Australian Sri Chinmoy Centre member and painter Pranavanta John Montefiore passed away recently. Art critic, university lecturer, illustrator and exhibited seven times, Pranavanta was also an author 30 years in the making—his magnum opus on painting The Making of Paintings published in 2007.
Like spirituality in today’s unashamedly material world, Pranavanta the author remains mostly unappreciated… for now. Although yet to find a publisher, his voluminous self-published work received the highest possible praise from Sydney Morning Herald art critic John McDonald, who said that “If everything on the planet were destroyed, some future race could reconstruct the practice of painting from this volume alone”. One suspects that like the famous painters he wrote about, Pranavanta will be better known by generations yet to come.
Profound painter and teacher
For his last 22 years the artist John Montefiore was known to many of his friends as ”Pranavanta”, a name given to him by his meditation teacher, Sri Chinmoy, meaning ”full of life energy”. You didn’t have to be a spiritual giant to know that this was a particularly apt designation. Even as he lay in hospital suffering from cancer, he couldn’t wait to leave and return to his painting.
Such enthusiasm resulted in epic works. His 18-metre-high, multi-panelled Life Series painting took him more than 20 years to complete – and was worth the wait. It won the Sir John Sulman Prize in 1993, awarded by the Art Gallery of NSW, and is now permanently at Macquarie University.
Montefiore was an aficionado, someone who could wax lyrical on many aspects of the world: not just the beauty that he strived to portray in his artwork but also the sweet sounds of music, the aroma of a flower, even the joy of a terrible pun.
When people say ”Words can’t express it”, they obviously never accompanied their words with the enthusiasm of Montefiore. His marathon artworks were best accompanied by his own commentary, as he guided you through the story he was telling with his work. Every dot of paint, its position and shape, had profound significance.
Read more about Pranavanta the artist and seeker:
Profound painter and teacher by Mark Juddery, Sydney Morning Herald, June 16, 2011