A reflective view of the world underlines Prabhakar Barwe's austerely lyrical paintings. The prosaic elements transport you out of your mundane surroundings. Then time stops and your senses break their fetters to enter into an unending vista of delightful reflection.
Quiet and effacing, his disposition corresponds to the nature of his style. His birth in a remote village of Nagaon, Maharashtra, in 1936, early childhood spent romping in the countryside he feels, has a lot to do with his artistic sensibilities. The simple village life in communion with nature touched his inner-being with an absolute sensitivity. Besides, Art is his birthright, infused into his blood. Karmakar, the renowned sculptor, his grandfather. His father too was a sculptor who worked in association with film studios.
The J.J. School of Art provided Barwe with an enriching environment and a stimulating experience. However, after college, survival became a primary problem. He decided to sell his time at job making just enough money for art materials and to run his household. The compromises lay in his life, not in his art.
The decades that have given Indian Contemporary Art it's present stature, coincide with Barwe's own career as a painter. After many years, he finally resolved to resign his job and devote his life to his art, searching for self-realization. Expressing himself initially through ritualistic tantra-forms, he finally found his self within the depths of the hidden aspects of reality.
Recognition even on the international level was not long in coming. Beginning with the award at the 5th International Young Artists' exhibition held by Yomiuri Shimbin at Tokyo, Japan in 1969, followed by the National Award in 1976. In late 1988 he was selected under the International Visitor's program, Grant, Sponsored by the USIA. This was followed by a Star at Yaddo, the prestigious artists' haven in America.
In Kora Canvas, a book written by him in Marathi, Prabhakar Barwe expresses the concern that underline his approach to Art.
Eleven solo shows and representation at several national and international shows, among them, the 1983 - modern Indian painting exhibition at Hirshorn Museum, Washinhton, D.C. and the IX Biennale International, Chile in 1989, signify his contribution to Art.
As written by Prabhakar Barwe:
Every component of a painting, be it from or colour, in a way gets transformed in to space. That is to say that they (the components) get synthesized with the homogenous visual result of the painting-space. In the process of such transformation, colour or from gets detached from its restricted actual-meaning-context. And from this alone, the visual result of the painting in totality is born. In my paintings such 'result'. I feel is abstract.
On seeing any virgin surface, a temptation arises-to blacken' it in some way; this must be the basic inspiration to draw and paint.
Sometimes, not being able to bear the silence, one speaks; if no-one is around to one's self. Similarly, a painter paints-initially for himself alone. For, the expanse of the blank surface becomes unbearable and this prompts an urge to draw or put colour on it.
Whilst searching for purity, the first thing that is realized is the impurity within one's own self. This impurity suggests the presence of all kind of confusion within the mind. At every stage there is hesitation, uncertainty. In fact, only that which comes to the mind first should be done, as all ideas arising later result from some such compromise or other.
In this context, it can be seen and accepted that spontaneity alone is purity. Only when a kind of 'playfulness' exists, spontaneity can come into being. Basically, this kind of 'playfulness' exists in all our minds, only, in the course of the day-to-day worldly dealings, this tendency withdraws and various kinds of confusion arises in its place; to obtain anything 'pure' from such confusion is impossible.
In a painting, that which appears meaningless at first glance, actually is of prime importance. For, when the mind is meshed with meaning, it becomes closed to anything else. Seemingly meaningless from and colours, since they are born out of the painting-space, show a new direction. Fresh possibilities are created from this alone. The mind which is rendered immobile by the limitations of meaning cannot seek out such possibilities.
This does not mean that the painting which is devoid of meaning should be repeatedly examined. In other words, it means to be aware of the 'unpainted' in a painting, that is the space, which on the face of it seems meaningless.