Fiona Harvey at the Tagore Centre

So, I have now visited the archive at the Tagore Centre several times. I enjoy the feeling of space and light and quiet here, something to do with the curved expanse of glass making up more than half the wall space, and being above a library.

I was interested to discover the breadth of Tagore’s endeavours, unaware previously that he wrote dance-dramas in addition to the poetry, music and other writings that he is most known for. I knew he had painted, but had not looked at this work before, and spent a few happy hours browsing around 2,000 of his collected works in Kumar’s 4 volume edition. The work here is grouped into types of image : landscapes, figure, patterns, flowers, erasures and so on.

He started with doodles which turned into more complex images, sometimes abstract, sometimes as fantasy creatures, before training in more conventional styles of figurative and landscape painting. Whilst he makes accomplished enough works in these spheres, I feel they loose some of the imagination and uninhibited air of the earlier works. His extended drawings over his own manuscripts in both Bengali and English, sometimes covering large chunks of text, at other times merely linking it into a decorative trail, strike me as more profound and forward looking than his more conventional paintings.

 

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Despite Tagore’s many talents, I found the arrangement of a photograph of him, adorned with vases of fresh lilies either side and having the appearance of an altar, a little disturbing. But perhaps this is down to cultural misinterpretation : maybe this arrangement is a mark of respect and not deification.

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