To honour the memory of Dr Radhakrishnan, the iconic teacher, some 39 students and teachers of Kala Bhavan, Shantiniketan — including seniors like K.G. Subramanyan, Jogen Chowdhury, Sanat Kar and Janak Jhankar Narzary — came together for a graphics workshop that laid down one guideline: it had to do with etchings. And the prints that resulted are on show at CIMA till August 17. It may, of course, be argued that an obligatory workshop is not the best way to tap creativity because of the compulsions involved. But, as the gallery points out, since this formidable tradition has been increasingly marginalized, such a challenge renews interest in print-making.
And some of the participants do stimulate viewer interest. Like Ambarish Nandan, whose animals, particularly the impressive tiger, quote the stylized flourish of Tibetan art. Then there’s Santanu Bhattacharya’s faux Madhubani imagery. Their works assert the inherent strength of these traditions. A lively decorative stylization marks Amit Kr Danda’s landscape, also, its fluent lines bringing Picasso drawings to mind. He identifies, as romanticism generally does, Nature with the feminine form. And so does Dabashish Mahalanobish’s environmental conscience. His headless, supine figure sprouting bare branches indicates the stripping and raping of Nature to death.
What may appear to the fleeting eye as a blind, patchily-shaded stump in Ashok Bhowmik’s etching takes on biomorphic life as the material world is invested with animistic sentience. However, in mining folk iconography to invent an anthropomorphic figure of indignity — its feet splayed out of a bloated body that is part tortoise and part frog, while the head with half-closed eyes tells of a seasoned customer — Amiya Nimai Dhara may have intended something quite different: a barbed retort, perhaps, at the ‘inhuman’ behaviour of man in When We Are An Animal.
Refusing to flatter the human ego, too, is Arghya Priya Majumdar in his tersely edited side view of a mouth open in a coarse grin that insinuates, through corroded teeth and slackened flesh, a recognizably unrefined boor. In Arpan Mukherjee’s work the human subject — sturdy and sculpturesque, with bristling muscles and a stressed-out, sightless face — predicates lack of refinement, also, but it is not boorish because, untainted by mainstream society, this tribal can be a Rousseauesque savage. The peasant protagonists of Prabir Biswas, particularly the woman with a sickle, hold your attention, too.
Goutam Das loads the vast night of his imagination with a deep, even ominous silence watched over by tense sentinels: vertical structures that resemble silos and also, distantly, rockets. But Dilip Mitra packs a domestic scene with a dark undertow echoing the gauche style of seniors like Arpita Singh to depict the resigned vulnerability of an ageing, flaccid, woman’s body (picture). Prasanta Sahu’s image of a weathered foot with cracks that plot a map revisits the complex theme of Partition. Rajarshi Biswas seems to have thought up a provocative spoof on advertisements for magic deodorants in Even the Angel Will Fall. And Soumik Nandy Majumdar plays with the word, “draw”— the way Sukumar Ray’s verse, Khai Khai, does with the root word, “khaowa” (eating) — in a montage with cartoon figures, quite “Sukumarish”.
Pankaj Panwar conveys the large-scale violence of war through a simplified image. But the violence suggested by Nirmalendu Das, though small-scale, is ubiquitous, existing even among pretty things like birds and flowers. With Lichtenstein as the inspiration, the violence behind Sumitabha Pal’s onomatopoeic words accompanying a mailed fist is tongue-in-cheek, while Salil Sahani’s poster text refers to a practice popular with several Conceptual artists.
Ajit Seal places a lean figure with staring ribs in a ground of agitated textures in tones of brown. But its sculpturesque understatement is too reminiscent of Somnath Hore bronzes. Nandadulal Mukherjee tries out an old theme — mother and child — while Thomas Singh and Sk. Shajahan have varied the surface of the metal plate to fetch a spectrum of browns. But Sandip Baul harmonizes tones of green with textures and quaintly summary forms. Rishi Barua’s painstakingly evoked period car and Tanup Nath’s strangely mythopoeic parable need to be mentioned, too.
There are some abstract and semi-abstract works to note. Like Krishnendu Bagh’s geometric divisions and patterned lines, for example, which are as engaging as Prasun Bhattacharya’s textured and teased rectangles. Sushen Ghosh constructs a deceptive optical play of facets, while Pinaki Barua’s overlay of a fine mesh of lines hints at furtive depths receding beyond.
The works of Amit Dhara, Sitansu Mukhopadhyay, Uttam Kumar Basak, Sutanu Chatterjee and Sushobhan Adhikary who participated in the workshop as well, are also to be seen.