes the tune scales within in the confinements of a mandala, which is a very different approach compared to the Raga Mala paintings that were made in the tradition of Indian miniatures. Still, he uses the names of the classical ragas to give his mandalas titles. In this own way, he even illustrates technical musical terms like svara (tune, note) or tivra (sharp).

To mention a few examples: The basic components of classical Indian music are raga (musical scale), tala (rhythm), and rasa (emotion or feeling). Judging from the titles of Om Prakash’s mandalas, all these elements are somehow present in his compositions. We didn’t immediately find the title “sam” in its meaning of “rhythmic counterpoint” in the Tala system. But by now we have reached this counterpoint in full circle. We are back to our initial statement: What comment could possibly be added to such an accomplished artistic career? The only addition we should make is to view and enjoy his paintings — and be amazed.





OM PRAKASH - An Introduction
By Patricia Watts
For the 57th solo exhibition of Om Prakash at Marin Foundation Galleries,
Novado, California - September 21st 2016 to January 12th 2017


Fall 2016 marks the fourteenth exhibition I have organized for the Marin Community Foundation since 2012. Most of the shows have focused on environmental themes and, more recently, on mature and under recognized artists of the North Bay Area. This exhibition, Om Prakash: Intuitive Nature, is not explicitly environmental, nor does it consist of work made by an artist from the Bay Area. However, the opportunity emerged because of my recent friendship with Justyn Zolli, a San Francisco painter, Zolli who is a protégé of Prakash and has spent time with the painter at his home studio in New Delhi, sought my advice last year on venues for a solo exhibition of the artist’s paintings. He then introduced me to Yogesh, Prakash’s son, who has lived in San Francisco for several years. I was struck by Prakash’s emphasis on the cosmic and by the maturity of his oeuvre, and together we decided to stage his first monographic exhibition in the United States.

In my travels to art fairs over the last two years, I would see Prakash’s paintings at Art Market San Francisco at Fort Mason and at Art on Paper at Pier 36 in New York at art dealer Evan Morganstein’s booth, Gallery Sam. Even before I met Zolli, I would introduce myself to Morganstein to let him know that I thought Prakash’s paintings were fresh and meditative while formally intriguing. The paintings reminded me of the work of a few North Bay painters of the 1950s and 1960s, who were influenced by Eastern philosophies. John Anderson, Richard Bowman, and Jesse Reichek come to mind with their abstract “inner worlds,” visualized by geometric forms, spirals, starbursts, and auras.

While doing research on Prakash for this catalogue, I was delighted to learn that he was one of eight artists selected by the late California painter Lee Mullican for the exhibition, Neo-Tantra: Contemporary Indian Painting inspired by Tradition, presented at the UCLA Galleries in 1985–86. Mullican—who lived in the Bay Area from 1946 to 1952, before joining the UCLA art faculty in 1962—was part of the 1951 exhibition Dynaton, held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and including the other mystical abstract painters Wolfgang Paalen and Gordon Onslow Ford. These artists were exemplars of the Bay Area interest in self-transcending awareness steeped in Eastern philosophy, and in Surrealism as well. The Neo-Tantra exhibition at UCLA presented a contemporary movement of Modern Indian Painters who built upon their own culture to develop mature styles focusing on nature, spirit, and the universe. Almost thirty-five years later, Om Prakash has proven himself to be deeply committed to the path of Indian Modernist abstraction incorporating a pure visual language to convey his personal or inner knowledge about the unity of all existence.

Earlier in his life, Prakash spent time in the United States—a critical period that has greatly influenced his work. He was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to attend graduate studies in fine art and art history at Columbia University and the Art Students League (1964–66). While living in New York City, he became acquainted with many well-known abstract artists, including Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Philip Guston, Jasper Johns, John Cage, Paul Jenkins, and Frank Stella. Upon his return to India, he continued teaching at New Delhi’s School of Planning and Architecture, from 1961-1981, and was the Principal of the College of Art from 1981- 1992. He has traveled throughout Europe and Asia, where he sought to experience the great works of art. His interest in Indian classical music and his decades of experience playing sitar have also greatly influenced his art. In addition to his painting practice, Prakash has also made collages, drawings, and life-size sculptures. The selection of eighty paintings and eight drawings for this exhibition was made from the artist’s website. The works were shipped from India by water freight across the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, then trucked from New York to Oakland over the summer. Om Prakash: Intuitive Nature is available to travel to additional US venues in 2017 and beyond, and the works will be incorporated into the family’s private collection, to remain in the United States indefinitely.

For the main catalogue essay, I sought a writer who could expound on Prakash’s paintings from an Eastern perspective within American culture, someone who could address abstraction through a multinational lens. I was aware of curator and writer Anuradha Vikram through her curatorial projects while she taught at UC Berkeley from 2009 to 2013 and worked at the Worth Ryder Art Gallery there, and aware also of her more recent position as Artistic Director at the 18th Street Arts Complex in Santa Monica. Vikram’s interests include transnational futurism and theories on globalization, as well as critical race discourse in modern and contemporary art history.

It has been a pleasure to work with Om Prakash and his family to bring his vital work to the attention of the San Francisco Bay Area. It is with great pleasure that we offer this exhibition and catalogue to continue an ongoing dialogue about the Eastern influences on American geometric and abstract art.

PATRICIA WATTS
Consulting Curator



PAINTING AS A CONDUCTOR: The Art of OM PRAKASH
By Anuradha Vikram

For the 57th solo exhibition of Om Prakash at Marin Foundation Galleries,
Novado, California - September 21st 2016 to January 12th 2017


Energy radiates through the paintings of Om Prakash. Color and line pulsate with vitality. Prakash channels the life-forces within and around himself into paintings whose precise geometries hover between abstraction and representation. With his cohort of “Neo-Tantra” artists, active in India since the 1960s, Prakash has synthesized ancient South Asian visual and spiritual traditions with the pictorial and formal values of mid-century Modernism in the United States and Europe, and other global traditions such as Chinese ink painting. While the artist is a student of Tantric painting traditions, he incorporates these forms alongside the teachings of nonobjective painting into a distinctly personal lexicon of shapes and symbols.

Prakash is known primarily as a practitioner of a uniquely Indian visual style, and his work as an artist and influence as an arts educator has been centered in New Delhi for much of his six-decade career. His interests are nevertheless international, and Prakash locates himself within a tradition including spiritually minded artists such as Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, and Kasimir Malevich. Thanks to a postgraduate fellowship at Columbia University in the mid-1960s, he was able to meet some of these luminaries and compare notes at a formative point in his artistic development. To understand his approach in totality, one must apprehend the universally translatable elements and the culturally and personally specific aspects of the work simultaneously. The dialogue between twentieth-century Modernism and Tantric painting in Prakash’s work plays out visually in two starkly different works, Mystery of Trees (2005) and Epiphany of Black (2007). In Mystery of Trees, Prakash abandons the stylings of Neo-Tantra, with its deep color values and concentric, inscribed geometries, in favor of an allover composition in pastel greens, pinks, blues, and yellows. The resulting image is a geometric primavera, drawing parallels with the line and color work of Paul Klee. Flat and patterned like a scrim, the painted surface opens just enough to suggest an early morning light filtering through the tall trunks of a forest. In Epiphany of Black, Prakash evokes the black-on-black crosses of Ad Reinhardt and the resonant squares of Josef Albers. Deep red pulsates from the painting’s center, framed by rich blues and soft purples. Squares and rectangles radiate outward with a muted rhythm. The deep black surface recedes and colorful geometries advance, conveying a breathable stillness. Both works are marked by the luminosity that is Prakash’s signature, whether in the prismatic sunset vista of Orange Light (2009), or glimpsed obliquely in the off-kilter Counterpoint Mandala (2012).

Born in 1932, Prakash was fifteen years old at the time of India’s independence, and he came of age among a generation of young Indians who sought to define the newly postcolonial nation through culture—specifically, renewed interest in South Asian classical arts. For Prakash, who plays the sitar, this came to include the Hindu Raga, a tone poem with religious reverberations that also marks the weather or the time of day.

Musical influences infuse the visual rhythms of his paintings. Music is a consistent source of inspiration for twentieth century Modernist painters, whether it be Kandinsky incorporating Stravinsky, or Stuart Davis channeling American jazz. Music operates similarly in Prakash’s paintings, inspiring an undulating rhythm of color and line.

At the same time, the raga proposes possibilities for painting that Western Modernism generally has not. This is music composed with intention to not only reflect the specific season and time at which it is performed but also to inform and influence that moment of performance on a metaphysical level. A Malhar, or rain Raga, does not simply celebrate the monsoons: the song has the potential to bring the rain. In the Tantric painting tradition, images are also invested with affective power. A lexicon of geometric forms represents specific spiritual aspects, deities, and principles which can be brought to bear on the viewer’s mental and physical state, thanks to the artist’s act of focusing those energies.

