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Thursday , January 3 , 2013
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Picasso? Matisse? Er, Mamata

- ‘Dreamer’ CM’s creations, undaunted by rules, on display at Town Hall

Is it Matisse? Is it Picasso? Or is it child art? Sorry, it is Mamata Banerjee’s latest outpouring on canvas on display in the Town Hall’s basement gallery in which she has achieved the impossible, fusing all three with great dexterity. (No wonder it’s named A Dreamer’s Creation.)

Our chief minister somehow makes time to take up paint and brush, undaunted by conventions and rules that would have cramped the style of many a seasoned artist. Since rules do not exist for this self-taught maestro (discipline was never her strong point), there is no question of breaking them, and here she treads uncharted psychic territory that would baffle most psychiatrists.

In My Dream in Red, kans grass, better known as kaash phool in this part of the world and comparable to a leitmotif in Mamata’s oeuvre, turns into a pair of human heads with a background of dark red. The rainbow-hued flowers that look more like catherine wheel and the abundance of greenery are still there, and her human heads continue to look like turnips, but she has moved on to new themes as well.

There is the woman dancing with abandon (picture above) — a la Natir Puja, her favourite poet’s dance drama — that she has executed with a few firm brush strokes. It could be the Dance of the Seven Veils as well, for there is no mistaking the layers of translucent fabric. The head may still look more like a turnip, but this artist does not seem to care for niceties such as drawing.

So while one is trying to decode an image comprising two fat and curvaceous strokes of green with something like an upturned pyramid on top, the caption catches one’s eye. It is Mamata’s non-representational depiction of a Vendor Woman. In the same vein, what looks like a broad-hipped vase turns out to be Mother and Child. This is the closest that Mamata comes to abstract.

This time she has discovered the equine form as well. Pegasus’s head (is it a straight lift from an automobile logo?) occupies an entire canvas, and in another work nursery rhyme illustrations could have been the source. Form may defy her but Mamta’s feel for colour comes into full play in her flowers.

She uses pastel shades for her lotuses, and bright yellows and reds against a backdrop of black for her noctilucent blooms. There are birds with serpentine necks as well in mauve and blue and white that could double as feathery boa that women wear around their necks. In the River, she overcomes visual cliches by painting like a child. Paul Klee would have approved.