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Arty Fact: Coming full circle

When artist Jayasri Burman repaid a debt of gratitude by buying back her own work

‘Untitled’ (1992) by Jayasri Burman.
‘Untitled’ (1992) by Jayasri Burman.

The works of artist Jayasri Burman are mystical, with a lyrical quality and styling that is folk at its core. “I am deeply inspired by nature, the best creation of God. I get moved by watching fish in water or a bird in flight," says Burman. Though she does not call herself a feminist, her works are generally women-centric. The use of bright and radiant colours and meditative detailing are key characteristics of her work.

Burman grew up in West Bengal in a traditional family. Her father would chant the poems of Rabindranath Tagore and the family would perform prayers in the home temple, an experience that became an integral part of her work. In the early 1990s, Burman was going through a tough phase financially—she had the responsibility of educating her son and her own health needed attention. Her art was not selling.

In 1992, a friend contacted Burman, requesting her to allow a cousin, Bibhash Chowdhury, to visit her studio. Chowdhury loved some of the work and ended up acquiring a few for 10,000. She got a breather.

Life moved on, and Burman relocated to Delhi. Her art became sought after and reached new heights at auctions. In the summer of 2010, she got a message from Chowdhury out of the blue, requesting guidance on whom he could contact to sell some of his art collection. He was now in need of funds to support the education of his daughters and was not in the best of health himself. Burman decided to buy back one of her works. She bought an oil-on-canvas work for 7 lakh. “I cannot paint like that any more. It’s a delight to see the work that hangs in my home and I feel immense satisfaction to have been of help to someone who was a godsend for me," says Burman.

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