Rain tones prevail in Prakash’s Tilak Malhar (2015). Circles inscribed within squares in the traditional mandala pattern double as raindrops and as moons in different phases. The blues of the painting’s surface are marbled with textures of wetness. This painting communicates the sensation of a cool summer rain in the garden, contrasted against deep floral tones and luminous greens. Still, there is more to the invocation than mere resemblance. Circles within circles offer a cyclical or calendrical reading in which the passage of time and the phases of life and death are revealed. Circular Spectrum (2013) reflects the first drops of rain splashing into a mandala of concentric ripples that expand infinitely into space. As did the Cubists, Prakash represents many moments in time and space simultaneously.

In the Western tradition, this power to affect other bodies across a distance through art is known as phenomenology. German Romantic theorist Edmund Husserl introduced this secular concept, derived from Hindu and Buddhist transcendental philosophies, into European discourse in the late nineteenth century.Modernist painters including Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly, and Barnett Newman hinted at phenomenology with their use of color fields and of contrasts that trigger physical Om Prakash. Mystery of Trees -2005, 55 x 40 inches. Effects in the viewer’s eye or recede into dialogue with the walls behind. American artists since the 1960s—most notably the group identified with Land Art and the Light and Space movement—have explored “the expanded field” of phenomenology in sculpture and site-specific installation. Still, it is only recently that these ideas have gained traction in painting discourse. Spiritual and metaphysical questions in painting are likewise not new, but they are newly taken seriously—though not always consistently so. Perhaps the global conversation has finally caught up with Prakash.

Massimiliano Gioni’s 2015 Venice Biennale linked a Tantric tradition of devotional painting, anchored in the northern state of Rajasthan, with early twentieth-century European Spiritualist artists such as Hilma af Klint. While this connection is viable, it is incomplete without the inclusion of Om Prakash. The twentieth-century South Asian artists also pioneered a contemporary tradition of Modernist, metaphysical, phenomenological paintings which originated from an urban perspective on South Asia. Furthermore, they operate within systems of artistic training, agency, authorship, and economics on the same footing as Western artists - a claim that cannot be made of the Rajasthani Tantric painters whose work circulates as anonymous “folk art.”

Though Prakash is a Modernist painter, motivated by a personal artistic vision, and not a religious artist, his work is underpinned by considerable knowledge of Tantric philosophy. Certain principles prevail: the order of the universe is in all things, and in all things the underlying structures are the same. Change is a circle, stability a square. Male is an upward thrust, female plunges down. Harmony, balance, and illumination are virtues. Action and inaction are equal and opposite forces. Ego is absent. Mandala - Union of Opposites (2012) articulates these principles through a colorful grid of squares and triangles, incorporating tones from light to dark and colors across the spectrum into a diverse and harmonious composition. Here again, ephemeral light emanates from the work’s core. The Mandala of Squares might read visually as a field of pixels, a quilt, a chess board, or one of Sol LeWitt’s iterative grids. Indeed, iteration—repetition that begets change - is central to the Tantric vision of the universe.

Among the great proponents of iteration was Josef Albers, whose signature series Homage to the Square is likely to be more recognizable to an American audience. Parallels between Albers and Prakash are not limited to their shared dedication to teaching. The two artists represent different understandings of related ideas, translated through two distinct cultural traditions. The use of the square in Prakash’s tongue-in-cheek Selfie 2 (2014) makes that clear. Prakash’s “selfie” is a nonobjective grid of concentric squares, graded from white to deep yellow, then pale purple. This work demonstrates Albers’s theory of color interactions, though Prakash has arrived at his perceptual effects through his study of the South Asian Tantric tradition. Prakash’s squares are embedded in a larger, dark red square, highlighted by a square cruciform, in bright reds, greens and pinks. The surrounding pattern makes subtle reference to a distinctly South Asian tradition of drawing and painting as anchored to architectural space.

A teacher of art for many decades, as well as a faculty member/Principal and administrator at the College of Art, New Delhi, Om Prakash has outlined the four categories of artistic expression as they correspond to yogic principles. These are: physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. Importantly, Prakash stipulates that only the first three categories can be achieved through the artist’s intention, plan, and action. The spiritual may reveal itself, or it may not. One can therefore think of Prakash’s extensive body of work, spanning over six decades of prodigious output, as a daily practice of seeking. With each painting, the artist creates a circuit to conduct metaphysical action. Having created the conditions for new visions, he now invites us to stop, contemplate, and open our minds to unseen possibilities of art and experience. The viewer may experience a charge.



ANURADHA VIKRAM
Anuradha Vikram is a writer, curator, and educator, and Artistic Director at 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, California. She writes frequently for the art publications X-TRA, Daily Serving, Hyperallergic, and Artillery. Vikram holds an MA in Curatorial Practice from California College of the Arts and a BS in Studio Art from New York University. She is a Senior Lecturer in the Graduate Public Practice program at Otis College of Art and Design, and has curated over 40 exhibitions and residencies in non-profit, academic, and commercial venues.

'Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya '
Where once there was darkness, now there is light.

The present exhibition of cosmographic paintings by Prof. Om Prakash Sharma are the randoms of the stream of consciousness, gathering impressions from his hieratic genes, in the unity of wisdom of auto-consciousness. His golden mind comes flooding, lapping and dancing in colours of abstract forms, wherein the present flows into the eternal. They link the passing time of consciousness to the world of interior time. In the words of philosopher G.E. Moore, the canvases of Om Prakash are “the pleasures of human intercourse and enjoyment of the beautiful”. His aesthetic moorings, in the web of the real behind appearances, lead the viewer into the realms of Shunyata where values blossom. From the flux of life and the muddle of the spirit, Om Prakash transports his admirers into states of that vision which they aspire to have. The ceaseless, multi-leveled flow of colours, lines, and geometric forms of Om Prakash become the stream of thought, where the eyes move in retrospect and in anticipation. They are works of aesthetic freedom, an experience of a luminous halo, a transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning to the end. They are the uncircumcised modernity of the Spirit, a mixture of the alien and external with the interior mythographies. These canvases are a triumph of the jingle and subtle of the invisible, the unseen, the unknown, drumming through the eyes to the ecstasy of Becoming. In them, past and present line together in immutable Reality and in the flux of appearances. In these paintings Om Prakash true to his genes merges himself into the interior light the maya of antarjyoti, to create luminous flashes of cosmic bonds of Being. Arising form the cosmic consciousness, the alaya-vijnana of the Classical mandalas, they are the light that emerges from the insurgency of maya. Buddhist Tantras affirm an essential identity between pollution and purification, between impurity and purity that transcends the intellective state, as in Om Prakash’s “Exotic Shrine”.

The Classical Buddhist mandalas choreograph the five luminous elements, the pancha-rashmi of the Guhya-Samaja Tantra . Luminous epiphany is the centre of the mystic process leading to a stream of ecstatic wisdom i.e. the indescribable awakened state. Om Prakash renews this exhilarating sense of freedom, or in the inimitable words of a Tibetan yogini.

" Kye Ho ! Wonderful !
When one experiences reality
The whole sky cannot contain her bliss "

The mandalas are a unison of the human, the cosmic and the divine. They are the coming together of pravritti and nivritti , the exchange of indulgence and reticence. They are the depths in the innermost being of sentience, where the mind and the universes move into ever widening Awakening. They are the essential unity of the worldliness and the Consciousness of humans. Extreme serenity and extreme passion, the most abstract defined by the most carnal, the invisible and intangible in the intoxication of the senses : it is the oneness of the mind of the universe and of the divine in the living non-duality of the basest and the noblest. The body itself is a divine mansion ( mandala ). The yogini Niguma says :

“ The divine male and divine female unite ……
Spiritual ecstasy increases;
The elixir of union, blue in colour,
Fills the body from the heart downward,….
Purifying causes of misery and mental deplements. ”

Mandalas summon us to ensphere ourselves in the heart of Diminished Humanity, wherein we perceive the fusion of the eternal Spirit, the earth, the sky, and the stars, in the long pilgrimage of living; where the body and the spiritual self are one; where gods make love in the midst of fire; where purity and orgy are fragments of life and liberation.

The canvases of Om Prakash roar above the clouds in the depth of their colours. The rays of the sun serenely pass the psalm of his mind for the angels to come down to earth, stripped naked in their diaphany. His colours, empowered with the robustness of Tantric form, flow into the eyes of the viewer in a kiss of silence. They are sparks of beauty out of the furnace of the Divine. They are versatile poiesis , ever on the move, ever deepening, ever rising to newer sensitivities.

