How often do we have shows by artists who are no more? Not very often. And that’s what sets “Innerscapes” apart from others. Shobha Bhatia’s Gallerie Ganesha recalls an artist called Bimal Dasgupta, a name not expected to ring a bell in today’s times. Had he been alive, he would have been 97 and probably still painting, but alas for a car crash in 1995 on his way to Ajmer. Bhatia, an ardent admirer of Dasgupta’s oeuvre, had handpicked a few of the artist’s works during his lifetime and is now showcasing them in the show. There were a few oils too but Bhatia has stuck to his stellar watercolours for the ongoing exhibition, which she calls pure watercolours. “Abstraction in watercolours is a rare thing and he excelled in that. You need to be so clear in your mind about what you are going to do, because the medium doesn’t give you a second chance unlike oils. It dries up too fast,” says the senior gallerist who is celebrating 25 years of Gallerie Ganesha.
Dasgupta’s works evoke so many references in the mind. At times they look like Rorschach inkblot cards, but they aren’t in any case psychological test cards, though they are innerscapes. The imagery is relatable to things we come across in our lives, but the artist’s mind has processed and then portrayed it in such a way that it slips in between something known and unknown. There are hints of tantricism, signs of human habitation, suggestions of old structures and ruins, green and grey forests and wild growths. Executed with amazing skill, Dasgupta’s canvases are imbued with fluidity and something solid at the same time.
“Those days a lot of artists would start with watercolours and when exposed to oils, they would start doing that and then come back to watercolours. Dasgupta also began the journey with watercolours as a student of art in the Government Art School, Calcutta, in 1937 but could not complete the six-year course due to financial restrictions,” recalls Bhatia. “He got a government scholarship to stay in Europe. He got exposed to oils and started working in oils. But then he had to give up oils, when he developed an allergy to turpentine and linseed oil. Thereafter, he took up acrylic. But his preferred medium always remained watercolour.”
It was during an art camp at Mayo College, Ajmer, that he decided to send his grandson to the celebrated institution. In 1995, on his way back from Ajmer with his daughter and son-in-law after admitting him, their car crashed and the two generations of the family were wiped out. “Before that I think he had shown in 1993 and that was his last show. He sold well and was very well known. Lalit Kala Akademi had conferred a National Award on him in 1956, but those days artists like him were not concerned about selling and publicity. They were concerned about appreciation. He would ask me to come and just see his work. The generations after him didn’t get to know him because there were no major shows showcasing his work. Nobody really talked about him.”
(The show is on at Gallerie Ganesha, E-557, GK II, till September 22)