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Since 1st March, 1999
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Fresh take on icon reviews
- Debate over comments

At ReView, the exhibition now on at CIMA, artists look at iconic works of art from India and the West and present their response to these. The art historian and lecturer at Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan, Soumik Nandy Majumdar, on Saturday guided a group of viewers and participating artists around the gallery to present his interpretations of these works, and invited comments from those present. His comments triggered minor debates.

Nandy Majumdar’s use of the word “appropriation” was one example. He had used it while commenting on Jogen Chowdhury’s “review” of Guernica. Was the bull in Chowdhury’s work a direct quote from the modern master’s work or was it his own reworking? While pointing out Chowdhury’s series of visages with violent expressions displayed in a half light, Nandy Majumdar said this was the first time the artist had done this, and the entire series could be seen as an installation.

Partha Patim Deb’s enigmatic painting that redefines Bhupen Khakhar’s Man with a Bouquet of Plastic Flowers is one of the more compelling pieces at the exhibition. Deb said his focus was on plastic flowers as plastic objects have become so much a part of our lives. For him the plastic flowers were a symbol of youthfulness and had nothing to do with homosexuality.

Nandy Majumdar admitted his failure to “read” Mayank Kumar Shyam’s grey painting of farmers, which was a take on M.F. Husain’s Zameen. Artist Sumitro Basak said all the artists in this section had tried to redefine not Husain’s work but their understanding of the word zameen and the modern myths that have grown around it. Nandy Majumdar said Husain’s work started from rural India but was in a sophisticated modernist style that was very urban. So the journey was from rural to urban and back to rural.

The art historian felt Swarna Chitrakar’s Bharatmata was a complex work, especially where she shows the three major Indian religions coexisting harmoniously. Rashmi Bagchi Sarkar’s Bharatmata was a more romantic image, as was Abanindranath’s original. Basak said his Bharatmata began with his many identities of an artist as well as a man with bucolic links. He referred to the “dislocation” of the horses for rural deities that are displayed in modern settings. Nandy Majumdar pointed out the element of quiet humour in Basak’s work.

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