Bringing the two Indias together and celebrating the differences and a tumultuous relationship between the two is Kolkata-based Cima Gallery's exhibition “Yeh Image Mahaan: India Meets Bharat”. In its first ever outing at the India Art Summit, the gallery has brought in a bunch of art pieces which harmoniously combine indigenous practices with the popular visual language of the subcontinent.
So, the story of an urban woman's pain and agony painted by veteran artist Arpita Singh is encased in a frame which again has a tale of a woman but using the popular folk idiom of Patachitra, a tradition of West Bengal. Swarna Chitrakar paints the whole life story of a woman right from the time when she is born. “What happens when the two Indias meet is what we are dealing with here. I feel of late a lot of contemporary artists have been going into the heart of India, learning the traditional skills and including them in their art practice,” says Rakhi Sarkar of CIMA Gallery who has also curated the show.
A case in point is Meera Devidayal's mixed media work on recycled metal sheets. Devidayal's work deals with marginalised sections of the society, like the slum dwellers who are as much a part of the big city as any other inhabitant. The scenes from this dark underbelly of Mumbai — zardozi workshop, a cramped dingy room — are digitally reproduced on the sheets which too have been procured from the slums.
The overwhelming presence of advertisements forms the subject matter of Kolkata-based artist Sumitro Basak, who for long has been fascinated by the popular visual culture and its impact on a cityscape and its residents. Basak in “Amar Sonar Bangla” creates a spoof on a popular hosiery brand of Kolkata whose proprietor was allegedly involved in the murder of a young boy for marrying his daughter.
“Recently the company indulged in an aggressive campaign and entire city was covered with its hoardings and banners. It reminded me of the old times when Maharajas would paint the entire city pink or white. So, here I look at how the identity of the city is affected by the market forces, economy and by its people,” says Basak. His brightly painted work comprising a cluster of paintings has the word ‘Fux' omnipresent in different urban situations like rail tracks running across the canvas, clothes left to dry on a clothesline, human faeces, etc.
The curator, in a bid to help viewers understand where it is all coming from, has also included works by Abanindranath Tagore, “Slaying Mustik” (watercolour on paper) and Jamini Roy. “Abanindranath Tagore arrived at a language by bringing in elements from the classical and the popular,” says Sarkar who has also got works of masters like Jogen Chowdhury, Ganesh Pyne and Jyoti Bhatt.
Academically untrained but highly perceptive artists like Shakila and Mayank Kumar Shyam, son of late Gond artist Jangarh Singh Shyam, also feature in the show. While Shakila in her unique language of collages does a take on Naxalism, Mayank, in the traditional Gond style, creates a city devoid of any life barring a pair of birds. Videos of an ad campaign, installations and sculptures are also part of the show.
(The exhibition is on at the newly inaugurated gallery in Rabindra Bhavan, Lalit Kala Akademi, till January 29)