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Watercolour, women and wonder: Inspirations of a ‘real world’ artist

Meet Joyeeta, the Kolkata artist behind the Instagram page joyeeta.joyart, whose creations already have a 70,0000-strong following

Rumela Basu | Published 11.03.22, 02:56 PM
The 28-year-old Kolkata artist’s page on Instagram has over 70,000 followers

The 28-year-old Kolkata artist’s page on Instagram has over 70,000 followers

All photographs taken from Studio Joyeeta

Like most Bengali kids, Joyeeta grew up with more than one extracurricular pursuit. She was happy to hop from class to class, and in this process, she found art.

If you follow homegrown artists on social media, chances are that you’ve come across Studio Joyeeta’s page, @joyeeta.joyart, on Instagram. The Kolkata artist’s freeform and uniquely Bengali aesthetics are translated into artworks that have a universal appeal. 

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Joyeeta’s watercolour women are from the real world — be it a sari-clad siesta-lovers or nude thinkers. The artist’s portraits of love are sweet but complicated and her watercolour creations reflect life — as most of us see happening around us — in captivating frames.  

In a chat with My Kolkata, the artist, 28, who runs Studio Joyeeta with her husband Prasenjit, opened up about finding art as a child, building an aesthetic and why she loves painting women. 

 ‘Art was something I was always good at, right from childhood,’ says Joyeeta

‘Art was something I was always good at, right from childhood,’ says Joyeeta

Finding and keeping art

“It was liberating for me as a kid to have the freedom to explore my interests. I went through a phase when I got bored of painting, but I never really stopped,” the artist shares.

In fourth grade, she realised that she could go to college to study art and it became her goal to get into an art school. While many thought it was the passing fancy of a child, she knew that this was what she wanted to do. 

Apart from her watercolour prints, Joyeeta also paints mini-easel nameplates, bookmarks and other objects

Apart from her watercolour prints, Joyeeta also paints mini-easel nameplates, bookmarks and other objects

“In many ways I chose the safest path for me, because art was something I was always good at, right from childhood. I found happiness in the profession,” she says. Unlike many college kids, she began working early and took on projects while studying at Dum Dum’s The Indian College of Arts. 

Social media was still developing at this time and only Facebook had taken root. She was encouraged by friends to put up photos of her work on the site. “I was rather old fashioned and not keen on interacting with so many people. But we artists do like some attention and when my artwork was appreciated by the Facebook audience, it made me really happy,” Joyeeta says.

Joyeeta and her husband Prasenjit run Studio Joyeeta from an office-studio space in Tollygunge

Joyeeta and her husband Prasenjit run Studio Joyeeta from an office-studio space in Tollygunge

Her paper-cup paintings and the murals she had made with now-husband Prasenjit got attention from media outlets, but it was with the arrival of Instagram that her following grew exponentially. 

The aesthetics of it

Joyeeta’s subject in college was printmaking, an old and overlooked method of printing involving woodcuts and lino cards. She reckons it may have been laziness, but the subject did not interest her a lot. Nor did realistic drawings, which is a form every art student has to learn.

Joyeeta’s subject in college was printmaking, an old and overlooked method of printing involving woodcuts and lino cards. She reckons it may have been laziness, but the subject did not interest her a lot. Nor did realistic drawings, which is a form every art student has to learn.

‘Art has always been my comfort zone, but watercolour was my challenge in that comfort zone,’ says Joyeeta

‘Art has always been my comfort zone, but watercolour was my challenge in that comfort zone,’ says Joyeeta

Joyeeta enjoys breaking the realistic form and her aesthetic has evolved over the years. What she does love and has loved for a while is the medium of her art – watercolour.

“I have always loved watercolours and usually work with watercolours and gouache. Art has always been my comfort zone, but watercolour was a challenge in that comfort zone. It is complicated and not an easy medium to control. It seems to have a mind of its own,” she says.

There is also a sense of pride that comes with being a watercolourist, she adds. “I enjoy the fact that now I know how to work well with it. I always tell anyone who asks about watercolours that it will take about a 100 paintings before you can get somewhere with it.”

When asked if she identifies with the complicated, unique quality of watercolours, the answer is a chuckling ‘yes.’ “I like that it has a nature of its own. When I am given the freedom to work at my own artistic pace and space, I do my best work,” she says, adding that their Tollygunge studio is her “slice of heaven” workspace. 

“When I am outside, I like observing people and things, but I am most at home painting in the studio, where Prasenjit and I work side by side,” Joyeeta says.

Feminine power

Joyeeta also says that her paintings are a way to champion women exploring the feminine form in art.

There’s a special place in her artwork for strong, complicated female characters

There’s a special place in her artwork for strong, complicated female characters

“I love women, I love how complex they can be and I have always disliked the negative connotation attached to the phrase 'women are complicated.’ I’ve always said that the history we read is the male version. It’s not that women didn’t make significant contributions, they were usually not written about and I don’t want that happening in the future as well.” 

There’s a special place in her artwork for strong, complicated women who’ve led interesting lives on their own terms or have been vilified for it. Her latest series features some of her most beloved actresses, including Rekha, Aparna Sen, Neena Gupta and Smita Patil. It began with a cutout of Rekha, a woman she admires for her resilience, and continued with others.

The Bengali touch

It is the people and places from her everyday life that find their way into Joyeeta’s art. The scenes that surround her have a distinct Bengali-ness to them and being inspired by those means that there’s something very relatable about them, especially for a Bengali or Kolkatan, in her work. 

There is a distinctly Bengali aesthetic to Joyeeta’s art

There is a distinctly Bengali aesthetic to Joyeeta’s art

“Every Bengali or Kolkatan will relate to these. We’ve seen these men and women in our lives. They’re our mothers and aunts who traded stories while being their most authentic selves at home. They are the ‘Bangali chhele’ — boys and men we’ve grown up with and fallen in love with,” she adds. 

Asked whether this personality of her paintings has ever made her feel restricted from reaching a universal audience, she says, “There are many instances when I break away from certain symbols and attempt to express myself simply as a person, not bound to any region. It’s like going for a holiday. You explore different things, grow and then you come back home.”

Joyeeta’s favourite work of art is Gustav Klimt’s ‘Kiss,’ which she adapted to her own style in a work titled ‘Amar Klimt’

Joyeeta’s favourite work of art is Gustav Klimt’s ‘Kiss,’ which she adapted to her own style in a work titled ‘Amar Klimt’

Future plans and the gift of art

“I am very passionate about my work, but I am not an ambitious person,” says Joyeeta. While the studio has worked with some big-name brands like Netflix and Facebook, Joyeeta is happy not making too many future plans. 

The business mind of the team is her husband, who switched from a career in IT to explore his creative side, and Joyeeta is content to let him plan for the brand. Meanwhile, she’s happy doing her job in the partnership, which is creating art. True to her choice of colour to define herself — red, for passion — Joyeeta wants to continue exploring emotions and complexities with her art.

There are many shades of grey depicted in Joyeeta’s paintings and she believes it is liberating to be able to accept one’s whole self

There are many shades of grey depicted in Joyeeta’s paintings and she believes it is liberating to be able to accept one’s whole self

“My art is driven by emotion. It lets me explore the white, black and grey that I see in people everywhere. I’m hoping that people can acknowledge and accept their whole selves when they see my art because it is liberating to be able to do that,” she signs off.

Last updated on 11.03.22, 02:56 PM
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