Picture of togetherness
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- Published 9.07.05
As artists and as husband and wife, theirs has been a journey as successful as it has been enduring. Shuvaprasanna and wife Shipra Bhattacharya have not only gone from strength to strength in their careers, but have also constantly supported and encouraged each other, be it in their work on in their marriage.
Shuvaprasanna, of course, needs no introduction, being among the most well-known names in the world of Indian art. Ever since he graduated from the Indian College of Art at Calcutta in 1969, he has exhibited in numerous solo and group shows, both in India and abroad. He?s also been at the forefront of several art-related ventures, whether it was co-founding Art and Artists in 1968, the College of Visual Arts in 1976 or even an artists? village in Calcutta?s suburbs.
Talented artist that he is, Shuvaprasanna is equally at ease, working with a variety of media including oil on canvas, charcoal and mixed media. Calcutta has always figured prominently in his work, though presently he is busy with his series Icons and Illustrations, which depicts divine figures like Krishna, Radha and Ganesha, albeit with contemporary sensibilities. Shuvaprasanna is now gearing up for Art Alive in Delhi, where he plans to showcase his works from the same series
Ever since her first solo show in 1981, Shipra Bhattacharya has made her presence felt on the city?s thriving art scene. Women, both urban and rural have been her subjects of choice and through her smooth brushwork, glowing colours and the dreamy quality of her paintings, she has managed to chalk out a distinct identity of her own.
It all started in 1974, a few years after my graduating from art college. What had been a period of struggle so far, suddenly became a lot easier when I got to go to Switzerland with an exhibition. It infused confidence in me, for till then I?d never approached a woman for I wasn?t sure I?d be able to support her. Then one day, an acquaintance came over to my place with a young girl, who wanted to learn art during the break after her exams. That girl was Shipra. The friend left for some work, leaving her alone with me, and believe it or not, I told her I?d teach her only if she agreed to forge a special relationship with me. This, within half an hour of meeting her! She left soon after without saying anything and I was quite upset ? for not only did I not know her address, but I also didn?t know where the man who had brought her lived.
One week later though, she was back, and our relationship got right on track. I became her teacher and we became involved. During this time, I even set up my art college so that she could learn along with other students and my vision wouldn?t be clouded by my emotional attachment to her. Shipra was my student for five years, before we tied the knot.
Our wedding, however, was not without its share of problems. My father, conservative Brahmin that he was, asked me to leave the house when he learned that I wanted to marry Shipra. By that time, though, I was financially stable and we rented a place in Salt Lake. Today, 25 years down the line, we have our own house here, and are all set to celebrate our silver anniversary in a couple of months? time.
It?s been a journey with its share of ups and downs. We?ve disagreed about things, including our work, and haven?t been scared to voice our opinions. Shipra and I have been each other?s harshest critics, but also the closest supports. We argue, fight, but it isn?t long before we sit down together and clear the air. The only thing I dislike about her is her excessive straightforwardness. She can be pretty blunt sometimes and being the kind of person who avoids confrontations like the plague, I find her to be a bit harsh on occasion.
Shipra is a very simple person, and this shines through in her work, especially in her use of colours. Therein lies her originality and individuality, something that has taken her to where she is today. I?ve given her advice in the past, but now I believe, she?s perfectly comfortable going ahead on her own steam.
There are many other couples from the same profession where jealousies and ego hassles creep into their relationship. Put it down to our maturity or knowing and living together for so long, but that hasn?t affected Shipra and me. Even if ego problems have reared their head, we?ve sat together and talked it out. That I think, has been the true secret behind the success of our marriage.
I remember when Shuvaprasanna first made his proposal within some time of meeting me, it was like a bolt from the blue. I?d gone to his house purely to further my passion for art, and an offer like that was the last thing I was expecting. So, I left, but in my heart of hearts, I have to admit that it wasn?t entirely unwelcome. I liked him as well. So a week later, I went back, to meet him again.
From the very beginning of our relationship, both of us knew that one day, we?d get married ? in fact, that?s what he had indicated from the first day itself. And now, 25 years later, the best thing about our marriage, is that unlike many other people, whose lives lapse into a boring routine, our relationship has always been exciting and vibrant. It probably has to do with the fact that our work gives us the opportunity to explore our creativity, and meet people from all walks of life. It ensures that there?s never a dull moment.
As a painter, Shuvaprasanna has an extraordinary power of visualisation. He talks and writes very well, and has this ability to lighten any situation, especially when people around him are feeling down or dejected. And you wouldn?t think to see him, but he?s also quite a romantic at heart. Both of us have always been very emotional people, something that probably drew us together in the first place, but that has its flip side as well. He tends to lose his temper if he?s interrupted during some work, but then cools down equally fast.
One quality, which I really appreciate about Shuvaprasanna, is his way of never crowding me. I?m quite an introvert by nature and he is the complete opposite ? he loves socialising. But it is to his credit that he never forces me to go along, instead he leaves me to my own devices. That space we give each other, besides the love and understanding we share, has been the greatest cementing factor in our relationship. We?ve never taken each other for granted, nevertheless we are all too aware that two individuals need their space for personal and professional growth.