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Bearing imprints of the artistís personality

No art form can survive for long without patronage. Though the graphic print is a highly-evolved art form, there are few takers for it. Most Indians cannot distinguish them from the commercial print. They fail to realise that the process of producing graphic prints is not mechanical. They need the intervention of the artist at every stage and therefore bear the imprint of the artistís personality. Moreover, the process itself is quite complicated and rigorous, and each print has an identity of its own that cannot be duplicated, quite unlike commercial prints that are mass produced.

Several galleries have held innumerable exhibitions exclusively of prints. However, they have failed to increase their popularity. Arup K. Datta has gone out of his way to make graphic prints more acceptable to a people who do not have much time for them. He commissioned 21 artists from different parts of the country to create a portfolio of 21 prints that includes etching, litho, photo litho and serigraphy. It is an edition of 50. Datta says the artists used very high quality paper that enhanced the artistry of the prints.

Some of the participating artists are Akbar Padamsee, Suhas Roy, Shuvaprasanna, Anjolie Ela Menon, Paritosh Sen, Paresh Maity, Arpita Singh, Lalu Prasad Shaw and Sahabuddin of Bangladesh. There are two artists who are dead ó F.N. Souza and B. Prabha, whose paintings of long-limbed fisherwomen used to grace many calendars at one time. Her print is not very different from her paintings. It is a very pretty drawing.

But the same can be said about Paresh Maityís print and that of most of the participants. The only exceptions are Anjolie Ela Menon and Suhas Roy. The linearity of Ela Menonís litho is quite at variance with her with her florid canvases. Thankfully, Suhas Roy has not presented the face of Radha once again. His litho depicts the form of a woman emerging from shadows.

Dattaís most important contribution is the catalogue he has produced for Graphis 21 that opens at Taj Bengal on Saturday. It is one of the best produced on graphic prints. It gives a very clear idea of the history of printmaking in India as well as the technique involved. One suddenly realises that Nandalalís famous illustrations for Sahaj Path are actually linocuts.

Besides, the catalogue carries a detailed account of the techniques of printmaking and a glossary of the print. One can also find out for oneself the precise meaning of words such as mezzotint and colour separation. The tools are all accompanied by illustrations. The exhibition will be on view at Chitrakoot gallery from July 11 to 15.

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