Sunita Kumar has an instinctive feel for her India its warmth and diversity, the extraordinary way in which vibrancy and serenity exist side by side and its colours that live long in the memories of all who have been there. Sunita Kumars India, an exhibition of new work by one of the sub-continents most respected artists, is being held at Mallett
, Ely House, 37 Dover St, London W1 from 1 10 November 2012. This new body of paintings explores some familiar themes, not least the inspiration of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a close friend with whom Kumar worked for many years, as well as new ones and mixes a traditional figurative style with an altogether freer hand.
Painting to me is total peace, says Kumar. Thats the way I feel when Im working, Im enjoying it, Im happy. Her landscapes shimmer in blues, oranges and pinks while the exhibition at Mallett, one of the worlds leading international art and antiques dealers, also includes stately studies of temples and colonial buildings in Delhi, Calcutta and Amritsar. There are portraits of Guru Narnak, the founder of the Sikh religion, and Shirdi Sai Baba, the great saint of southern India, and a collection of pictures inspired by Mother Teresa, including one of the simple room where she lived and worked. The curator of the show is Katie Pertwee.
Kumars ability to capture the essence of India on canvas has attracted a wide range of admirers over the years, not least the late M.F. Husain, one of Indias most celebrated and internationally recognized artists, who said: In the midst of all the technical bravado and dazzle of art events, a painter serene in her presence and subtle in her rendering of images in colour and line whispers in your ears
..that serene and silent painter is Sunita Kumar. Kumar and Husain exhibited together regularly; their last joint London show was held at the Victoria & Albert Museum in June 2010 to celebrate the centenary of Mother Teresas birth. This collection of work was then shown at the Victoria Memorial, Calcutta and was visited by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The influential interior designer Nina Campbell said: Somehow the way she intimates an atmosphere, without overworking it, is magic for me and means that you can look for ever with immense pleasure at her work. Jerry Hall, the model and former wife of Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger, added: She is incredibly talented and exudes an amazing combination of peace and creativity in her life and her work. I love her playful, yet deeply spiritual, paintings which transport you to another world of peace, harmony, laughter and love.
A self-taught painter who has exhibited in London, Paris, New York, Florence, Mumbai, New Delhi and Calcutta, Kumar was born in Lahore but has lived in Calcutta for most of her life. She is married to Naresh Kumar, the respected Indian businessman who was also a well-known international tennis player, captaining Indias Davis Cup team and competing at Wimbledon for 20 consecutive championships. They have three children and nine grandchildren.
Kumar was a close associate and friend of Mother Teresa for 32 years, first meeting her when she began to do voluntary work for the Missionaries of Charity, founded by the Catholic nun in Calcutta. In the years that followed, Kumar worked for her in various voluntary capacities and eventually became the principal intermediary between Mother Teresa and the world of bureaucracy, her official spokesperson and one of her closest confidantes. When Mother Teresa died in 1997 it was Kumar who read a statement announcing this to the worlds press. It was only towards the end of Mother Teresas life that it occurred to Kumar to start painting her friend. I wanted to show her through my paintings how much I loved and respected her, she said. Several of these paintings are in the exhibition at Mallett.