Five Kolkata artists chart a new path
The art and history of printmaking has indeed come a long way – determined largely by the compulsions that initially prompted it, to an independent and sometimes complementary and interdisciplinary form. In fact, it is its inherently versatile and fluid nature that allows constant experimentation within the larger body of its own form, allowing at the same time to merge with others – both traditional and contemporary, that lends to printmaking such an enigmatic aura. Added to this, perhaps, is its capacity to be viewed and received on a massive scale, quite literally, that makes the printed image or object not only enticing to the viewer but also to its creator.
The show devoted to prints at Ganges Art Gallery, Kolkata, explored the limits and potentials of the art-form in all its experimental glory. What was most fascinating about the show was its ability to take the viewer's mind away from the single thread running through its oeuvre, so that, the viewer was left appreciating each work for its own wit, craftsmanship and story, rather than the intricacy of the craft itself. It was seamless in that sense. Curated by Paula Sengupta, the show put together works of five artists – Paula Sengupta, Moutushi Chakraborty, Nandini Chirimar, Jayashree Basak and Rajarshi Sengupta.
Paula Sengupta's works are as visually stunning as they are politically poignant. In capturing the trials and tribulations of the journey of a Tibetan refugee through a series of dolls and trays, she works with delicate subtlety fashioning almost fairy-tale like visuals. She depicts individual places where he stopped, had major encounters or had similar other important stories to relate. The manners in which she visually re-creates the entire trajectory are quite surreal in their dream-like approach.
Moutushi Chakraborty's works evoke nostalgia through both the style and theme she chooses to deploy. Working principally with photographs – her works range from simple, uncomplicated photo-images of a woman, looking every inch the representative of the opulent and lonely young Bengali brides from an era gone by, against backgrounds resembling wallpapers from the time of the Raj to nattily crafted photo-montages, where the original image is set-off by its mirror image, which has been filled in with hand-crafted images much like text-book diagrams of organic objects. The final result in both cases is rather riveting.
Nandini Chirimar has always been fascinated with objects, socially and culturally associated with femininity trapped in the domestic spheres – particularly the marital/post-marital ones, examining them as pure objects as well as signifiers inhering deep-rooted codes. She has gone through extensively laborious processes to craft the paper on which she works, carefully and very systematically, filling that almost-transparent backdrop with reproductions of those objects, mostly in shades of red and white, achieving a rare degree of tactility. There is a most delightful little box she crafts, intended to stand in for a married Indian woman's toilette that remains largely undifferentiated across regions and religions.
Jayashree Basak works wonders on fabric. Reviving the very simple but forgotten craft of the kantha-stitch, the background is hand-sewn with many hues of thread, interweaving each other to tell stories in their visually remarkable criss-cross patterns. This background is then foregrounded with far more vivid images that appear to be self-introspections into myriad issues on femininity. These lead one to look inward and ruminate on themes of independence – both public and personal.
Rajarshi Sengupta thematically engages with the idea of spaces and issues of diaspora intricately linked to those of shifting spaces, issues that are hard to define within the confines of two-dimensional forms. Maps woven out of different fabrics which also delineate exquisite and intricate route maps are not physical or geographical maps – on a deeper level, they map the human mind's capability and reluctance at one and the same time, to be settlers, or vagabonds, depending on one's perspectives.
‘Print and Beyond’ was presented at Gages Art gallery, Kolkata, Friday, from August 16 to 31, 2013.
Photo courtesy: the Ganges Art Gallery