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Mushtaq Bhat

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PAN & ARIADNE

Homage Vincent van Gogh

Acrylic on Canvas
100 x 100cm. 2008
Private Collection

Description. Theme & Technique

Theme

Red bearded prancing panicky Pan is comforting a swollen-eyed tangled up in blues Ariadne, thereby advancing the cause of his friend and travel mate Dionysus (Bacchus).

Ariadne is in grief and wearing a grey veil of mourning ever since the unfaithful body-building hero Theseus has left her. Her one eye is swollen from a lot of crying and she is apparently looking, as if undecided, in two different directions. Manifestly eyes averted from Pan she seems to look far away toward the past or maybe toward the shoreline of the island Naxos; as if expecting a ship to sail in, bringing her lover Theseus back to her green folds. However now and then you may also notice that she throws a tentative downcast glance toward her right side, more in the direction of Pan and the cup of Bacchus in her hand containing the Dionysian elixir, yes that healthy Mediterranean red wine.

Pan, the god of Woods and Shepherds and a friend of Dionysus is apparently dumb stricken from her plight and offers her solace and the wine of his friend, obviously out of sympathy but he is no less aware of the fact that his friend Bacchus is interested in her and he is more than willing to lay a good word for him. Pan is almost sure, if she drinks that wine, the decision will be made, the past will be forgotten and she will become the priestess and wife of Bacchus. This all occurs in amidst a natural setting brimming with van Goghian foliage.

Technique

The technique is not through out after van Gogh. Due to constraints imposed by the theme. The portraits had to be both expressive and at the same time a bit reminiscent of the ancient Greece. The former was achieved through a technique, which one may rightly regard as freely expressionistic. The latter was achieved by means of the choice of main color (sienna) and the technique (mild scratches on paint) in order to evoke an association with Greek Pottery. The rest is grossly after van Gogh.

Postscript

Greek myths do not necessarily have happy endings, most of them are in a way the precursors of the tragedies of Attica, especially that of Sophocles. This one however has an happy ending unfortunately denied to Vincent, whose love remained allegedly unrequited.

There may or may not be a written record of Pan ever having visited Naxos. But my Muses claim that he did. Besides Pan did accompany Bacchus as far as India, where I incidentally was born and where they might have accompanied some primordial circus or an ancient form of a Comedia del Arte while hoboing around the royal residences. Then why, one may therefore ask, would he have not visited the neighboring island of Naxos with him?

Moral of the story?

Enjoy the red wine of Bacchus (no hybris please!)
Look toward the future. It may be fun!
And of course do not cry all the time after body-builders, like ancient heroes Hercules or Theseus or for that matter a modern Theseus like Hubble! Think of all those artistic sensitive souls, like me who can not, when the occasion calls for it, lift a woman of 50kgs, without letting her fall screaming at the household threshold!

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