Prof. Lokesh Chandra
World famous Indologist and eminent Buddhist Scholar,
Former Member of Parliament,
Director, International Academy of Indian Culture
20 Sept. 2007 - For the catalogue of Om Prakash's 54th Solo Exhibition at Lalit Kala Akademi - New Delhi - September 2007

Can an artist write objectively about his own work, spread over 40 years? I do not believe it to be possible, howsoever impersonal and articulate he/she may be. But I had to use words to record different phases of my journey as an artist.

After some contemplation, I decided to print the relevant extracts of what several eminent and art critics wrote about my paintings in their reviews, which were published in the media, to tell the story as rationally as possible.

I was also amazed to realise how much hard work the critics had put in to find the appropriate words to explain my works, which I thought to be rather difficult for comments and evaluation. I offer my regards to them, where ever they are - some of them have passed away. I could not know the names of quite a few of them because most of the reviews were accredited to an 'art critic' as per the general practice in Indian media.

Consequently, I got an over all picture from such projection of different point of views by putting focus only on the creation of my works and by deleting repetition and details of general information. My readers are thus provided with enough material to make their own conclusions.

Om Prakash
15 January 1999.

Reflecting on Omprakash's journey

" red leaf rustle,storm and tempest,
rain and lightning make earth
and sky like one; artist at his
window sits and watches
changes: comings, goings, motions,
nothing stops but pierces
his eye, moves his hand to map out
seasons,songs and colour. "

Suneet Chopra
Writer and Art Critic
27 Feb.1999

Pt. Ravi Shankar - Introduction to Ragamala Paintings, 12 August 1959.

Om Prakash has used his talents for the purpose of painting Ragas admirably. He has conceived the mood and the expression of different ragas in his own way and with his own feelings about them. I could see The Raga's in his paintings and therefore I think that they shall have a mass appeal.

MEDIA REVIEWS

A Gifted Young Painter

Om Prakash seems to have suddenly blossomed out into a style that marks him a painter of considerable talent and power. It is, in fact a matter for cogratulation that this young artist now 29 years old, should present so outstandingly good an exhibition. The most striking element in these pictures is that Mr. Sharma escapes the present day tendencies of many a modern painters to paint with the intellect only. His landscapes, especially those of kashmir, are deeply felt canvases, in which there is not only a lovely use of space but also an overall moodthat is most attractive.

His marshalling of space is excellent, in several of his tree-scapes the mist and snow of the area dominates the picture and gaunt, bare branches of the trees emerge from the old mist. Such is Trees a lovely work by any standard, almost abstract and yet evocative of a lyrical reality.

Late - Dr Charles Fabri, The Statesman, New Delhi, 22 October 1961

Three Painters from Delhi - Forms and Patterns

Om Prakash Sharma is easier to interpret. His Forms with the Sky constructs vertical highly textured shapes against a seething background with skyline and sun impressively there on the canvas, as counterpoint to the abstraction. This is very good method of creating tension. Folk is confines to bold arrangements of three vaguely primitive patterns. Composition is totally abstract and successfully so in the inevitability of its interpenetrating and balanced colours, Relaxation is more fortuitous and sometime puzzling. Whisper is clever, its two female figure merge into or emerge from geometrical patterns scored in criss-cross fashion. the breast of one figure are red and of the other blue, this is brilliantly right within the created pattern.

Nissim Ezekiel, The Times of India, Mumbai, 12 December 1963

Om Prakash's Paintings are 'Exciting'

It would perhaps be thought by some that Om Prakash's recent works, on show at Kumar Gallery, is done in too many modes, that there is a disconnection between one group of works and another. But this first reaction is likely to be minimised after a closer look. Here, there is an overall unity of conception in the majority of the oils. There is a progressive fusion here of one and the same elements, the same strokes, in all and that they culminate in the Forest, Signals and Village - the three most achieved works in the show. The painter's use of totem-pole, ladder, rail tract, in all their verticality makes for an excitement; like on viewing a Pubelo Indian Village or descending down a mine shaft, or viewing the sections of a tree.

Art Critic, The Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 26 July 1964.

Solo Exhibition at Ligoa Duncan Arts Centre, New York City

Oil paintings by Om Prakash are abstract and deftly executed, often suggesting the lustrous colours of Indian Silks. His works sometimes are involved studies of the effects of interlocking shapes like Diagonals where rectangular shapes thrust toward the centre of the composition, subtly mixing blues and lavenders.

E.McG. Park East, New York, U.S.A., 14 October 1965.

Out of Beaten Track

It is encouraging to see Om Prakash not following the usual tract of the majority of modern Indian painters, who have been repeating themselves by conjuring up Indianness with a western sympathy devoid of authentic awareness. His effort is significant in the sense that if he is abstract, he courageously means it. The artist tries to reach somewhere without bothering about the great evil that is known as success. There are pictures based on themes like folk lore, morning, evening, music and so on. And the artist does put to some sort of shapes here and there on his canvas dominated by abstract forms. But their shapes appear to be souls rather than representations.

Art Critic, Indian Express, New Delhi, 25 October 1967

12th Solo Exhibition, Kumar Gallery, New Delhi, 1968

Without seeming to apply any rigid theory Om Prakash manages to communicate the theme of radiation. I like to look at these paintings as signals. Traffic signs and super-sensory cards are signal material : and so is stained-glass and shot skill. Even star-shine and diamonds give you the feeling of what might be called a space phase. Space has been phased in his paintings and the cycle and symmetry are those of colour. Duet for instance, has for its motive the transmission of energy. A square with an aura discharges its energy (or colour) into another square, which is inclined, and composed as two triangles, each functioning like a filtered prism. Each triangle responds in three shades of the basic individual colour. The adjacent, supporting V wedge - a reaction in the second remove-vibrates in four tones. This is done so subtly and logically that we have a kind of harmonic principle stated. I would list the splendid and exciting Transformation I and Transformation II and Locks Unlocked (Fig. 18 page 12) the last being the most picturesque of the three. Om Prakash has come a long way. This exhibition is really impressive for its restraint and painterly qualities.

Late - Richard Bartholomew, The Times of India, New Delhi, 18 November 1968.

Beautiful Exhibition by Om Prakash

In the past three years the paintings of Om Prakash have become more and more articulate and the present exhibition is his finest. There is a clarity of vision. Immaculate craftsmanship always impresses, but, when it embodies feeling and not merely cleverness, we have sensitive art. At some stage in the practice of the artist there is a fusion of matter and spirit of structure and form and dexterity and control become synonymous with sensitivity and expression. Both facets and perspective have been worked out, dovetailed, counter pointed or made to echo. The monotony of regularity, of sheer and naked symmetry has been reduced to a minimum as in Mool Swara-Primordial Key or Sah-samvadi Kampan-Harmonic Frequency. It is tempting to compare such paintings and their structure to voice projection and control where even if we miss the meaning of the song there is the melody or the mode. To go beyond this elementary analogy would be far-fetched. But there is this basis for comparison, I believe in Om Prakash's work. In this collection of paintings, the theme is projected as a geometrical form; and because colour is eloquent on another level and in a different mode the artist has given us paintings, which are also interpretations of radiant phenomena.

Late - Richard Bartholomew, The Times of India, New Delhi, 18 November 1969.

Magnificent Work by Om Prakash

There is a distinct musical quality, a precise kinship with sound patterns and melody. Indeed he surpasses himself, by a long stride over the remarkably successful work seen in his last show. His current work is as soundly based on a immaculate inter-relationship of design and colour, mass and form which he has evolved for himself in recent years. We know that colour acquires its significance in relationship with another colour, as musical notes do, and together they create their own resonance. By extension of this principle to an entire range of planes, depths and colour intensities Om Prakash creates a very personally realised world of great charm and sensitivity. The colours, the complex patterns of geometric manifestations, establish their own relations of harmony and contrast, radiating from a nucleus, spreading out like beams of light or sound. The final effect of all this compositional virtuosity is similar to reverberant orchestration, very much beyond the purely sensuous realm, fascinating and thought provoking.

Late - S.A. Krishnan, The Statesman, New Delhi, 18 November 1969.

Moving Paintings by Om Prakash

Om Prakash continues his high adventure of line, space and colour - of an intensely abstract metaphysical order. The enormous degree of discipline and imagination characteristic of everyone of his works is deceptively of a geometric nature but in truth, their cadence and melody is beyond geometry. The multiple intersection, the poised spaces and built-in harmony and contrast of colour results in a series of fantastic kaleidoscopic visions. The tension, the mathematical accuracy and the resonance of colour is so like music. This exhibition consists of best works this gifted and serious painter has so far offered us. Om Prakash's concept is uncompromisingly precise but without the slightest suggestion of severity.

