Prafulla Dahanukar was an eminent Indian painter and visionary in the Indian modern art scene. She has been a source of inspiration for many young artists around the country. Prafulla formed a huge part of the progressive movement of the art scene. Her works are always compared to the ones by her dear friend V S Gaitonde. These two were single-handedly one of the greatest influences in the modern art scene. The works of these contemporaries was a symbiotic celebration of art and not a competition. This is why the two had a studio together.
She studied art at the infamous JJ School of Art and graduated at the top of her class which gave her the opportunity to go to Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris on a scholarship.
The artists often explored new ideas and these started with ‘Raga Raginis’ which were miniature style painting. Her painting style was always evolving and she has dabbled in everything from miniature paintings to still life and portraits. Even the media she used never stayed the same and she also expanded to building-sized murals for a brief period of time. The most popular of her work is her abstract Mindscapes which led to the creation of her final Eternal Space series. She has held over 50 shows across the country and several around the world in countries in Europe and the Middle East. Her works now find a place in collections around the world.
Her life is the perfect story of a true artist. She lived a life of art and music by finding these joys in every aspect of her life. Her artworks especially the ones from her later years manage to invoke a sense of pensiveness and peace in the onlooker.
Prafulla ma’am had a unique ability to connect with people and her generosity allowed her to open her heart to them. She was always full of life and energy. She spread her message of inclusivity, positivity, sensitivity, and justice be it through her art or her actions.
She took pleasure in the doing good for others and acted as a voice for artists in India. As the Chairperson of the Bombay Arts Society, Board member of Kala Academy in Goa, and trustee of Lalit Kala Academy in Delhi she personally mentored many contemporary artists who are big names today. She also played a major role in securing an independent building in Bandra that was to be used by the Bombay Arts Society.
During her lifetime she not only helped artists of modern art but being an aesthete supported all artisans like folk artists, weavers and traditional jewellers. As a connoisseur and lover of music, she managed the reputed Bade Gulam Ali Yadgar Sabha and organised many concerts. She always came up with a unique idea to integrate the arts and this is displayed in her works and the events she organised. She once conducted an interactive event of music and art with M F Hussain painting while Pandit Bhimsen Joshi performed on the same stage simultaneously. She saw all the arts on equal footing and felt they were connected with the purpose of enriching human experience.
The Prafulla Dahanukar Art Foundation (PDAF) was started in her memory by her husband Dilip Dahanukar. The idea for the foundation came to Ravindra Salve while at an art camp happening in the Konark Sun Temple. The other artists present there were all extremely supportive of the plan and of an opportunity of honouring the memory of their dear friend. This supportive group of friends include artists like Vidyasagar Upadhyay, R B Bhaskaran, Suman Gupta Amrit Patel, Rini Dhumal, Seema Kohli, Jatin Das, Mamas Jena and Deepak Shinde. Following this Dilip Dahanukar immediately took it upon himself to make this project a reality and the PDAF was born.
The setup of the PDAF is quite unique as the sponsorship is funded by the sale of paintings of leading artists of India. The art foundation was created by the sale of just these paintings and hence is a non-profit organisation, formed by the artists, for the artists. This organisation has now become infamous for the fellowships it awards to younger artists across the country.
The foundation is just the face of the tightknit community of Indian artists. Their objective is to facilitate networking amongst the Artist community in India. They work at recognising and publicising new work of talented emerging artists. They also act as a catalyst for progressive social action led by an art movement. It acts as a platform for visibility and an opportunity to be invited into the art fraternity. The organisation acts as a boost for new, young artists who are waiting to be discovered. The platform gives them the experience of gaining tutelage from older, experienced artists.
In 2014, the Emerging Artist Reward Scheme was launched which is a competition among the artists registered under PDAF. Awards are given out in the categories of Painting, Sculpting, Printmaking, Installation, Ceramics and Photography. The awards are also categorised into a national and state level. The overall winners get an opportunity to showcase their works in a sponsored solo show in Mumbai at a reputed art gallery.
Each year, the also foundation hosts an all-India online art competition called Kalanand. In an attempt of spreading the message of art, it has an art outreach programme for schools called Balanand. The art foundation also aims at including the Senior citizens in retirement homes through the programme, Sadanand. This is an indication of the idea that art has no expiration date.
The amazing work of PDAF is now carried forward by the artist’s daughters Gauri Mehta and Gopika Dahanukar