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Artist’s handmade print on display at Michigan gallery

- Septuagenarian former College of Arts and Crafts principal among 19 Indians selected for US exhibition

Former principal of College of Arts and Crafts, Patna, Shyam Sharma, has added another feather to his cap. His handmade prints are on display at the Michigan-based Sutra Gallery.

He is among 19 artists from the country whose works are on display at a group exhibition that began on March 1.

Apart from artists from Maharashtra, Bengal and Odisha, noted tribal artist Bahuri Bai’s works are also on display in this group exhibition. All works would be on display for three months.

Sharma said: “I had sent eight handmade prints to the organisers. They selected six. The organisers had received work in thousands from artists from all over the country and selected those of 12 artists. I feel very lucky.”

The handmade prints he sent to the Michigan gallery are rare, Sharma said.

“I made the prints with the help of plaster of Paris blocks. These used to be in vogue in the past. These days, prints are mostly made with the help of wooden blocks.

“The reason I switched to plaster of Paris blocks, which used to be used in the past, is because of the unique character of prints developed from such blocks, said Sharma.

Describing the technique behind his work, Sharma said: “After making a block, I leave it to dry in sunlight. Once it is left in sunlight for hours, the block develops many cracks, naturally. Seen through an artist’s eye, one will notice a lot of creativity in these blocks.”

Once the blocks are dried in sunlight for many hours, Sharma puts ink on them and gets a print of that block on paper. “The minute details of the block, curves, linings and design can be seen in print,” said Sharma.

Sharma uses a special kind of instrument to make designs on the block.

Talking about the handmade prints of his that would be showcased in the Michigan based art gallery, Sharma said: “I have basically taken the theme of Bihar, the village culture and Gandhi’s attachment with this land. All this I have portrayed in my prints. The prints have images of village women and Gandhiji.”

That his work has been well received can be gauged from the fact that two of Sharma’s works have already been sold in the last four days. “Yes, I have got information that two of my six works have already sold. I am quite excited,” said Sharma.

The artist has passed on his skill to many.

He taught artists like Subodh Gupta among others during his stint as an assistant professor at the College of Arts and Crafts in Patna.

Talking about how he got hooked to print making, 74-year-old Sharma said: “My father N.D. Sharma had a printing press in Bareilly. In my childhood, I had seen how books used to be printed at my father’s printing press.

“The whole process interested me a lot.

“When I took admission into the College of Arts and Crafts, Lucknow, what I was taught was the advanced form of what I had already observed being carried out in my father’s printing press.

“While at my father’s printing pres, the prints were developed from machines, at the College of Arts and Crafts in Lucknow I learnt how to develop handmade prints and got hooked on it.

In 1988, Sharma got a national award from the Lalit Kala Academy for his prints.


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