Late - S.A. Krishnan, The Statesman, New Delhi, 11 November 1970.

Lyrical Compositions of Om Prakash

Om Prakash's works seem to restate William Blake's observation "I question not my corporeal or vegetative eye any more than I would question a window concerning a sight. I look through it and not with it". There is a tightness of construction in these paintings, a continuity of mood which runs the gamut from metaphysical vision to hard realism. One is aware of no schizophrenic gap, between Om Prakash's landscapes of the early sixties, conceived in an impressionistic manner, and these equally lyrical compositions with their soaring peaks and vales of colour, flat dark seas and undulating yellow moons. In both one senses a preoccupation with the immanence of God in nature and in all that pulsates with life. Other end of the Void (Fig. 30 Page 21) is a powerful work which suggests the heavy freight of human destiny with just one small orderly segment of red colour, balancing in the void, pointing to the end of the dark tunnel of life, as it were.

Art Critic, The Economic Times, New Delhi, 20 October 1971.

Abstraction, Fine and Subtle

The rectilinear and curvilinear abstraction, practically exhausted of its possibilities by Mondrian and Delaunay, is explored again by Om Prakash and he has come up with new, subtle and exquisite solutions. His success lies in the great thought he gives to compositional construction, fine sense of colour, elegance and tidiness of execution. As in the world of Brancusi his finished work manages to belong simultaneously to two worlds : that distilled from reality and evoking it, very remotely, yet with rich poetic suggestion, and the world of pure conceptualisation with the ideal beauty of a geometrical theorem.

Late - K.K Nair, The Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 4 November 1972.

Om Prakash's Unified Vision

Mathematical physics today rips off the flesh from reality, exposes the skeleton. But the mysticism of Pythagorean mathematics saw in a unified vision armature and tissue, structure and sensuous vestment. Om Prakash recovers this vision. His geometricism conserves the distilled image; a wicket gate opens on a meadow under a sky with splintered bars of sunset colours; a plant archetypal of all floral, stands silhouetted against the sun, its roots exploring the layered strata of the earth; or the composition suggests polished, elegantly lit modern interiors. Enormous thought has gone into these compositions; but the precision of the placement of forms finally undergoes a sea-change into intuition of the perfect design. There is consummate craftsmanship in the handling of colour, the same pigment turning from soft matt to incandescent glow.

Late - K.K. Nair, The Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 18 November 1974.

19th Solo Exhibition at Chanakya Gallery, New Delhi, 1975

Om Prakash is committed to the "continual extinction of personality in the creative process". This need not alarm any one for what Keats called the "negative capability" of the poet or artist enables him to assume all identities or none. The latter takes place when one goes for pure abstracts like Mondrian; but this is only an apparent effect since, to love the abstract, one has to have a personality sensitive to pure forms which have no representational allusion whatever. As a matter of fact, Om Prakash does not even go to this extent. Flowers are a vivid presence in his canvases in spite of their transformations into a sensuous geometry of interlacing area, overlapping forms. There are musical gradations of tones and colour highlights glow like jewels.

Late - K.K. Nair, The Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 26 October 1975.

Om Prakash at Kumar Gallery, New Delhi, 1977

Om Prakash whose earlier work in oils and acrylics was the most elegant handling of the geometrical abstract, returned to water colours and spontaneity. Symmetry has lost its tyrannical hold and colour modulates in many tones, yielding startling brilliancies within the clean-edged segments of the design. There is magical interplay of what seems like beams of coloured light overlapping and blending.

Late - K.K. Nair, The Hindustan Times, New Delhi, 10 November 1977.

23rd Solo Exhibition, Pundole Art Gallery, Mumbai, 1978

It is a long time since Om Prakash, a senior painter from Delhi turned from figurative painting to a more or less schematic genre that reflects some sort of spiritual insight. Mercifully, he achieves this without weakly echoing so called Tantric patterns. While he is severely geometrical in his calculated use of lines, triangles, squares and circles, he is never rigid but succeeds even in his symmetric arrangements in being fluid and spontaneous. There is a variety of ways in which he appears to subdue geometrical tautness with chromatic flourishes. Water colour here is not made to imitate any other medium. The textures are easily, almost casually achieved. On the whole the objective is charm and a feeling of inner peace (and radiance reminiscent of the luminosity of Om Prakash's oils). The process of liberation from thematic convention and from the competitive seduction of oils is complete.

Dnyaneshwar Nadkarni, The Times of India, Mumbai, 28 December 1978.

Neo - Tantra Art

Art in the service of Tantra contained numerous iconographic elements, starting from abstract forms to figurative images, their residues, and different combinations. Among the important ones are : Bindu (primal point), Oval (a cosmic egg), Square, the perfect form manifested by pairs of opposites acting as complementary rather than contradictory (symbol of the extended world in its order), Circle (symbol of continuous movement), Triangle and its variations facing upwards and downwards (respectively symbolising Purusha, the eminent principal, and Prakriti, the power of manifestation), Trident (the emblem of its deity Shiva), piercing eyes (symbol of Shakti). Om (the primordial sound, sound symbol of supreme one) and numerous variations of organic, geometric, floral, vegetable, animistic forms, gods and goddess etc. drawn from different Indian religious doctrines. Symbolism of colour was also major constituent and so also varying visual manifestations of sound, light and space etc. Historically, some of the great masters of abstract art such as Kandinsky, Mondrian, Malevich and Paul Klee etc. who were very much drawn towards Upanishadic and Vedantic teachings, partly through the writings of Theosophists and Anthosophists etc. and partly through direct sources, had already paved the way for Indian artists to explore new areas of Indian esoteric doctrines in order to transform them to formulate and enrich their aesthetic theories and creative vision. Om Prakash's paintings are obviously inspired by and aligned with the spiritual and visual manifestations of Tantra. Symbolism or its improvisations play an important role e.g. triangle facing upward, denoting Purusha (positive or male spirit) and facing downward indicating Prakriti (negative or female spirit), Circle, symbolising the cycle of time, and soaring forms indicating yearning tendencies to be one with the cosmos. However, the crucial elements are the emanation, and or bursting of primordial sound, having numerous vibrating tones, which by and large , have different corresponding colours and hues. Om Prakash, besides being a painter is also a musician who plays Sitar. Therefore, it is obvious that the inter-relation of sound and colours should constitute the vital force of his paintings. It is a matter of further research as to whether or not he has strictly followed a point-to-point relationship between the seven musical notes and seven colours as propagated in different Indian treatises on cosmogony and music; however it is certain that the substance of this concept acts as the inspiring force for him. His symbolic landscape integrating natural forms, titled Madhyam, reveals his initial convictions. From the centre of the hills emanates and bursts forth the primordial light the property of which is sound which develops into the successive macrocosmic forms. In consonance with the figurative character of the painting the middle and the longer circular forms contain absolutely essential features of a human face. The blossoming of primordial sounds into the full range of music notes - possibly different manifestations of Ragas - with the corresponding colour is revealed by his painting, Consonant Verticals (Fig. 28 Page 19). Other paintings denoting his preoccupations with different symbolic connotations and the harmony of colour and sounds, indicate his yearning to strike a perfect balance.

Late - Dr. Laxmi Sihare, Patriot, New Delhi, 15 January 1984.

Thrill of a Run-away Marriage

Om Prakash always promises a retreat from the burden of everyday living to a private experience. The promise has been fulfilled with the exhibition of his recent works at the Dhoomimal Gallery. The new has the thrill of a run away marriage between geometry and female figure. His art remains innocent of having any reference to either the myths or magical symbolism. And that is some job, because his contemporaries keep misreading him, explicating his work in the Minimal/Tantric vocabulary made familiar during the mid sixties. Drawing together of many interpretational process of different musical traditions was another source of misreading, of which much was made in the art context of the seventies. That was the period when formal discoveries about the basic elements of colour's tonal structure had a priority over other painterly pre-occupations yet the earlier mode of colour geometries in which weaving of colour tonalities was the name of the game, has not totally receded into a far horizon. These conscious devices of colour geometry, he worked on in the seventies have now become an accompanying process of fixing meaning to his new iconography. The appearance of female figure, the symbol of old mother - goddess of fertility, is by no means trivial; when seen within the context of colour-geometry of space it has a ritualist immanence. Thus the meaning of the female figure implicates an occult sphere; if seen as a nude in the European tradition it looses all its mystery, something that is totally alien to the artist's intentions. It is a context-dependent meaning that we should look for, not the meaning we read as a conditioned response of an art historical interpretation. The meaning is written into the picture itself; and that is the only way of seeing, of interpreting, his recent paintings. Most of the intentional objects of consciousness are dead art, for they can be explained. And that is not the Om Prakash method. For the viewer the work offers a kind of literal seeing, seeing that is not corrupted by accumulation of art historical interpretations, it is a seeing with cognitive passivity, while for the painter it is an ungrounded way of acting. This is how we assimilate the meaning of an experience and Om Prakash's visual grammar offers a rich fare; it is like a tune of which an enclosed visual experience is something that no words can translate.

