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Assam artist duo shine in Seoul

- Prandeep Kalita and Debasree Das return after six-month fellowship

Calcutta, Jan. 15: Buddhist philosophy and individual experiences marked the artistic expressions of Prandeep Kalita and Debasree Das in Seoul. The two young ex-students of Government College of Art and Craft, Guwahati, used paper, video projection, acrylic and mixed media to commendable effect and won plaudits at the international forum.

Kalita and Das were the first from Guwahati to represent India at the six-month Asia Pacific Fellowship Program, 2013 at the National Art Studio, Changdong National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea in Seoul. There were seven other artists from countries like Bangladesh, the UK, the Philippines, Poland, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan.

“It was a very prestigious offer for me,” said Kalita, who returned to India with Das last month. Both spent their tenure working on three projects each.

Both freelancers, Kalita and Das were selected after they applied for the fellowship in October 2012.

Every year, the national museum invites applications from artists for two six-month sessions — in January and July. The artists have to send 10 photographs of their works based on which they are chosen for the programme. In about one-and-a-half to two months, the museum informs the selected few over phone or through email. “Many of our seniors had already attended the programme. So they guided us accordingly and told to apply for the July session because it’s very difficult to cope in the cold January weather there,” Das said.

The fellowship offered them an opportunity to visit the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, National Palace Museum of Korea, Seoul Art Center, Seoul Olympic Art Museum, Global Village Folk Museum, Artsonje Center in Seoul, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, meet renowned curators and hold interactive sessions with fine arts students and artists there.

“The nine of us were given a studio to work on a project. We had a question-answer session with a group of artists and budding curators from Singapore as well as local ones. It was a refreshing and innovative method to learn about arts,” said Kalita.

Along with all the travelling and meetings, they had to work on individual projects for an exhibition at the end of the programme.

While Kalita used paper, video projection and acrylic as medium for work, Das opted for mixed media where she used traditional materials like hand-stitched quilt and hand-woven cloth found only in South Korea.

The exhibition began on November 15 and ended on December 21 at the national art studio in Seoul.

“I drew my inspiration from Buddhist philosophy of non-violence,” said Kalita.

Das tried her hand at bringing in anecdotes of her stay in Seoul. “I tried to put in the little experiences that I had with the people I met during my stay there,” she said.

The head of graphic arts department in Government College of Art and Craft, Guwahati, Dilip Tamuly, is a proud teacher. “Both were my students and I am very happy for them,” he said. The college can felicitate Kalita and Das whenever they are in Guwahati, he added.

Besides the programme, the stay in Seoul was an enriching experience. “I was awestruck. When I left India I thought it would be just like any other city. But I was impressed with kind of infrastructure available and the development that it had made,” Kalita said.

Language posed a big problem. “We depended solely on signs to communicate,” said Kalita.

But the National Art Studio gave them an identity as an artist and that eased matters. “A woman vendor would react as ‘ah artist…come come’ every time she saw me at her stall,” Das said, adding that the warmth of such people helped them overcome difficulties.


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