Sakti Burman and Maite Delteil and their special ‘Journey of Love Faith and Inspiration’ exhibition

With a twinkle in his eye and a characteristic jest, Sakti Burman playfully questions the reality of time, “Have I turned 91 or 99?” during his recent visit to the Nayan Naveli Gallery in Greater Kailash, accompanied by his beloved wife, Maite Delteil. Marking his 91st birthday, their jovial banter was a heartwarming prelude to the grand “Journey of Love, Faith and Inspiration” retrospective offering a glimpse into their lifelong partnership in art and marriage since their Parisian nuptials in 1963.

The special exhibition stands out not just as a display of creative works but as a fitting homage to the couple’s intertwined artistic voyages, spanning from the early 1950s right through to the present day in 2023. As recounted by curator and gallery founder Amrita Kochhar, many showcased pieces are not for sale. They are treasured collections loaned for the event, bound to be returned to their collectors in Paris, testifying to the significance of the artistic narrative unfurled there.

Bringing a familial aspect to the exhibition are adjoining rooms adorned with works by their daughter, Maya Burman, and a retinue of artists including Suman Chandra, Nandan Purkayastha, Ranjeeta Kant, and Krishnendu Porel, who have been associated with the Burman-Delteil artistic lineage.

Their story is steeped in creativity that transcends bloodlines. As luminaries like Anjolie Ela Menon and Arpana Caur graced the inauguration, it was evident how the Burmans’ life seeps artistry, with Maya’s own son Ganapathy now learning the artistic craft. Relative and artist Jayasri Burman, married to Paresh Maity, only adds to the dynasty. Even Sukhlal, their cook, proves talent can arise from unexpected places, having showcased his own artwork in the gallery some time ago.

I recall my first encounter with Sakti in the early 2000s when he shared his dream of introducing India to Maite and her artwork. Over time, Maite’s once reserved demeanor blossomed into approachability, complementing Sakti’s growing serenity.

The exhibit itself defies convention, as Maite explains it reflects their shared educational forays into the arts at Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts. Their works seem to converse, displaying Sakti’s aversion to realism and Maite’s initial academic approach, which eventually gave way to a captivating Surrealist expression.

Her pieces dazzle with the vividness of nature captured in times of poignant reverie, while Sakti, inspired by a confluence of Indian miniature art, Kalighat paintings, and European grandmasters, has etched a place in the global art scene with his unique ‘marbling fresco’ style.

The label ‘Alchemist of Dreams’ befits Sakti’s oeuvre, which melds theItalian classical approach with the elegiac murals of Ajanta caves, meriting praise from Amina Okada of Musée Guimet, Paris. Sunaina Anand of Art Alive draws parallels between Sakti’s adept fusion of Indian and French sensibilities and Maite’s lyricism reminiscent of her childhood French gardens.

The collaborative nature of their art is lucid in pieces paying homage to art legends such as Titian and Botticelli, where they reinvent traditional subjects in a distinct, personal stylistic vernacular.

Among the exhibition’s treasures are Maite’s illustrations for Satyajit Ray’s “Phatik Chand,” drafts of which had been out of the public eye for two decades. The showcase also revives the creative intersection of different genres and historical periods through their collective contributions.

For deeper insight, Sakti implores a detour into the documentaries by Joy Banerjee, which unveil the artists’ personal and community lives. These films, screening weekly, afford a rare lens into their intimate world.

Sakti and Maite’s joint exhibition promises both a celebration and an introspective journey, inviting attendees until March 1 to partake in their legacy—one that merges love, faith, and inspiration in a tapestry of visual masterpieces.

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