K.B. Goel, Patriot, New Delhi, 29 September 1985.

Master Distiller at Work

'YES, my name has been included in the Neo-Tantra school. But I am not interested in the ritual aspects of Tantra, only in the visual manifestations. I do not follow the conventional iconography of the cosmology but have evolved my own symbolism. I'm not 2500 years old to refer to the tradition but live in this world of today and have a different kind of experience'. This is how O.P. Sharma clarifies his position vis-a-vis the Neo-Tantra art. Discovering his forte has been a tortuous process though. He started painting way back in 1950 and came under the influence of the Bengal school and worked in the wash technique. Some years later as he was getting interested in Hindustani music ( he seriously learnt sitar and plays it proficiently ), he did a series of Ragmala paintings, perhaps the form was revived after more than a century. He consulted with experts like Ravi Shankar and delved into the iconography of ragas-how Todi is represented by a deer and Malkauns associated with green and so on. In 1964 he went to America as a Fulbright scholar. Meanwhile his reputation was established for neo-Impressionistic romantic landscapes and figurative work. but exposure to myriad schools in world art left him bewildered. He returned home with an artist's block, which he came out of by doing wood collages. Then it came in a flash: geometry. Ever since the Vedic period in visual arts and architecture our ancestors were aware of geometry as the essence of nature. In the West, Pythagorus and in the last twenty years science has been discovering the same thing. "I don't see forms and shapes in nature but pattern, order. This order is also psychic - the reason why sentient beings react in particular ways at different times of the day or in the different seasons. In sculpture form may be important but in painting it is naturally colour and composition", says Sharma. Geometry was inevitable because of the artist's temperament. "I try to block out all that is distracting: problems, emotions, events. My paintings are mostly devoid of many recognisable forms or objects. There is a kind of purity possible through geometry and possibility of weaving a magic web of musicism.". But he doesn't force anything as painting is embodiment of the inner self. "I let the moment of creation work itself. Sometimes I start a painting in cheerful reds but finish with all blacks calling it Midnight Affair"(Fig. 27 Page 18). This shift received many sneers. He was called drab, emotionless, architectonic, un-dramatic, but he stuck on and had a supporter in Kumar (of the Art Gallery) who was able to sell his paintings, mostly to foreigners. Around this time Ajit Mukherjee's Tantra Art was published and Sharma knew he was on the right track. Simultaneously G.R. Santosh and a few others had also appeared on the scene and the term Neo-Tantra gained currency. An exhibition of sixteen such painters including Sharma was taken to West Germany and later to America and Australia. But Sharma who believes in moving on went back to nature but with a maturer and unsentimental eye. "Everything I was describing in geometry was possible through nature also". This time he was not interested in recreating nature but searching for its essence. In 1985, he did a whole series of nudes and even yonis (vulva). But geometry was there as was the landscapes - a kind of multi-decked painting. Yonis were realistic enough, using live models for drawings, but in his hands becoming a symbol and the end product looked more like a shrine. Two years ago he started doing Mandalas. Of course, the Buddhistic and Tantrik traditions have used it as a language to study formal manifestations of the universe. "I do what I can according to my style and capability." He doesn't paint them to be used as meditational aids but the viewer is welcome to try. His music association is again playing a part. Though he doesn't think that there is a one-to-one relationship between the seven notes and the seven colours, he is conscious of the correspondence and has titled most of the Mandalas after ragas. After looking at one of these in predominantly emerald green a musician friend, Aminiuddin Khan Dagar remarked that it must be Shree Raga (Fig. 71 Page 45), and he was right on mark. As Mandalas take weeks and months to complete, Sharma has also been working on some smaller paintings in acrylics. Both the types will be on show in Shridharani and Aurobindo galleries. This phase also seems to be coming to an end as he now feels like moving on to "something more fluid, more spontaneous". L.P. Sihare, director of National Museum, commenting on O.P. Sharma's art writes, "Symbolism or its improvisation play an important role, such as the triangle facing upward, denoting Purusha or facing downward indicating Prakriti, the circle, symbolising the cycle of time and soaring forms, indicating yearning tendencies to be one with the cosmos. However, the crucial element for the artist is the emanation or bursting of the primordial sound, with numerous vibrating tones which by and large have different corresponding colours and hues". In Tantra sound as the first manifestation of the universe and a bindu as concentration of energy is recognised establishing the connection between sound and form Sharma points out that even the emotional level of sound was known. Madhyam note for example is conceived in white and associated with laughter and purity. About symbols he says that they spontaneously grow. One should forget the traditional ones, not reject. His approach to colour and technique is unconventional to say the least. He doesn't refrain from using pinks, violets, light green, baby blue - the hues that will shock some other painters. But evidently what is crucial is context, the adjoining colours, and composition. He has adopted the flat application or tempera technique, employed brilliantly in our miniature paintings, but using oil paints. He uses smooth brushes to get that effect and mixes very little oil to prevent glare. As Principal of the College of Art since 1981, he has been instrumental in making it the foremost art institution in the country, has revised the syllabi of art courses and crusaded for better working conditions for art teachers. Art teaching, he feels is not just imparting skills but teaching a thought process, for which a tutorial approach is to be preferred. The cliche´ question about social relevance of art he answers obliquely. "Yes, art can become an instrument of social change. But no, it can't solve problems particularly when not to speak of the solutions, there is no consensus even on the problems. But if you come to the real crux, human beings want to know, and find themselves. Art does make you aware of the real self and of Satyam (truth), Shivam (godliness) and Sundaram (beauty).'

Praveen Chopra, Sunday Mail, 27 November 1988.

Vibrating Mandalas

A work of art takes in whatever the artist has to project; it sends out the vibrations from the artist to the spectator. Om Prakash's paintings, essentially, are rooted in Mandala traditions; they are composite forms with internal structures, and their constituent parts multiply in the process of their interaction or in their pattern formations. According to Chogyan Trungpa, Mandala, in the broad sense, is all encompassing space which accommodates the self-existing cosmic structure, radiating different energies, pacifying, magnetising, increasing, destroying. A Mandala consists of a series of concentric forms suggestive of a passage between different dimensions and ever-changing relationships, both internal and external to its basic structure. The universality of the Mandala, in its one constant is, the principle of the centre. The centre is the beginning and origin of all forms, of all processes, including the extensions of form into time. The basic properties of a Mandala are a centre, symmetry, and cardinal points. The first principle is constant; the later two vary according to the nature of the particular Mandala. It is a module, exhibiting principles of organity : interrelationship of parts, interdependence of systems, resonance and synchronicity. It is essentially vehicle for concentration so that 'it may pass beyond its usual limits'. Because ultimately, the Mandala leads its users to visualisation and the realisation of the source of energy within himself. It is 'a centering technique' - a process of consciously following a path to one's own centre. Om Prakash's Mandala images seem to release energy to the extent that he is concentrating upon and has identified himself with. His working vocabulary of forms is linked with Tantric symbols : the square, circle, triangle, crescent associated with the elements in nature and of course the point - the centre,. These are not always placed in any traditional order, but juxtaposed according to a perceptual process. The emerging regular forms are symmetrical. Symmetry, as is well known, is one of the ideas by which man throughout the ages has tried to comprehend and create order, beauty and perfection. The geometric concept of symmetry, seen in such forms as bilateral, translatory, rotational, ornamental and crystallographic abstract mathematical idea underlying all these special forms. There is a certain quality of 'resonance' in his kaleidoscopic images of rotational symmetry. The masses and spins of the resonating forms are well defined within each sequence which seems to extend from the centre towards the periphery of the pictorial space. These regularities of images is analogous to the drama of form vibrations in the world of atoms. His works possess a certain kinetic energy that emerges from his dynamic and higher forms of symmetry where patterns are reflected in many formal relations; they rotate around the axes and the diagonals of his picture space.

Late - P.N. Mago, Art Critic, Patriot, New Delhi, 8 December 1988.

