Panchal Mansaram (P. Mansaram) is an artist of his generation. The diasporic artist created new perspectives, taken from his local every-day life and mixed with his global experiences, and was inspired to create art by everything around him taking anything small and creating something admirable out of it.
“I love the life and joy in his work,” says Indu Vashist, curator and executive director at the South Asian Visual Arts Center (SAVAC).
P.Mansaram passed away in December 2020 at the age of 86. The contemporary art audience recognizes him largely from the exhibition The Medium is the Medium is the Medium, curated by Vashist and Toleen Touq. The exhibition will be featured at the Surrey Art Gallery from Jan. 22– Mar. 20.
P.Mansaram was born in 1934 and grew up in Mount Abu, Rajasthan, India. His love and growing interest in the arts spearheaded his motivation to seek education at the Sir J.J. School of Art. Later on, he studied in Amsterdam, where he produced more experimental artwork.
P.Mansaram’s artwork includes a production through a variety of medium including painting, drawing, silkscreen printmaking, film, text, and most famously, collage. His work invokes unending feelings of travel throughout time.
“I love how it is impossible to tell when the work was made because it always looks so contemporary,” says Vashist.
Spanning over five decades, P.Mansaram’s selection of works highlights both material and spiritual elements of his surroundings. He would practice art every day and would even tinker with his previous works. In addition, his oeuvre included the latest technological innovations to create something incredible.
“In the show, you will see the Delwara Columns which are columns created out of collaged xeroxes,” says Vashist. “At the time that photocopy shops were just opening, [P.]Mansaram made friends with an owner of a copy shop and asked him if he could play with the machines overnight.”
He made thousands of photocopies of stone carvings and each one is so detailed that it must’ve taken years to make a single one.
P.Mansaram was able to captivate audiences with each intricate detail of his artwork. To him, his most famous medium, collage, best describes how the world is experienced.
“Collage was like jazz – highly improvisational and always in want of intervention,” says Vashist.
Laying eyes on the many works of P.Mansaram, Vashist knew she had to curate a solo exhibition so he could make his way into Canadian art history.
Vashist’s efforts in curating exhibitions portraying P.Mansaram’s works have enabled her to develop a greater understanding of his life and inspiration as an artist.
Vashist, a Punjabi Canadian from Vancouver Island, was raised in a diverse town and was exposed to the religions and backgrounds of everybody in her community. Her bonds with her family and friends still remain strong.
“Since the Punjabi community where I grew up was close knit, I grew up surrounded by the language, food, and culture of my community. I feel privileged to have such a strong cultural foundation from which to draw,” she says.
Curating for the engagement of others has been a regular in Vashist’s life; moreover, in museums, she has constructed meaningful exhibits from diverse artists, and has enjoyed the plethora of freedom for creativity.
“I enjoy bringing various elements together in unpredictable and novel ways to spark a feeling, thought, or experience for others,” says Vashist. “That is the ethos of curation for me.”
P.Mansaram moved to Canada in 1966 with his wife Tarunika and his daughter Mila and settled in Burlington, Ontario. Over these years, his style evolved as an artist; he retained an affinity for collage and photography. The vast spectrum of mediums included in each of his artworks is what fascinates his audience. By then, he had exhibitions at numerous galleries in the Ontario region, including the South Asian Gallery of Art, the Royal Ontario Museum, and more.
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Article on P.Mansaram’s life and art: www.canadianart.ca/essays/p-mansaram