Culture: Art Musings hosting 'The Flower and The Bulb' till February 10, 2017

Updated: 25 December, 2016 12:32 IST | Benita Fernando |

'The Flower and The Bulb' show is now running at Colaba's Art Musings till February 10, 2017. It is meant to trace an artistic lineage that runs through Maya's family


Mother and daughter, Maïte Delteil (left) and Maya Burman Pic/Sneha Kharabe

We both have been arguing about who is the flower and who is the bulb," laughs Maya Burman. Seated on the ground floor rotunda of Jehangir Art Gallery, Maya and Maïte Delteil tease and praise each other in equal measure, as best friends are wont to do. Based in Paris, the mother and daughter were here in town for the opening of a joint exhibition of their works, titled The Flower and The Bulb. The show, now running at Colaba's Art Musings till February 10, 2017, is meant to trace an artistic lineage that runs through Maya's family. Born to an artist couple – Maïte and acclaimed contemporary Indian artist Sakti Burman – Maya says, "This is our life, through the generations, linked by art."

When we look at Maya's whimsical ink and watercolour paintings, we are at once reminded of both Sakti and Maïte. Her works hint at her Maïte's use of lush blossoms while simultaneously evoking Sakti's mythical, dreamlike works. "I am sure that subconsciously I have picked up my mother's use of flowers and composing works like my father does," says Maya, 44, who has developed a personal mythology in her works. "I never tried to be "different" from what they both were doing nor did I ever compare myself to them about my artistic position. I just did what I had to do," she continues.

Art campers
Talking about arguments, Maïte and Maya — both dressed in Indian ethnic silk and linen — say that their family is like "one never-ending art camp". Their dinner-table conversations are less about food and more about painting. "Father swings by my house, which is quite near my parents' place in Paris, to not just say hi but to actually see how my work is progressing," says Maya. The three of them never comment on content or themes; their feedback is restricted to form and technique: Should this have a more finished look? Could you draw a flower here?

However, Maya's interest in art did not get stirred by her parents. In fact, she finds it weird when people remark: I wanted to be an artist since I was a child. "You don't become a cook because you love to eat. Similarly, you cannot an artist because you love to paint. You become an artist because you have something to say," she says.

Art, for these reasons and more, was the last thing on this rebel's mind – just because her parents were artists. "When I turned 12, I was enchanted by my cousin, Jaya [painter Jayasri Burman]. She was beautiful and I used to tell my friends about my didi — her lovely hair and her tanned skin," reminisces Maya, who is mother to two children, Ganapati and Lila.

A proud mother, Maïte, says that it was only when Maya went on to study architecture that her artistic practice took off. "She started making illustrations which were so good that even Jogen [Chowdhury, painter] couldn't help remarking at her skill," says Maïte. "Architecture was too strict for me, what with its straight lines. I realised that no structure will collapse if put more flowers on it," adds Maya, pointing to the prof

Different strokes
Maite, on the verge of turning 84, says that her childhood was markedly different from Maya's. She grew up in the countryside, in a little remote village in the southwest of France called Fumel. While both her grandmothers painted as all "cultured" young women were expected to, along with playing the piano and embroidering, it was unthinkable that they could profess as artists. "When my father agreed to my studying at Paris, it was a surprise," she continues.

While studying art at the ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris, Maïte fell in love with her classmate Sakti. The couple, together now for about 60 years, spent their college days sketching the many european countries they travelled to. Their student sketches would look similar, but "he was Sakti and I was Maïte, so there were differences too". She finds it hard to recall how long they had dated, for very soon they started living together, getting married seven years later. It was a decision that Maya's parents were happy with; their Parisian wedding was attended by three close friends, an aunt and an uncle. "My parents objected to him not because he was Indian but because Sakti wasn't Catholic," she says, her eyes sparkling mischievously, asking us if we would like to listen to her sing some Rabindra Sangeet.

Maïte, candid as ever, says that her husband and daughter are the more gifted artists. Her works are more finished, while Sakti and Maya let their works dwell in a dreamy haze. Bolstering her mother's talent, Maya says, "Father's works have harmony; he may draw a figure with six fingers but it won't look out of place. The other day, we saw a person cry in front of mother's painting. Father said that for all the works that he and I may make, it is only my mother's that can move people."

First Published: 25 December, 2016 11:45 IST

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