A Breathtaking Show Out to break a barrier - Om Prakash Sharma

Om Prakash is one of the foremost exponents of the indigenous art movement known as Tantra Art. The collective term puts under one banner some of the greatest contemporary Indian artists such as Biren De, Santosh, Profulla, Mamtani and Haridasan. There are other stalwarts who have been gravitating towards this genre, among them Raza. Right from the mid-60's when this movement started to counter-balance the loose and amorphous abstract art movement that engulfed the West and threatened to overtake the East, it generated a controversy which has not exactly subsided. While this is no place to go into the details, a few points need to be mentioned in the interest of a proper appreciation of Tantra Art in general and Om Prakash's works in particular. The Western abstract art is totally non-referenced. Historically, it represents the creative expression of a civilisation which had lost all its external props and whose value pattern had failed to sustain it. (World War I and II loom large in its back ground). Though abstract, whether based on strictly regular linear geometries or curvilinear or both, Tantra Art essentially is conceptual. Its superb self- confidence and regaling energies are rooted in what has come to be known as the holistic Indian tradition that brings vast and diversified reaches of the human mind into unison via music, philosophy, poetry, architecture and sculpture; even astronomy. It seeks what has been the perennial seeking of science : truth. It expounds Dharma in its connotation as law shorn of all sentimentality, prejudice and emotion. Past the iconic, it goes back to the non-iconic, but it offers glints and glances even in the iconic. Fritjof Capra realized it in the dance of Shiva. Divest the Tanjore Bronzes of every recognisable form and feature save their geometries; what remains is Tantra, the path of rhythmic pulses that interweave the whole universe into an indivisible unity so perfect that Eesha Upanishad even states : "Take Perfect from Perfect, the remainder is Perfect". Everywhere in the infinite variety of forms is the ordered, concatenated moves of force concealed in the physiognomies of Nature bringing intimations of symmetry and music. Howsoever complicated and beyond ordinary human comprehension its move, the architectonic quality of the internal moves of force recalls with Om Prakash a musical scale; often as elaborate and multidimensional as in the four large Mandalas in which a sort of genetic memory seems to govern the onward moves as beautifully as a tree grows out of a seed. On the other hand, this inner move can be superbly direct and succinct as in the works titled Madhyam. What we witness is a breathtaking insight into the reality underlying the mask of its superstructure. It is not an external approach and it has nothing in common with the cubistic attitude, for instance, which, let it not be forgotten, is still an outward reach, howsoever evolved in the European context. Om Prakash, in other words, is trying to demolish the barrier between sound and light. His deep knowledge of music and daily practice on the sitar make the task not only easier but enjoyable. To generate awareness of the inner truth of reality, sound, through a medium which essentially is optical is by no means an ordinary undertaking. It demands a deep, intuitive understanding of the chemistry of colour. It is a higher kind of dedication and sadhana.

Late - K.L. Kaul, The Statesman, New Delhi, 7 December 1988.

Quest For A Mystic Order

Om Prakash who is presently exhibiting a selection of his paintings done during the Eighties at Genesis Gallery, is a Delhi based artist widely known as a painter of the Neo-Tantric school. Edgy, disciplined and very tidy symmetric composition of the pictorial space defined by varied and vivid emotive colours in brilliant shades of harmonising and contrasting values lend his canvases instantaneous visual appeal. One may liken them to mere decorative patterns or ornamental motifs in our ancient temple architecture or pleasing fabric designs though they can be traced to elements in Tantric art. But the perceptive viewer gradually gets initiated into their chromatic vibrancy and neatly demarcated visual fields of intense aesthetic energy, participating in the artist's quest for mystic order sustaining both the reality of nature and that of human mind. A masterly colourist as well as accomplished sitar player, Prakash consciously correlates music with colours while composing the pictorial space and building up elaborate kaleidoscopic pattern in rich and varied chromatic vocabulary in a kin shaped canvas Mandala Sarang (Fig. 77 Page 49). Though it comprises geometric motifs of Tantric yantra, its formal sophistication and symbolism are inspired by the artist's personal interaction with universe as a musical abstraction manifest visually in intricate of harmony and contrast in colours. Water colours done during the artist's visit to Poland last year are splendid in technical execution. In their design and rhythmic chromatic feel, they recall something about the painting of the Bengal school. Vertical or horizontal accents in Summer Morning or Primal and rectangles and circles overriding the surface in Evolution and Spring (Fig. 80 Page 50) show the artist's major concern with a disciplined visual communication of mystic nature. They embody a music like orchestration of moods and feelings originating in the contemplation of something as cosmic as creation and a manifest as nature. The images comprise tidily structured line bound areas of colours evoking finites of circles and rectangles often bordered with decorative bands. Red, orange, green, yellow, violet and ochre are employed diversely in lucid, flat, toned or textured washes overlaid with strokes of the same or different hues softly vibrating and emoting like slow-paced music. The figurative works in oil include two large canvases primarily evoking landscapes with hills against a glowing forenoon sky. But what obstructs this simple view is a totem like vertical pattern superimposed right across the middle in one and a rectangle containing symbolic motifs in the other. They would be ordinary landscapes without these abstract motifs. The geometrical composition of space around realistically evoked sensuous female nudes achieves a harmonious integration suggesting a union between the finite and infinite.

Manasij Majumdar, The Telegraph, Calcutta,Wednesday- 24 January 1990.

A Swing Back To Nature In Glowing Colours

Om Prakash, in his recent painting entitled On Top of the Clouds displayed at Hyatt Regency, reveals a significant development in his creative approach-a swing back to a rendering of nature in most novel and innovative expression. In fact during the last four decades has undergone a remarkable series of transformations, initially from figurative works, portraits and landscapes, mostly in impressionistic or artistic style to Tantric and Neo Tantric approach and lately to abstract expression. However, he believes that knowledge of Tantra, at best, enriches the vision of the artist to see differently, totally and concretely. In his present works, Om Prakash has broken the web of geometric formulation in favour of a more fluid form approach. The celestial scenes, more than 30,000 ft. above the sea-level, observed from the window seats on the aeroplane during his foreign travels, have once again drawn him to the irresistible grandeur of nature. The apocalyptic sky-scapes and the awe-inspiring sunsets which he witnessed from that altitude have provided him with a highly fantasised experience of the mystery and essence of nature. Forms of fluffy clouds and serene rays of setting - sun indeed enchant the mind. He has endeavored to transfigure these experiences into glowing colours on his canvasses. To quote Prof. Lokesh Chandra, these are "Sparks of beauty out of the furnace of God". Om Prakash's paintings give testimony to his obvious ability, distinctive creative urge and vibrant technical virtuosity. Whether it is the symmetrical parameter and concentric division of the pictorial space or an informal and spontaneous rendering of the illusion, he achieves his aim, with magical dexterity, without losing individuality or the integral quality of his creativity.

Late - P.N. Mago, Patriot, New Delhi, 8 December 1992.

Om Prakash at World Wide Art Gallery, New York

Om Prakash is an artist of many talents - he infuses his musical, academic and creative passions into his own version of a Neo-Tantric aesthetic. As a sitar player, a teacher and an artist, Prakash allows his lifelong interests to filter into his paintings as visual components in a network or forms. Prakash is primarily known for his geometric Mandalas containing remarkable colour combinations which sparkle with a cultural mysticism. Between the years of 1986 and 1989, Prakash completed a group of Mandalas which anchored his presence in the art world as a master of aesthetic spirit. He transformed basic principles of balance in nature to an essay in abstraction for each painting was a structured narrative of Tantric symbols. It was not until 1991 that Prakash explored non-geometric forms. Prakash's use of colour is perhaps a distant cousin of Rothko's. But where Rothko invoked a certain glorious colour environment, Prakash just paints colours from a personal experience and perhaps with more humble intentions. Also exhibited were several water colours which functioned as subtle illustrations of Prakash's 'vision' rather than renditions of a sometimes overly romanticised landscape. They were not imbued with an awe-inspiring symbolism. With this group of water colours, it is evident that Prakash's strength lies in his ability to let the viewer simmer with recollections of his intense colour transmissions.

Kathleen Finley Magnan, Asian Art News, Honkong, May-June 1994.

