WMU News

Michigan winter heats up visiting artist's creative juices

February 11, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- Snow and bare trees wouldn't widen the eyes of most Midwestern artists. But stare out over the winter landscape through the bespectacled, brown eyes of Indian artist Hanuman Kambli and things look a lot different.

Kambli, a Fulbright Visiting Artist from Panaji, Goa, India, who arrived in Kalamazoo in late January, has been amazed at such everyday winter scenes as rows of trees stripped of their leaves and gray skies laden with white flakes.

"I am enjoying the snow," says the printmaker and painter, taking a break from his activities as artist in residence at Western Michigan University. "And the trees without leaves. I call them bony trees. That really strikes me. The trees are full of skeletons."

Then there was the recent trip to a house on a nearby lake. Kambli stared in disbelief at a man sitting in the middle of the frozen lake with a short pole in his hands. This, he was told, is ice fishing.

Already, such Michigan-inspired scenes are cropping up in Kambli's work since he arrived on campus as a visiting artist through the WMU Department of Art. His wonder at the Midwestern winter landscape is understandable since this is the 43-year-old artist's first trip to the United States.

People can get a better sense of Kambli's work by attending a slide lecture at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 16, in Room 2302 of Sangren Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Back in India, Kambli is regarded as one of his country's foremost printmakers. He also is gaining an international reputation. Starting in 1986, his work has been exhibited in Egypt, Brazil, Poland, Portugal, Japan, Cuba, Norway, England, Germany, Holland, Spain, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Taiwan, winning numerous awards.

Though he has achieved much success through his printmaking and painting, Kambli wasn't set on life as an artist until teachers noticed this hidden talent. His high school teachers saw it first in illustrations Kambli did for such classes as physics and chemistry.

Kambli entered Bombay University, where professors also were impressed with his artistic gift and encouraged him to pursue art. He went on to earn a bachelor's degree in painting from the university in 1978 and then a master's in graphics from Kala Bhavan, Shantiniketan, in 1982.

His studies also took him abroad. During the 1994-95 academic year, he had a residency in printmaking at the Wimbledon School of Art, London.

Influenced by the likes of Picasso, Klee and Francis Bacon, Kambli creates work that is both colorful and expressive. Often using traditional myths, he reinterprets traditional themes into contemporary contexts to demonstrate their relevance today.
For him, creating art is more than a job or something he does well. It is a calling.

"It is an urge," Kambli says. "I want to say something and it's one way I can say something. Printmaking is a very expressive art form. It is an apt medium for me. It has a lot of possibilities."

Kambli, who is on campus through April, also likes to draw on life's surprises as inspiration for his work. Since his visit to Michigan is yielding plenty of those, Kambli expects them to surface in his future prints and paintings.

"I like to use visual things that I haven't noticed before that are very striking," he says. "I'm sure things I have seen here will come up when I go back to India."

For more information about Kambli's visit, call the Department of Art Exhibitions Office at (616) 387-2455.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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