Panchal Mansaram Biography

Panchal Mansaram




Painter, printmaker, photographer, and collagist Panchal Mansaram, who often signed his name "P.Mansaram" (with no space between the first initial, period, and second initial) was born in 1934 in Mount Abu, Rajasthan, India. He attended the Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai, India between 1954 and '59. Upon graduation he took a job as a designer for in the Weavers' Service Centre, Kolkata, which was one of many insitutions reviving traditional Indian arts that had, until the recent Partition of 1947, had been quashed by the British colonial government. He found connection with many Indian artists whose Modernism - unlike most of the contemporary art world - embraced traditional imagery, folkart, and spirituality; among these artists were painter M.F. Husain and filmmaker Satayjit Ray.

Mansaram then studied at the State Academy of Fine Arts, Amsterdam, Netherlands on a Dutch Government Fellowship between 1963 and '64. During this period he met with members of CoBrA, the Dutch artist collective that ambraced folkloric elements in their modernism and worked with layered elements in thier two dimensional work, two ideas that remained with Mansaram throughout his career. He traveled to Paris to learn printmaking at Atelier 17, spendingt time with countryman Krishna Reddy who taught him the viscosity - or simultaneous color printing - techniques Reddy had helped develop at the famed experimental printmaking workshop.

Around 1965 Mansaram met George Butcher, and Englishman and collector, dealer, and promoter of
an Indian folkart and Modernism, in Delhi. Butcher planned to move to Canada and open a gallery of Indian art and objects, aiming to become a hub for Indian artists in North America. Inspired, Mansaram immigrated to Canada the following year with his wife Tarunika and daughter Mila, hoping to find his footing with the Canadian audience. In Toronto he met philosopher and media theorist Marshall McLuhan - famed for coining the term "the media is the message" - and Canadian art dealer Avrom "Av" Isaacs, both of whom would have profound impacts on his career. He and McLuhan would soon begin collaborating on multi-media projects. In 1967 Mansaram produced ‘East West Intersect’, a multimedia concert held at Av's Isaacs Gallery, which included a five minute long 16mm film featuring McLuhan. At this time, his two-dimensional work began to take on more collage elements, combining imagery and colors of his birthplace that highlighted his diasporac path.

In the 1970’s Mansaram created a mixed media series of paintings using silkscreen, xerography, and modeling paste, titled ‘Rear View Mirror’ which included a collaborative art work with McLuhan. The series was shown at the Picture Loan Gallery in Toronto in 1974. In 1971/72, the exhibition traveled to seven galleries in the Eastern Provinces of Canada, and then to India at the Dhoomimal Art Gallery in New Delhi and Jehangir Art gallery in Mumbai in 1975. This boosted his interest in collage and he began to incorporate Indian woven and dyed fabrics, photographic blue prints, and more. Ever the experimenter, he transformed a manual credit card machine into a miniature printing press, incorporating tiny printed elements into his works. These were shown at the Taj Art Gallery in Mumbai, India House in New York, and Burlington Art Center, Burlington, in various series titled "Nepal", "Calcutta by Night", "Art on the Rocks", and "Udaipur".

In the 1980’s he did large format lasergraphic works, inspired by his immediate environment. He created works such as ‘Moving Landscape’ and ‘At the School Lockers’, a lasergraphic installation, and a series of works titled ‘New York-New York’ shown at the Piramal gallery in Mumbai, India. He continued to work well into his 80s while living in Ontario, Canada. Panchal Mansaram died on December 6, 2020.

An in-depth overview of Mansaram's career written by Deepali Dewan, curator of the South Asian Art and Culture department at the Royal Ontario Museum, can be found here.