From the ancient Greeks to 17th-century Dutch painters and down to the Modernist masters, imitation has been a major concern of the fine arts. Still-life painting, which arises out of this concern, is an essential academic exercise for students of the arts. In its range and scope, such an exercise can challenge popular notions of the ‘real’ by allowing art to mirror nature in all the latter’s obscure complexities. This is why Van Gogh’s The Potato Eaters and Picasso’s portraits of Dora Maar, both based on the principle of imitation, provide starkly different versions of reality.
If you had visited the recently concluded exhibition, Dynamic Stillness at Gallery Kanishka’s, expecting an occasion to reflect on such ideas, you had probably hoped for too much. To begin with, there was the usual clutter of canvases lying around, as also the chatter of people treating the gallery like their drawing-room. Then, most of the 15 artists chose rather anodyne subjects. Only Jayanta Roy’s Good Morning (picture), where fragments of newspapers are joined to form a tea-cup, stood out. Debasis Barui, Sourav Jana and Santanu Maity were also impressive.