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The mature charms of senior practitioners

Bikash Bhattacharjee, in his art college days, when he looked an angry young man right down to his beard, had done numerous outdoor sketches in Calcutta. An exhibition of 33 artists organised by Gallery Katayun opening on Sunday at the Academy of Fine Arts, displays four of Bhattacharjee’s early sketches, of which three are in black and white and only one is in colour.

One is a study of a khatal, the second is that of an open window with a splash of sunshine on the wall outside, and the third is of a foreshortened model. Sensitively rendered, sea green is the dominant colour of his fourth work of the profile of a man. They are all very skilfully executed with an economy of lines, and anticipate his mastery of draughtsmanship.

The exhibition is a mixed bag with quality ranging from very high to slightly worn-out. This is inevitable when there are works of both senior and young painters on display. Shyamal Datta Roy has contributed two paintings, of which an eye-catching one is of a crowned head next to a scrawny figure wielding a sword. Lalu Prosad Shaw’s portrait of a lady with bold strokes marks a departure from his painstaking style.

Some small works by Paresh Maity are in his favourite medium – watercolour. They are of human forms simplified till they are almost geometric shapes, although their original inspiration is easily recognisable. Depicted with simple lines they are relieved with colourful splashes.

Shaibal Ghosh died two years ago and three of his beautiful watercolours will be exhibited. Notable among these is The Lovers with two figures in an embrace. There is also The Magic Touch with its sense of deep mystery.

The Paris-based printmaker Anju Chaudhuri has done two large works of undulating colours which are very different from her usual work.

Tina Bopiah is a rare painter in that she uses a strong brew of coffee for her paintings. An Anglo-Indian from Calcutta she now lives in Mumbai. Her works are large and dark and are not painted in a style that would turn them into an instant hit with interior designers. Yellow in Gujarat is of a headless figure wearing an intricately patterned costume painting a sweeping canary stroke across the frame. For the Nazis the colour stood for the Jews who had to wear badges of the same shade.

The other, From the open mouth of dysfunction, is of a giant open mouth with a woman, seemingly being swallowed, lying within. Not a work everybody would like to live with.

Among the less-known artists, Arindam Chatterjee creates a wonderful texture in his abstract painting. Tapas Kanti Mitra’s watercolours are fine examples of academic work.

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