Monday, 30th October 2017

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Honesty and humour in Laluprasad Shaw’s work

VISUAL ARTS: The artist's keen sense of humour is evident from the image of the lion sticking out his tongue, secretly laughing at viewers

  • Published 16.05.20, 5:53 AM
  • Updated 16.05.20, 5:53 AM
  • a min read
An artwork by Lalu Prasad Shaw. Debovasha

Those familiar with Laluprasad Shaw’s work may have, at first glance, felt disappointed with the exhibition, My Play With Crayons, presented by Debovasha (February 6-March 1). A feeling of déjà vu is not unlikely when one sees the same gallery of 45 heads in various tones of brown in his easily recognizable style, an occasionally witty variation of the Bengal School, which is compatible with the babus and bibis he draws so deftly. In this exhibition he has a lot besides — caricatures of familiar faces. Irrespective of gender, they both have long, gaunt visages that look even more cadaverous when their profiles with aquiline noses are presented. The extreme attenuation of both these bespectacled portraits — the man wearing a goatee, the woman a pony tail — turns them into caricatures of certain physical types we rub shoulders with all the time.

In another image, a lantern-jawed man with close-set eyes wears a skull cap. One needn’t scrutinize his features to discover a certain strangeness in his nasal bone structure. His close-set eyes give him a spaced-out look. Although these images are monochromatic, they may remind one of Abanindranath Tagore’s masks.

There are two other rather quaint profiles. Both their faces with scrambled features defy the laws of physiognomy. One portrait goes even further — he sticks his tongue out. He looks vaguely like one of Jamini Roy’s portraits of a village boy, but his facial features have been distorted beyond recognition.

The only strong face is that of a man with a mop of hair and protuberant cheek bones. With wide nostrils, it looks like a visage hewn out of granite. Yet he has calm, peaceful eyes. He is a gentle giant who nurses no grievance.

Shaw’s keen sense of humour is evident from the image of the lion sticking out his tongue, secretly laughing at viewers. It is as if temple sculptures in Bhubaneswar of leonine doorkeepers have suddenly come to life. His honesty as an artist is evident from his drawing of two mating dogs. Somnath Hore is the only other artist to have done so.