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Off the beaten track

Consumerism and the self in relation to creativity and interfaces with other individuals, among others, are themes that are in currency on the international art scene. These dual themes dominate the works of teachers of the faculty of visual arts, Rabindra Bharati University (RBU), who are holding an exhibition in collaboration with the Birla Academy of Art & Culture. That some of the teachers of art are still under the spell of the masters like K.G. Subramanyan and Ganesh Haloi is quite obvious from this exhibition. One would have expected them to shake off the influence at their time of life.

But there are others who have dared to experiment with concepts, using diverse materials. Established artists in our country, unfortunately, never do this. Unlike the teachers of the Government College of Art, even when the RBU teachers use conventional tools, such as the canvas and the paintbrush, they do so compellingly. This can be attributed to the power and energy that goes into their conception and execution.

One other reason for this is that most of the teachers are relatively young — in their early thirties or forties. This is not to say that their works can claim absolute originality. How many artists can' But they have taken the trouble of keeping themselves informed about latest trends on the international scene. This has catalysed their work.

Dipankar Dasgupta is the son of an eminent artist who died a couple of years ago. Thankfully, Dasgupta does not work in the shadow of his father. Dasgupta has painted a really large canvas for this show. It is a boldly-executed work, where the entire space is crammed with visceral matter apparently pickled in blood and bile. Red and green are the dominant colours here, and this holds true for his smaller paintings, too.

Of the other artists who have used the format of the framed space, Shreyasi Chatterjee is significant. Chatterjee seeks inspiration in the world of schoolchildren, in its mundane realities and naivete. Using both collages and crayons, she recreates doodles apparently done by kids and toon protagonists that are witty commentaries on the contemporary social scene. Her strength lies in her simplicity.

There are three artists who have created works that could be installations, but have sculptural qualities as well. All three have a certain slickness about them. Charged with ideas about consumerism, Chhatrapati Dutta has stacked packing cases with the translucent moulds of the faces and hands of a woman and child placed in between. Lights shine through the moulds, revealing the seeds of a flowering plant embedded within each like an insect in amber.

Paula Sengupta is known for her graphics. Here she uses letters written to the men who have come into her life, in conjunction with tailors’ dummies dressed in paper clothes that show amorous vignettes. It looks a trifle too photogenic but it does have an elegiac quality.

Adip Dutta is one of the youngest of the group and he builds his work around the self and artistic processes. The plaster of Paris forms placed on large negatives give the impression of being partly finished. There are the lower limbs of Venus de Milo, an upright mummy, a cast taken of the Dutta’s head, a chair and a piece of junk. Individually, they stand out, but it seems there are one too many.

It is difficult to classify dean of faculty Partha Pratim Deb. Using soft-drink bottles, he creates what looks like pawns and also rainbow-hued phallic shapes. Deb never fails to surprise.

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