Body Rhythms : There is a music in the female form

The drawings of female nudes at Gallery Aurobindo might surprise many a viewer. Because Om Prakash is better known for his Mandalas and Neo Tantric inclinations. These drawings were done way back in the '60s while he was studying in New York as a Fulbright scholar for his post graduation. Evolving through the painful and complex process to find a perfect mode of expression for his images, visions and ideas, the artist has worked in many different mediums and styles and is restlessly creating to unload himself of the intense pressure of his visions. The result is a prolific output: innumerable series of exhibitions which include not only geometric forms like circles, triangles, squares, rectangles, pentagons and hexagons but landscapes, clouds and portraits too. And the work is always stamped by his unique way of handling. The female nude form had reappeared in his paintings on Ragas, the musical modes which recreated the Bhava, and later in the glimpses of Prakriti. His nudes are always in a realistic trend. "I have indeed treated on the path which on a close range sublimates the sensuous and erotic. Their realism is to contain the fantasies," he says. His love of music is reflected in handling of colours and more so in the lines of his female forms. "They have become more fluid because rhythm is one of the most beautiful aspects of a female form." Even his geometric or Tantric patterns are influenced by his search for sound images - "The arithmetic of my paintings is more musical than anything else. I have constantly tried to see by music and hear by my paintings." The drawings exhibited here are not mere sketches but done in great detail and have most important ingredient of a painting - a mood, an expression. For Om Prakash each of these is an independent work of art with a character, expression and the mystery of the female form in it. This element of mystery had obsessed him since his early years and had led him to abstraction and symbolic manifestations for many years. But today, after many decades, he realises that "nature has the same geometry and form, and the human form has the capacity to say what I was trying to express through non-figurative forms." Modern painters in the name of distortion are spoiling art, regrets Om Prakash. One can achieve very high quality of expression through distortion, the prime example of which is Picasso. Today, after retiring from the post of the Principal, College of Art, he has more time to paint and play on his sitar. "I was waiting for this kind of freedom all my life - no urgent phone calls, no file work, no fixed working hours," he says.

Aruna Narlikar, The Times of India, 13 January 1995

OM PRAKASH SHARMA, 'BRINGING INDIAN PHILOSOPHY TO LIGHT THROUGH MODERN ABSTRACTION'

Om Prakash principal at the College of Art, New Delhi bring exotic paintings filled with delightful colour intensities and cosmic symbolisms to Darat al Funun, in Amman. A well traveled and well rounded artist, his talks on “Neo Tantra” and on the “Journey of Art” have been turned to film. Interested in Music and Dance, he plays the sitar and his concerts in Amman were highly enjoyed and appreciated.

His paintings are the result of deep meditation on Tantra, an ancient Indian philosophy. Tantric philosophy is a cult of ecstasy, focused on the vision of cosmic sexuality. It includes images and ideas from the oldest strata of Indian religion, from Aryan, Veda and Upanishads, often re-interpreting them in visual terms by diagrams and personification. Ritual, magic, myth, philosophy and a complex of signs and emotive symbols cover the vision.

Tantra says that instead of suppressing pleasure, vision and ecstasy, they should be cultivated and used. Accordingly, in the paintings of Om Prakash one can see an interplay of colour intensities that are tantalizing because of the wisdom of putting them in harmony , where one color enhances the other, allows it to go forward or withdraw. Om Prakash is the master of colour, with him colour talks, sings and even screams in ecstasy! Prakash looks at Tantra icons relating the structure of the world with faculties in the minds of men, at Yantra, the visual symbolism and Mantra, the sound symbolism. They compliment one another to create patterns of formulated energy. Yantra uses reductive methods to create optical effects, concentrating on emotive content, refining abstract relationships..

Diagrammatic Yantra center on a single point on which meditative concentration can gradually gather and fix itself. Although Prakash uses these elements in his work, one can see that he wants to escape from traditional confinement. “I use Tradition as a natural source to express my own individuality” he claims. According to him, artists can best learn from artists, like Bernard Shaw claiming to sit on the shoulders of Shakespeare, “I jumped for help on the geometrics of Tantra art, the flat spaces of Indian miniatures, the hard edge, and Minimalism.”

Om Prakash uses geometric Tantric symbolism such as the inverted triangle for male spirit and the downward triangle for the female spirit. He uses this duality in conveying the image of both their union and complementarity. For in a painting the positive space is as important as the negative space. And in our mind’s eye we can make the one dominate, and at another instance the other. In arches walking forward in a landscape, the eye runs around with the colour intensity of the arches till it sets itself on the central one, standing with a highly intense red area that shimmers, holding one’s attention, until at another moment he is made aware of a fervently bright cloud in the back ground becomes meaningful and dominates one’s attention.

The cosmographic circles of Prakash are other graphic manifestations of Tantra, where the duality of movement versus the static, the inner and the outer, positive and negative are in constant opposition. A centralized circle with a great number of small, undulating commas of energy emanating from a lit area behind the circle. Other seems to give the same exponential energy within the otherwise static circle. His work reminds one of the statement of Philip Rawson, keeper of the Gulbenkian Museum of Oriental Art and The Archaeology in the University of Durham, “Because sensation and emotion are the most powerful human motive forces, they should not be crushed out but harnessed to the ultimate goal. Tantra equates the human body to the cosmic body, it has mapped the mechanism of currents of energy through which the creative impulse is distributed at once through man’s body and the world’s.”

The Tantrik tries to assimilate his body to higher levels of cosmic body pattern in order to reach a vision of the cosmic bliss which is an all embracing love, sexual, familial and destructive, all at once. Tantra, the cult of extreme feeling, entails meditation, aesthetic experience, sex, magic and social action. Of these Om Prakash drops all evil and controversial issue. “I want to offend no one, on the contrary, I want to touch people with happiness.” About artists who paint shocking subjects in order to sell, he says “A touch is better than a slap! A soft touch can be remembered far longer than a slap.”

Prakash is not the only artist practicing Neo-Tantra. It is rather the school of first generation of post-independence artists that started in the 1960’s to explore new figurative styles based on their indigenous environment. Soon they reverted to the traditional two-dimension aesthetic of Tantric diagrams. The exhibition of Om Prakash exhibits a high sense of discipline, a deep knowledge of color, its intensities, the effects of neighboring colours on each other, it is a feast of aesthetics that is much yearned for in this region.

Om Prakash adds a pleasant, familiar note to his exhibition, a huge blue painting with mosques and minarets circumambulating the Tantric Yantra with a central meditation point. Asked about it Prakash explains “ When I was a little boy, I heard the sound of the Muezzin. This remained with me even after the emigration of Indian Muslims to Pakistan. I lost contact with them but the sound kept resounding in my head. I wanted to recreate that Feeling of prayer. It took me forty five years to mature my boy’s idea .. and before getting to Amman, I decided the time had come to solidify my idea. It took me four months to do this big painting that I called “Allah Ho Akbar"

Nelly Lama, Published in : Arab Daily, Amman, Dated:- 27 May 1999

Om Prakash Sharma : A Gilded Spirituality

Mapping the artistic contours of an artist of the strature of Om Prakash Sharma is an immensely donting task - an attempt to decipher an idiom which has developed through an arduous period of hard work, introspection and refinement ; all of which find resonance and identity in his work. A casual observation of his work will not be enough to convey much to the viewer, as his imagery compels the cohesive interaction of the senses as well as the intellect, a fine-tuned appreciation of the illusive yet powerful impact of his work.

It would be a gross understatement that an exhaustive look at Om Prakash's work is fascinating; it moves much beyond the restraints of stifling adjectives. it moves and interacts with the viewer at surprising levels; always intriguing and pregnant with possibilities. Born on December 14, 1932, Om Prakash Sharma's name needs no introduction in the world of creative art. His is a well rounded artistic personality, delving thirstily at all vistas and sources of creativity. For Om Prakash, the cycle of creativity is a chain of continually evolving nature of the creative arts, coupled along with the imposition of changing social norms. The crystallization of perspective does not stifle the quality of Om Prakash's work, rather it directs and defines the artist's natural urge to express and prevents it from meandering into meaningless creativity. ...

ART & DEAL, New Delhi, August - September 1999

In a Mandala of Peace

It was the perfect ambience as willed by Prof. O.P.Sharma the artist. Seated on stage in the spatial beauty of Gallery Zen, the surbahar in hand and surrounded with his paintings on display. It had been his will to perform amidst his works. Engrossed in Drawing out the intricacies of his surbahar, O.P Sharma began with the mellifluous notes of raga jhin-jhoti and moved on to the melancholy of raga shivranjini. The sound of music merged into space creating a mandala of peace within the artist soul whilst the diffused electric light and candle light flickering in a row added to the magic of the evening.

Exhibiting his paintings for the first time in Bangalore, a retrospective of four decades, 1958 to 1998, his works exude his philosophy and passion to live life to the fullest. Colours blend into each other softly creating new meanings and drawing the on looker into the artist’s soul . Kashmir Trees, Carnivorous Moon, Melody in Blue, Garden ,Octave , the Cloud, Mandala Bhoomi, Mandala Morning Garden, Shakti, Gateways, City Scape. The enormity of his works ignites and engulfs the viewer ‘s emotions. A dynamic painter, he’s had a complulsive show each year for the past 40 years and traversed the romantic and the spiritual through the realistic to semi abstract to geometrical abstraction and neo-tantra phase.

