Diwan Manna is known for his soulful images and is a pioneer among art photographers in India. He is one of the first exponents of conceptual photography in the country. Diwan combines photography with painting, body arts and acting to create works that defy definition. Most of his work is about his journey in search of trying to come to terms with the insidious and unrecognized forms of degradation of our sense of life and honour within ourselves as well as in others. He is not merely interested in presenting images of destruction of human goodness, courage and beauty, but tries to tap the unsuspected and as yet unrealized sources of tenderness, fortitude and humanity in us.
Some of the significant images that come to a serious art connoisseur’s mind are from the series Shores of the Unknown, After the Turmoil, Alienation, Violence and Conceptual Self Portraits. He reveals both his real compassion for his contemporaries as well as his admiration in front of the beauty and dignity of beings, it opens a reservoir of fellow feeling across cultures, languages and political milieus. In a way the experience of his images recovers for us our lost humanity. We can hear the pangs within us of the humanity being reborn. This is how Diwan speaks to us and passes from social violence, precariousness of life of men and women living in the shadows like the forgotten, to the solitude of beings and their anguish. An encounter with these pictures is a disquieting and an empowering experience. It brings out our hidden humanness, which in fact becomes an experience of self-realization for each one of us.
He has been given the National Academy award by National Lalit Kala Akademi (National Academy of Art) along with many other prestigious awards and honours including AIFACS award 1995 and 1996, Photo Artist of the Year Honor, 19th Biennial Convention of Federation of Indian Photography (FIP), 1998; State Lalit Kala Academy, Punjab,1996.
Fifteen of his works are in the permanent collection of Museum of Asian Art, Berlin, Museum of Modern Art, St-Etienne, France, Govt. Museum & Art Gallery, Chandigarh, Fine Arts Museum, Panjab University, Chandigarh, Deutsche Bank and many other institutions and private collections in India and abroad. He has been exhibiting his work in prestigious museums and galleries in France, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Poland and India since 1986.
His solo exhibitions include:
Ages of Separation –Curator Dr. Alka Pande, at Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Center, New Delhi 2006; After The Turmoil, International Art Centre, Paszkowka Palace. Krakow, Poland 2003-2004; Window on Time, Galerie Bateau Lavoir, Paris, 2001; Alienation and other works, Museum of Indian Art, Berlin, 2000; Shores Of the Unknown, Galerie Bellevue, Berlin, 2000; Rowley’s Museum, Shrewsbury, U.K., 1997; AIFACS Galleries, New Delhi, 1997; Dewsbury Museum, West Yorkshire, U.K., 1996; Galleries of West Midlands Art, Birmingham, U.K., 1994; Light House Media Center, Wolverhampton, U.K., 1993 (travelled in UK till 2001); Museum of Fine Arts, Panjab University, Chandigarh, 1986, 1992; Shropshire County Council, Shrewsbury, U.K., 1997; Barga, Italy, 2003.
150 Years of Income Tax in India – Lalit Kala Akademi Galleries, New Delhi, Lucknow, Chandigarh and other places 2011; Freedom – Gallery Nvya, New Delhi 2010; The Wonder That is India - A Visual Map: 8 photographers, Instituto Cervantes Nueva, Delhi as part of India Art Summit 2009; Click! Contemporary Photography in India, Vadehra Art Gallery and Photomedia, at Grosvenor Gallery, London and Vadehra Art Gallery, Delhi,2008; Regards Croises Franco - Indien ( Indo - French Glances) Firminy-Chandigarh, Le Corbusier by two photographers – Diwan Manna and Michel Dieudonne, Curator Martine Dancer, Alliance Francaise de Chandigarh 2007, Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata, Trivandrum, Apparao Gallery, Chennai 2008; Unite de la Habitation, Firminy, St-Etienne, France, 2007; Brasilia-Chandigarh-Le Havre, Portraits de Villes, Musee Malraux, Le Havre, France, 2007; Le Corbusier a Chandigarh 1951-2006, Diwan Manna, Stephane Couturier and Lucien Harve, Musee des Beaux-Arts Tourcoing, Lille, France, 2006- 2007; Singular Indentities, Curator Dr. Alka Pande, Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Center, New Delhi, 2004; National Exhibition of Photography, Central Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, 1982 and 1996; South Asian Visual Arts Festival, Wolverhampton Museum, U.K., 1993
Artist In Residence: As part of Cultural Exchange between St-Etienne Metroplole France and Chandigarh, India, 2006
Workshops: Sure Start, Birngham, U.K. 2003, Dewsbury
Museum, U.K. 1996; Shropshire County Council, UK, 1993.
Diwan Manna is the Chairperson of Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi since June 2008