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DEEPENING ROOTS

A cauliflower, its stalk cut off from its roots like a severed organ, is like the cloud from an atom bomb, billowing amidst fragmentary shadows of high-rise buildings, factories and leafless trees. Close to this etching is a mixed media with another cauliflower. The pure white vegetable nestles in mellow reddish earth, sharing composition space with indigenous farming tools (the khurpi, chanchni, hensho and so on). But the pure white areas are unpainted; here the grains of the hand-made paper are visible. Are these areas empty then? Areas from where nature and agriculture have been cut out? The cauliflower works were created by the artist, Chhatrapati Dutta, during a residency workshop from January 23-25 at Bachhawat Estate, organized by the Bachhawat Foundation.

The workshop, which was conducted by Dutta, drew inspiration from the site. Badu, on the northeastern fringe of the city, is a green zone losing out to the changes of ‘development’. Artists such as Aditya Basak, Arindam Chatterjee, Chandra Bhattacharya, Debasis Barui, Sankha Banerjee, Piyali Sadhukhan, Soumik Chakroborty, Sekhar Roy, Amitava Dhar, Rajat Sen, Srikanta Paul, Rajen Mondal and Samindranath Majumdar participated. With a print-making studio available on site, many of the artists made prints and also expressed themselves in a wide range of mediums. The works on the theme, Engaging with a Changing Landscape, were on display at the Aakriti Art Gallery from July 1-7.

Soumik Chakroborty responded to the theme with Green Grey Grave, a set of nine 11.5 x 5 inch box frames with lighting arrangement. Here, a background photograph of a newly dug grave, a superimposed map of old Calcutta that looks like a tree and a few brush strokes of red give a picture of a doomed city.

Piyali Sadhukhan’s intricate etching compressed the nostalgia for the past world with roots that have grown deeper than monuments and scripts (picture). The way the decorative coalesces with the basic and primitive was interesting — Rajat Sen’s apocalyptic vision of earth, Aditya Basak’s faceless insects (a bit like the proverbially short-lived winged ants) against a yellow moon, Srikanta Paul’s etching of yet another exile of Adam and Eve, Debashish Barui’s etching showing life as a complex laboratory reaction between chemicals, and Arindam Chatterjee’s etching of the one-eyed mythic beast trapped in a modern cityscape attract attention. Samindranath Majumdar’s works made for a welcome change in tone. The etched smoke tree seems to challenge a high-rise, while in his larger work in mixed media we find a magical world of a gigantic pyramid shape, a ruined box-like apartment, rows of tiny pyramids, a couple of old stone edicts, a lowering cloud and the curly black tail of some unseen animal just out of the frame.