Turning away from the quotidian, I was audience to a cyclorama of contemporary Indian art inside Centre of International Modern Art gallery, Kolkata. This was an artist’s world, born of forms and silhouettes, birds and animals, human beings and landscapes; of oil and water colours, acrylics, crayons, gold and charcoal, silk and cotton thread embroidery; of fiction and reality, women and men, and aquiline and soft features; of power and steel, and nature and creativity.
The artists’ voices were represented thoroughly in this annual exposition, as fifty-two contemporary art pieces from across India. This event was spread across several weeks between the months of May and July ‘2011. The displayed paintings were fragrant in their quietude, angled in beauty, perplexing in their simplicity, and seismic in some of their contortions. And in the reverberating profundity of a collage of understated shades, molten hues, startling imagery and muted tones, I forgot my own presence for a while.
The paintings were a sharp reminder of the poignant and subtle sprit found in nature, in life, and in people. Women in veils, without veils, bare faced, of age and without, the volatile depth of wide-eyes, the warm glow of sapphire eyes, complex part- fish-eyes – were found, layered on canvas, paper, on archival paper, on transparent plastic, and as mixed media on paper, as embossed acrylic colours, oil and paper collage on canvas.
Untitled by Bahuleyan CB (Image Courtesy: CIMA Gallery Pvt.Ltd)
Diametrically opposite but similar – rural (untitled) and royal beauties (namely, Kuntala and Kusum), luxuriating behind glass, adorned in detailed hairpins and nose pins, and ignorant of any worldly disparity, were showing off their painted fingernails or neckpieces and bangles. On the other hand, an urban stoic beauty, Marianna, draped in layered fabric, performed for the audience in black, white and grey, and as a two-piece fragment in silver.
Kuntala by Ramananda Bandyopadhyayay (Courtesy sriaurobindoinstitute.org)
Some of the participating artists’ names are: Bahuleyan CB, Ramananda Bandhopadhyayay, Rini Dhumal, Ganesh Pyne, Shuvaprasanna, Bhagyanath C, Abir Karmakar, Shreyasi Chatterjee , Sumitro Basak, Jyoti Bhatt, Farhad Hussain, Manjunath HP, Abir Karmakar, Surendran P. Karthyayan, Goutam Khamaru, Bimal Kundu, Paresh Maity, Martin O.C., Shakila, Paramjit Singh, Thota Tharrani, and others from across India.
The Throne by Ganesh Pyne (Courtesy:contemporaryindianart.com)
I met so many other beings and imaginings behind these frames; an abstract owl, a cycle-protagonist, the face of a buffalo, the gun inside a Zebra’s head, lanterns, a sombre hero, a smiling politician, the Buddha, a family, inverted hearts, a glittering turpoise black sea-fish, a dusky river-fish, and paisleys on odd backgrounds. Then there were — lineations in dark; reflections of steel columns and marbles on glazed tiles; stern ferns, placid mountains, upturned thorn plants; a life of ladders in space — storied in wooden planks; and a life of a fictitious three letter word — marked on garments, trains, walls — quite alike the advertisements you would see on a train journey through any part of India.
Manjunath HP with Painting
I went looking for an artist’s impressions and their interpretations; but instead guaged a personal discovery of each individual piece of art. Dichotomising, the paintings initially explained nothing to me in their silence, and yet, with familiarity, they explained a lot, almost everything. Abstract and vivid, a storehouse of vibrant shades of black, white, ochre, gold, blue, dark turquoise, green, mauve, red, yellow and others; engendered off the worldly, and blossoming into enchantment, these images were their own storytellers.