Art imitated art recently at the Gallery Artists’ Guild where Benu Mishra displayed his collection of 52 paintings, inspired by poet Hiren Bhattacharjya’s works.
Mishra has drawn inspiration from two collections of poems —Lora Dhemali and Akou Dhemali.
The poems in these collections are rather ironic in tone and through these tongue-in-cheek verses Bhattacharjya wanted to critique the contemporary world.
As a confidant of the legendary poet, Mishra’s endeavour is an effort to pay homage to the poet who passed away in July.
The series of drawings portray the irony of modern life. Mishra illustrates how irony can engage and critique the contemporary landscape. Given the complexity of our socio-political lives, Mishra’s treatment of the ironic attitude in Bhattacharjya’s works suggests an artistic exposé. Like in one of the drawings, two characters are seen struggling for their day-to-day meals. The vermillion hue of the fire seeks to symbolise the idea of struggle. The empty bowls hint at their deplorable condition.
One sketch tells a satirical story about the hard life of the underprivileged while another drawing explores the itinerant life of a vendor. With equally vibrant colours, Mishra ironically articulates the longing for the West in the painting where the child eagerly gazes at two white beauties. The European hegemony seeks to associate white with beauty and the child’s gaze represents his fascination for the West, the so-called European “modernity.”
In accordance with Bhattacharjya’s verse, Mishra also projects that mere political boundaries cannot diminish the cultural affinity between India and Pakistan. In a particular painting, the moving train symbolises the cultural bond between the two countries. The woman dressed in a green-and-blue salwar serves as a metaphor for the psycho-cultural force that tends to deconstruct the geo-political structure between these two countries.
In another creation, Mishra weaves a narrative through the deceptive look of a judge and the submissiveness of a child. Through this he seeks to explore corruption in present-day society.
Mishra uses a blend of vermilion and yellow on the countenance of the judge to signify the mask of fraudulence put on by the judge. The labourer leaning on his axe illustrates the exploitation of the labour force.
In one of the drawings the artist delineates with bright colours the image of a tractor and a farmer. Through this composition he seeks to project the idea of modernisation.
The artist also seeks to suggest, in another creation, that historical monuments, which once upon a time represented power and political structures, have been transformed into objects of visual pleasure with the advent of commercialisation.
Mishra uses a comic-strip technique in order to illustrate the verse stanzas of Bhattacharjya. This technique, however, seeks to justify the irony underpinned in those verses.
The representative of the verses of Bhattacharjya, Mishra’s drawings evoke a sense of playfulness and a parody of modern life.
Mishra, therefore, chooses the sketch-pen as the befitting medium for articulating the irony of modern life. The reproduction of Bhattacharjya’s poems in the form drawings, in fact, disseminates the potentialities of art in capturing the vicissitudes of life and culture.