If art calls for creativity, so do illustrations, layouts, designing and whatever else commercial art demands. But there’s an invisible line between the two categories that implies that one is high and the other low — or lower — and it is held sacrosanct by most. But artists earning their bread in publishing houses do breach the divide and wish to remind people that they also serve the muse in their unpaid time. Which is why the just-concluded show at Maya Art Space featuring 25 artists working in the print medium was called Print O Art.
Some of the 25 inclined more to print than to art, iterating what appeared to be their professional selves. Admittedly, Nilanjan Das’s chicly austere cover for Time recalled Malevich and the Magritte strategy of locking disparate references into one image, but it’s only the Japanese flag here and pegged to a story. The wry abbreviation of his portrait of the Indian president could have partnered an article, as well. Anirban Ghosh’s cover for a Delhi-based magazine was a catchy presentation of a large theme in an elaborate visual. And Debashis Deb offered a skilful cartoon of Satyajit Ray. Anup Ray’s fine brushwork in portraying Bob Dylan was an artist’s but was employed by the illustrator in him. Partho Sheel’s digital canvas packed a political punch but again, the caricature would be perfectly at home with journalism, while Jayanta Ghosh’s frozen stylization was quite boringly design idiom. So where was the art?
That was there, too. In Krishnendu Chaki’s small landscape, for example, that explored the lyricism of watercolour in its stormy sky descending over a scampering brook and fuzzy green country. Or in Chandidas Bhattacharya’s abstraction, Moon, with its stains of watercolour and fluent lines. Very different was the infectious flux in Barun Roy’s abstract acrylic of agile bands and bright colours. Three artists — Nirmalendu Mandal, Debabrata Chakrabarti and Subrata Chowdhury — romanticized women. The last two even named their paintings She, maybe as a homage to Suhas Roy. But it’s Chowdhury’s nuanced reflection that stood out.
Interestingly, Suman Chowdhury’s satire and Alay Ghoshal’s grim irony of a forced grin using the condensed imagery of posters occupied a space on the dividing line itself, a space that’s fluid and shifting, and which each side intrudes upon to borrow the other’s language. Ankan Bandopadhyay’s acrylic should also be listed in this group because his irony, a playful irony that turned people into helpless puppets, made use of signage grammar. So, too, should be Uday Deb’s pencil sketch (picture), for it was just right as an illustration. But Sekhar Roy’s phantom zone of overlapping greys and shivering planes that traps denuded beings has long been the signature of his art.