The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Missing, the surprise element

One of its best-known members has been ill for some time. But he has contributed two drawings to the annual exhibition of the Society of Contemporary Artists, now on at the Birla Academy of Art & Culture. Bikash Bhattacharya is one of the few well-known artists still loyal to the Society and he presents two fine drawings of women, executed when he was a student. More and more of these early works are being seen in galleries nowadays. So, they have lost much of their surprise element.

Otherwise, little has changed ever since the Society was formed. Most of the participants are senior artists, but many of them seem to have found a comfortable niche for themselves, from which they refuse to budge. More care should have been taken to separate the wheat from the chaff, for the quality of some of the exhibits is downright amateurish.

Manu Parekh, who spent many years in Calcutta, shows two mixed media landscapes — dark and fraught with a sense of foreboding.

Aditya Basak's three large mixed media paintings are in the new style he has evolved of late, where he juxtaposes images culled from various periods of history to convey, in this case, his reaction to the violence prevalent on the international scene. This, however, is not done through a display of blood and gore but subtly through images of old armoury and weapons, or of masks with fierce expressions and skulls of animals and humans painted realistically.

Pradip Maitra, who had once made a name for himself by painting huge watercolours with sentimental themes, has emerged from oblivion. Some of his old paintings of a rickshaw, fairies and a beautiful woman are on display. Shyamal Dutta Ray has to his credit one large acrylic where a group of hands held up and the sloka in Bengali script provide the graphic interest. Sunil Kumar Das' goat is a reflection of his better-known sculptured pieces, while Sunil Das has, thankfully, moved away from his bulls and horses and, instead, presents a sprightly black-and-white series on toreadors.

The show is surprisingly strong on sculptures. Manik Talukdar's stark yet graceful forms in black are a contrast to Bimal Kundu's metal foot and leather leg on a charred wood chair, and a tap spouting red tubing. Niranjan Pradhan's woman stretching herself is conventionally pretty but his quaint owl sculpted from white marble is remarkable for its whimsy.

A last note on the lighting at the Birla Academy — it is so gloomy inside the hall that visitors are advised to carry candles of their own to scrutinise the paintings.

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