Though the Society of Contemporary Artists may not be what it once had been, its show — recently on view at its own tiny gallery in Kasba — was worth a visit, even if it was only of small formats. True, the creative fire of the early years cannot be rekindled. But the generation that contributed in not a little measure to enriching Bengal art through the 1960s and 1970s is still part of the group, beginning with seniors like B.R. Panesar.
This time also, Panesar’s acrylics reaffirmed the seductive eloquence of his abstract landscapes ever in tectonic flux. Another senior, Ganesh Haloi, overturned embedded cognition in seeking a fresh look at punctuation marks as minimal visual forms, but he now needs to develop on that. Others to mention in this context include Manu Parekh, for the atmosphere evoked in Untitled ll; and Sunil Das for the staccato vigour of his lines in two drawings, though they obviously taxed him little. Sanat Kar’s temperas and Suhas Roy’s pastels were there, too.
Of the younger painters, there was Aditya Basak with mixed media works that seemed deceptively orderly until you noticed the casual violence in them. Manoj Dutta’s temperas remained as disarmingly childlike as ever, while Manoj Mitra playfully borrowed the children’s craft of cutouts in his jumble of motifs on crinkled paper. Pradip Maitra’s cityscapes deftly explored the translucence of watercolour. But the black, vaporous miasma closing in on a cluster of conical roofs in Flowing City ll like a Biblical visitation sounded an unsettling warning of pollution. Partha Dasgupta’s meditations on the monsoon in brittle blue-greens and Atanu Bhattacharya’s red paint (picture) — patterned in wrinkles, congealed or splattered and slashed with a stroke in black — were noticeable as well.
This was one show where sculptures weren’t an afterthought. Seniors Manik Talukdar and Niranjan Pradhan were both represented. Talukdar’s Unknown Head, a squat, heavy profile with a flattened nose and a deadpan pout bordered on the comical while referring to folk carving, and was commanding in its presence. Pradhan’s small metal figure, pared down to suggestive economy, rested on precise poise, its head and torso extended well beyond the small stand. Srikanta Paul combined bricks with coins and a sickle in a Conceptual exercise that hinted at the commercialization of the comrades.
Finally, there was Bimal Kundu stepping out of his signature sculpting. While a pair of brass apples, painted to natural perfection, was strung up into a kind of kitschy mobile, what the sculpture stand below displayed was just its swaying shadow. His second work, Critical, trapped a vertical figure in a tangle of copper wire to propose different meanings. From the vulnerability of individuals in society to the invisible siege of life’s contingencies.