The outlines are heavy, black, Rouaultesque; the form is simplified, summary, gently distorted; the paint —acrylic, with which oil pastel is often combined — is a welter of short, dense strokes evoking raw, scabby surfaces; the palette is muted and earthy. These are the elements with which artist Chandrima Roy invests her women, primitive in aspect, breathing a stoical, withdrawn durability. As though they are silently, watchfully, regurgitating personal narratives that don’t spew out from behind sealed lips. Awaiting, as the title of the show suggests, some kind of cathartic Deliverance perhaps.
To be viewed at Studio 21 till January 12, her gallery of women, as well as her sprightly flowers on long, supple stems, reveals the unmistakable influence of an established elder here. This is particularly noticeable in the frontal eyes in the profiles of women and the boneless elasticity of their fingers. And in the lyricism of lines that echo the flowing rhythm of alpona patterns when flowers are portrayed with playful abandon. This is clearly seen in Blooming Flower (1) and (2), where elegant stems and writhing leaves and petals are cleverly balanced, though they do verge on the pretty.
But then, the artist has travelled this distance without ever attending a regular art school. So she did the next best thing to pursue her passion: learnt from the example of seniors, guided by her eyes. Roy’s use of paint and pastel is, however, assured, as she varies their texture and tone, interspersing flaky daubs with stubborn impasto trails, while choosing a mesh of largely brooding colours: beige, brown, rust, grey.
Though the artist is stimulated by gender concerns, seen in the way she wishes to define women as protagonists, Nature stokes her imagination no less. For Roy seems to be a promising landscapist. This is suggested by some of the works in this show. Like Tree with Cloud, for example. Its compact, breezily-outlined canopy studded with orange rings for flowers, and little blue clouds, is fetchingly quaint. In works like Tree, with its eruption of bare branches, the strokes take on the kind of nervous energy that could refer, not surprisingly, to van Gogh as a possible source of inspiration.
In fact, it is her handling of the paint and its vigorous application in works such as Orange Flower and Rocks that are her forte. The layered paint suggests the agitated movement of the brush to import instant dynamism in them but particularly in the latter, small though it is in size. With its lumpy hills, leaning tree trunks and childlike perspective, it’s an endearing landscape that could indicate an area for the artist to explore deeper and more intimately, beyond the shadow of big signatures.