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Column - Oindrila Maity
  • Debraj Goswami - CIMA
  • Manjari Chakravarty - Gandhar Art Gallery
  • Subrata Chowdhury
  • Sun Ock Lee - Aakar Prakar
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Kolkata Sketch Book

The Nandigram issue that had ultimately led to an indiscriminate genocide has left a deep scar among us Kolkatans. Not only did opposition parties come up with endless rallies, protests in all forms including those of bandhs, but also collecting signatures from passers by for petitions to be sent to the President, followed endlessly. Artists and the rest of the Kolkata intelligentsia got themselves actively involved in protesting against the unjust measures of the state government. A major part of the Kolkata based artists grouped themselves up at the Academy of Fine Arts – the city’s most popular cultural hub – from where they started a long protest march. Students’ politics, too, at the university level beefed up once more as it did in the 1960s – 70s. This automatically reflects in the work of the artist citizen.

Art, however, has a nonchalant facet, too. It often disregards the immediate happenings. This is perhaps all the more true in case of the utopist Kolkatan, who refrains from indulging himself in the role of a spokesperson for the public. For ‘ Faces’, an exhibition that took place in the Academy of Fine Arts, the same venue, from where only a couple of days ago, the artists had started their protest march. The show featured – Subrata Chowdhury, Anup Roy, Nirmalendu Mandal, Jayanta Ghosh, Wasim Kapoor,Dwijen Gupta , Parvati Mukherjee,  Dipti Chakrabarti,  Subrata Ghosh and others - a group of the cities artists, most of who have been associated with the most popular magazines and periodicals as illustrators for over two decades and have become an integral part of the Bengali life and culture. Barring a few arbitrary canvases that comprise of sceneries such as those of Romu Law and Parvati Mukherjee, all the others are portraits or busts mostly of women. Nirmalendu Mandal’s canvas renders a woman’s bust in profile, eyes closed in a meditative gesture. Her locks transformed into foliage and the veil that wraps her flutters in the wind. Both Wasim Kapoor and Subrata Ghosh have painted portraits of men with their eyes closed. Both the images are tautly cropped. Subrata Chowdhury paints portrait of a woman in blue. Her mask like face is devoid of a scalp, from where a palm and leaf like structures emerge. Her eyes devoid of eyeballs gaze into nothingness. Despite individual styles, the images share a common chain – all of them dwell in a world, which is a little too romanticized. To quote Chowdhury – “Art is where we refrain from associating ourselves with things that we detest. Political issues alienate us from peace. And art is where we take refuge in. The Bengalis are a typically mushy and sentimental race, which their art would definitely reflect.” Amidst such a utopic world genocide at Nandigram,now hardly seems to have any impact on art.

A number of artists from outside the city as well as abroad have been a common feature of late in Kolkata. Following ‘Beyond Credos’, a group show comprising teachers and students from the MS University in Baroda, that took place last month at the Birla Academy, CIMA Art Gallery curated ‘ Reality Bytes’, featuring Abir Karmakar, Uday Mondal and Debraj Goswami – all the three of whom have been trained in Kolkata primarily and later did their Masters degree from the MS University. Abir’s series ‘In the Old-Fashioned Way’ is his confrontation with the two different schoolings.
His approach of delineating himself sitting before a mirror is narcissistic and flesh seems to interest him in its corporeality. Debraj Goswami appropriates popular masterpieces and adds to them his own jerks. He often paints Gandhi, or a thumb, or arms of Adam and God from Michelangelo’s,‘Creation of Adam’, jutting out from a rubber slipper and an iron to its opposite – all in photo-realistic precision.         

Sun Ock Lee is foremost exponent of traditional and modern Korean dance. Inspired by artist Ganesh Haloi’s serene paintings at the gallery Aakar Prakaar, she initiated to perform Zen dance – a kind of dance form from the Far East that in it demands meditation. Lee performed her recital in the courtyard of the gallery surrounded by Haloi’s paintings. Her exquisite and white paper dress that she herself had prepared and stripped gradually made her appear as ethereal as the paintings themselves. She danced to Indian classical music and also to that of a Korean flute.

To those who still believe that texts are only superficial impositions on a picture surface that only mars the impact of the painting – and which is still a common belief among most pedagogic teachers in the art institutions in Kolkata, Manjari Chakravarty’s solo show ‘Ericture’ is a retaliation in a most straight forward manner. Hats off to the Gandhar art gallery that hunts for fresh ideas. The French word ‘ericture’ means a form of writing or paintings words. For Manjari they are her constant parlance with music and literature – which are inextricably associated with her psyche. Manjari’s ecstatic involvement with music often reflects on her canvas as frenzied, feverish marks. She works with paints directly applied to a surface patched with blue gray or purplish tones. Often the white letters get blurred as she speeds up with music as in ‘See the Storm’ or in ‘Forest Floor’. Music frees the inanimate images in her paintings and induces life in them - she claims. Her present works evolve from her extensive use of her textured surfaces, which she had created with papier-mache and her earlier patch works. She gifted the city with a dose of freshness from her springtime collection.


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