The Telegraph
Sunday , September 30 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Monochrome magic


His sprawling black-and-white atmospheric drawings of Calcutta, its buildings and roads and objects strewn around it could at first glance be mistaken for the well-known works of artists like Desmond Doig, Samir Biswas, Rathin Mitra and Brajagopal Manna. But one does not have to look too close to realise that French artist Thomas Henriot, who has been in Calcutta for some time, has a style of his own.

To begin with, the scale is very different. Henriot usually does his black-and-white and pen-and-ink drawings on large sheets of rice paper, and once he starts painting one he does not stop till it is done — even if it takes an entire day. He also works on broad strips of paper which can be hung side by side to create a complete picture, as he did in the case of the spectacular drawing of the thakurdalan of Basubati in Bagbazar. A preview of some of his works organised by the Calcutta Arts Club was held on Wednesday evening at the Harrington Street Arts Centre.

Henriot is from Besançon in the east of France but he declares he is most comfortable in India, Brazil and Cuba because the people in the streets are friendly. He says his is performance art as he paints on these huge sheets of paper on the street itself using a clutch of paintbrushes of various sizes, often protecting himself from rain with an umbrella. People help him find a place whenever he is out in the street.

Henriot was trained in Besançon and China as well, where he copied Chinese paintings. He has visited many towns and villages in India such as Varanasi, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Udaipur and Mumbai and held shows there as well. Here he is being supported by the French and Brazilian embassies and is waiting for his exhibition to be held in Delhi in November next year. Thereafter it will travel around the country to six cities.

Henriot has a talent for evoking the mood of an old building, a neighbourhood with rows of terraces creating a jigsaw puzzle of rectangles, details of stucco ornaments and trees growing out of them. In between he squeezes in a close-up of some object he has picked up from the street like a packet of joss sticks complete with its brand name in the vernacular. This multiplicity of views gives his drawings a fractured look that goes very well with these splendid scenes of decay.

Mind matters

Some patients of mental illness shared their experiences at a discussion at American Center on September 26. The event saw psychiatrist Jai Ranjan Ram, director-training and education of Fountain House Alan Doyle, regional head of Shoppers Stop Naveen Mishra and the deputy director of state health department S. Sarkar talking about mental illnesses and job options for those suffering from them. A craft exhibition was also hosted by Anjali, Turning Point, IICP and Manovikas Kendra.

( Soumitra Das and Malancha Dasgupta)