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Black as he is painted

The Society of Contemporary Artists is paying a tribute to two of its illustrious members, Bikash Bhattacharjee and Arun Bose, both of whom have passed away, by holding an outstanding exhibition of their works at the Birla Academy of Art & Culture. These paintings are rarely seen in public and so one discovers anew their strength as artists.

Even when Bikash Bhattacharjee is painting something as mundane as a poor woman carrying her husband’s mid-day meal or a slum dweller in front of her shanty the paintings are clothed in mystery. Such is his command over creating linocuts that the network of lines never intersect.

Bhattacharjee’s mastermoshai Arun Bose taught art in the US, and introduced cutting-edge techniques of printmaking to artists in Calcutta. His talent in creating intaglio is very much in evidence here.

Jeram Patel, the senior Baroda-based artist (picture beside of a work by him), is fascinated by black. In his current exhibition at Anant Art gallery in Alipore, coils of Chinese ink create innumerable configurations in which the one common element is the colour black that is suggestive of the god Krishna, rain clouds and the toils of a giant serpent, or as you would like to imagine. Occasionally, colours such as blue or green seep in through the black, or a bed of molten carmine is surrounded by black. The strength of these works lies in their simplicity. Yet too much of one thing can be monotonous.

Delhi-based Amitav Das’s works are also being shown here, and like Patel’s works their appreciation depends a lot on the kind of images a viewer can visualise in these paintings, which are non-figurative. Das paints rectangles of bright reds, yellows, greys and greens, and monochromatic “creepers” grow along their borders, often thrusting out arms of paint into the middle of a painting. It is possible to imagine fantastic creatures in this trellis of paint. Das uses spangles and gold and silver paint, and they often end up looking like Mondrian “tarted up”.

A Kartik Pyne painting

Aakriti Art Gallery is holding an exhibition entitled Indian Surrealism. Yet most of these are fantasy paintings and have little to do with the modernist movement of early 20th Century. Some of the highlights of the exhibition are Partha Pratim Deb’s painting of scuba divers playing ball underwater. He creates grids behind which the figures are at play. Jaya Ganguly’s male figure in black has red ribs and is powerfully drawn. Kartik Pyne’s paintings are remarkable for the things he does with something as simple as three women with long hair. Some of these works approach the real thing and deserve the surrealist label.

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