Chittaprosad Bhattacharya’s paintings on display in online exhibition

Chittaprosad, Untitled, Scraperboard, Image courtesy DAG  


Every year, during the festival season, art galleries and museums in and around Kolkata curate exhibitions mostly centred on the theme of festivals. As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, presenting challenges to galleries and museums in organising physical exhibitions, the question that many of these institutions are grappling with is what kind of art they should bring into the public domain.

Victoria Memorial Hall, along with DAG, a private art gallery, has decided to put together the art of celebrated painter Chittaprosad, known for his heart-wrenching sketches and drawings of the Bengal Famine of 1943-44, alongside economic exploitation, urban poverty and depravity.

“It is a good time to choose the digital platform to convey some of the anguish from a people’s artist and for all of us to use this festive season to get out of our comfort zones,” Jayanta Sengupta, secretary and curator of Victoria Memorial Hall, said.

The online exhibition titled ‘People’s Artist – Chittaprosad: In Solidarity, In Solitude’ has more than 40 works of the celebrated artist, from around Independence. Chittaprosad Bhattacharya (1915-1978) was a member of the Communist Party of India and worked as an artist-cadre during the tumultuous years before and after the birth of the new Republic.'

Chittaprosad, Halisahar Chittagong, Ink on paper, On view at Ghare Bhaire, Kolkata, Image courtesy DAG

Chittaprosad, Halisahar Chittagong, Ink on paper, On view at Ghare Bhaire, Kolkata, Image courtesy DAG  

His explorations of new spaces of political action led him to his work for children through puppets and storytelling, and shift into a more personal and intimate space of politics. In 1968, he wrote “art is neither a weapon or a means of propaganda of any ideology—as we were told a few years ago by the political pundits”, revealing his commitment to developing a visual language that could speak directly to and for all people.

Along with the online exhibition, the VMH and DAG have also organised five different events in October and November, where experts, art historians and academicians will shed light on the work of the celebrated artist. The events include a book talk by Sanjukta Sunderason (Leiden University) that will look at Chittaprosad’s experiments in art and politics, introduced and moderated by well-known art historian Tapati Guha-Thakurta.

The artworks in the online exhibition have been sourced from the Ghare Baire, an exhibition put together by DAG at Currency Building, Kolkata and from the collection of DAG. Ghare Baire - The World, The Home and Beyond: 18th-20th Century Art in Bengal was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, and it has been produced by DAG in collaboration with NGMA.

The exhibition that brings together three centuries of art from Bengal under one roof is at the newly-restored Currency Building in Kolkata.

“The exhibition, true to the spirit of Chittaprosad, has been curated through a collective process, where a group of students from across the world have joined our ‘Curious Curatorium’ initiative. They are a part of a month-long exploration of the artworks, developing the curatorial framework and building a narrative through their selection of artworks,” said Sumona Chakravarty, Deputy Director, Ghare Baire, DAG Museums.

Pointing out that the online exhibition on Chittaprosad and events around it has generated good response, Ms Chakravarty said that for online exhibition one has to think about exhibitions in a broader context, which is the dialogue and discourse around the exhibition.

Mr Sengupta, who feels that online exhibitions afford a more intimate engagement with art that is sometimes lost in the solitude of individual visitors in grand, overpowering museum spaces, said that the exhibition on Chittaprosad has been “planned it in a way that it grows and grows, and acquires a life of its own by means of the conversations and interactions we seek to enable through talks and workshops”.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 2:09:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/chittaprosad-bhattacharyas-paintings-on-display-in-online-exhibition/article32936200.ece

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