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Reposeful despair
Eyewitness

Hunger, extreme privation and even starvation cannot wipe out human dignity. Somnath Hore was haunted all his life by visions of the human skeletons of the 1942 man-made famine, and they reappeared from time to time in his sculpture and drawings and graphics as his response to the riots and cataclysms that haunted the country.

The exhibition at the Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre returns with those visions of loop’d and window’d raggedness. A single source of light illuminates four pieces of bronze — the heads of a woman with a placid expression, a man whose features seemed to have been wiped out, and a child with hollows for eyes and with the contours of a Mycenean mask. A large hand with knobbly knuckles is laid out in front. The trio is united by the horror of it all — the Gujarat riots —in an image reminiscent of Käthe Kollwitz.

Hore’s ink and wash drawings and prints are exhibited in the rooms above. The armature of the human body is laid bare here again, and moments before death, this bare, forked animal sinks into reposeful despair.

This exhibition is distinguished by drawings of massive, sinewy men — some distorted to draw the eyes to the thews — a woman resting in the nude in a chair, and an idyllic Santiniketan similar to K.G. Subramanyan’s Ratanpalli. Included are woodcuts of his Tebhaga diary, Santhals dancing in a Bihar forest and a life-like portrait of Stalin.

Hore’s diary about domestic life in Santiniketan, written while he waited for a burn to heal 1988, was released on the occasion. Until the Rain was translated into English from Bengali by Sunandini Banerjee.

Artists alluding to iconic or well-known works or ideas or events have become so much a part of the contemporary art practice that some painters tend to become self-indulgent when it comes to referencing classics. Often it becomes difficult to separate the allusions from the artist’s own thoughts, if any. At times Debraj Goswami’s paintings on paper, being exhibited at Akar Prakar, tend to be overloaded with scraps from Guernica and Van Gogh and Armageddon. Without these references, Goswami can, on his own, create sinister images, like the helmet with teeth. It must be added that but for his weakness for allusions, Goswami has the ability to create visually arresting images.

Barun Chowdhury’s paintings at Aakriti Art Gallery lack clarity of thought. His images are more real than real, often tending to resemble photographs that have gone awry — a zebra losing its stripes, a dog with the genes of a Royal Bengal tiger, a skeleton sprouting a plant. Yet except for the smaller paintings, like the one of the mouse with giant ears, and the dogs with intertwined tails, his creations tend to confuse. Of the sculptures, Partha Pratim Deb’s works stand out for their freshness.

Dilip Ranade’s fine drawings at Galerie 88 are delightfully arch. He juxtaposes unlikely objects often to comical effect. His drawings match his precise thoughts. The profiles of pachyderms, the dog trying to chew its spirit and the tiger skin between the two canons are pithy and cut a long story short.

Rahara Shilpi Gosthi presents 10 artists in an exhibition of paintings and sculptures at Birla Academy. The paintings are technically better than the sculptures. Bimal Bhattacharya’s paintings of Durga and the woman combing her companion’s hair are competent. Somdutta Banik’s graphics — particularly the butcher — are technically sound. Subhankar Halder’s piglets are charming. Samar Basak’s water lilies are well executed.

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