Living in the serenity of his home at Bharati artist colony, Delhi, the mandala of Prof.. O P Sharma fuses a confluence of the teacher, artist, philosopher and music lover in him. Projecting a sustained fervor for art, Prof. Sharma visibly enjoys soaking in the colours of life’s demands his paintings.

Even as a child he had vision that caught his fancy. His first painting was of shiva made with wheat grains soaked in the colours of ‘Holi’. Confined to bed due to illness, during his early childhood, these images were the only thing that he lived with. The blessings of a fakir changed his name from Om Prakash Vashisht to Om Prakash Sharma improving his health but the visions continued to pursue his mind. Mysterious in the nature of their sources, they appeared constantly and strengthened his passion to choose art as his profession. A choice that prompted him run away at the age seventeen from the education of his parent’s home to Delhi art school where he taught through the day and continued his professional training during evening. For OP the options remains an amazing decision to him, even today.

“ If I think about the conservative lower middle class railway employee family I was born to, with no hope, support or creative ambience, I wonder at my own resolution . Although I was offered a job in the Indian Army , I refused and every body thought I was crazy In fact my family was so alarmed that they got me married at the age of eighteen.

If the art empowered Om Prakash with creative self expression , music has been his constant inspiration from the day he set his eyes on a sitar. It was his first job as an art teacher , in 1956 at a public school, while walking around in search of the art room he opened the door to the music room instead and saw the sitar. That moment he decided to learn the instrument . “ Music helps me create a vibration in the selection of colours. It is subjective and dedicated by own conscious. My association with music has had a big contribution in creating a particular expression through colour. For OP, “ art is not an exclusive item sitting on a pedestal having no relation to other fields of creativity. In Indian culture all arts have been homogenous for centuries.”

Both Art and Music for Omprakash have occupied his mind from early years. If pictures of religious gods at home and cinematic visuals stimulated the artist in him, the songs at temples and festivals captivated his love for music. A passion that developed through the years and culminated into a distinct style that grew from the artist's inquiry into a unique approach which could be called his very own. As he states, 'the arithmetic of my paintings is more musical than anything else. I have constantly tried to see by music and hear by my paintings.

From child hood his aspiration was to be the best but he realized when he went to America and Europe in 1964 that there was nothing unexplored in terms of portraiture, landscape, or composition. he traveled alone, city-to-city, museum-to-museum and gallery-to-gallery devouring art. and when he returned to India, O.P.Sharma realized that it is not mere excellence that counted but uniqueness. So in his search for individuality he struggled with ideas, paints, sketches and finally in the late sixties derived an identity that was to be his own. An exclusivity that harbored and borrowed from tantric images but did not imitate or abide strictly by the ritual aspects and conventional iconography.

The theory of the mandala fascinated his creativity to absorb the countless experiences of life, and nature around him. The mandala for O.P.Sharma created a world of its own that culminated the physical, emotional and spiritual levels. It was an all-encompassing space that radiated with the energies of the self. Having evolved his own symbolism, he clarifies, "I'm not 2,500 years old to refer to the tradition but live in this world of today. I have never really cared about following a formula. Today as an internationally well known 'selling' artist the greatest attribute to his childhood resolution and aspiration to be the best is the fact that he retired as Principal and Director of the Delhi College of Art . the same college he had joined as a student. OP feels artists should be encouraged in all 'departments and areas of social strata'. Even if the concept of art is challenged by the IT industry. OP Sharma is supremely confident that nothing can replace a personal, intimate visual expression of the artist. "The contact of an artist's creativity through his finger to the canvas, nothing can challenge or achieve that'. Adding to his achievements, the release of his book, Om Prakash-Forty Years-1958 to 1998 culminated his commitment as an artist. Focusing on art he says, relativity is not a confining factor where consciousness is reduced to an item but an expansion of creative consciousness.

The spirit of artistic adventure had constantly engaged Om Prakash while tackling his canvas, constant travel to other countries, meeting people and seeing places. But today he would rather opt for a 'Chilla'. A custom adopted by older musicians when they did not go out of their home or receive anybody for a specific time period. Sometimes a custom followed by OP when he decides to work at his studio for two weeks to twenty days at a stretch. A time that teaches him to enjoy being alone with one's self. A time where the value of solitude turns into creative bliss. As OP reminisces, "I tell my students and friends that only when you are able to evaluate the intensity of the value of being creative and meditative, you can confront life passionately."

For Prof O.P.Sharma, at 69 years, the visions continue unabated, pressurizing him to render painting after painting but the mandala of his life glows with content. Retirement from college duties and a well settled family has enabled him to concentrate in quietude on the bindu of his sadhana, music and art.

Pramila Lochan - Sunday Herald, Bangaluru, July 22, 2001

Justifying Creativity

Popularly known as Om Prakash, Mr. Om Prakash Sharma was born in Haryana in 1932. His early art education was in Meerut, from where he came for higher education to the then Delhi Polytechnic, of which he later become the principal for 11 years from 1981 to 1992, and thence to Columbia University and Art Students League, New York.

It is believed that a painting justifies its own creation and being. This is perfectly true of Om Prakash's paintings displayed on an entire floor of the Lalit Kala Galleries, by Art Pilgrim, showing through this concluding week of September.

Om Prakash is a painter of the ilk of the Late GR Santosh, SH Raza, and now the rhetoric Sohan Qadri. His works have always dazzled the most discerning viewer with their brilliant colour and impeccable compositions, with geometricity as the very core of its visual vocabulary, making many an art lover wonder why Om Prakash is not a bigger rage than he is today! It is perhaps the matter of temperament, or just a question of spreading only as much as one's inner faculties permit; for anything else is not genuine in terms of art.

Om Prakash's is a world contained within the geometry of Mandalas, or in another words, the meeting place of the minds, the body, the cosmic and the divine. Colour and composition play a major role in this vocabulary, being the main exponents of theory and content with their modulation and structuring. Om Prakash excels in his fields. His color choices, grading and modulation are of the highest order, ranging from the meditative to the celebrative, passionate, sensitive or sensuous with equal expertise. Organisation of features, be they line, colour planes, or design by way of special distribution, has always been Om Prakash's special quality, Executed with the strongest discipline, his works put any given display area on strong grid, emanating energy and order. It seems difficult indeed to imagine any given area with an Om Prakash painting harboring or brooking indiscipline of any kind. One is very serious in saying that our political brass and equally our civic agency officials should be made to jointly meditate before an Om Prakash painting every morning and what better than the LKA showing the way while the show is still on within its own gallery. Kudos to Gita Singh and Art Pilgrim.

Aruna Bhowmick - The Statesman, New Delhi, Sep 28, 2007

BEYOND CHRYSALIS

Throughout a most visibly and acoustically fecund professional life, Om Prakash has to project beyond powerful forms and vibrant colors. Inherent in his depiction of such visible and intangible realities, unfold realms beyond appearance, attesting to symbolic and energy interrelationship, Such tangible matter and energy alike are dependent upon the existence of light and light is dependent on sound.

Innate harmonies, whether as diamonds, triangles, circles, mandalas or other geometric forms, or vistas encompassed in window, door and arched portals suggest chords connecting broader dimensions of time and space. Art provides a means to express the imagination in non-grammatic ways that are not tried to the formality of spoken or written language, nor to the invisibility of sound. Cycles of existence pulsate, suggesting metamorphosis. Om Prakash’s creativity defies nomenclature, extending further than definitions of attribution or “isms”. Exploring the elements, diverse spheres come into the picture plane as symbols and surreal imagery: an outer world of surroundings, an inner world of perceptions, and a continuum intersecting and connecting both. One view of these configurations, the Tibetan Tantric view, relates these as field through which all facets of nature manifest.

Paralleling the dramatic evolutionary/biological transformation of the butterfly, chrysalis, his work resonates through change and motion. This is what the Russian writer and lepidopterist, Vladimir Nabokov referred to as a “notion of the equivalence of sense data and mental states, an aesthetic feeling for the spiritual essence of reality and the supernatural dimension to repetitions of the visible world.” (Speak Memory: An Autobiography Revisited. Original Title: Conclusive Evidence. New York: Putnam, 1960, 1966.) Each stage of the change gives rise to another, related yet dramatically different, reinforcing the need and felling of the transcendent, of the effect of transmutation.

Elizabeth Rogers.
2012