FRIDAY REVIEW

Ways of art some old, some new

RANA SIDDIQUIRANA SIDDIQUI

INNOVATIVE Debangshu Das' wash painting

INNOVATIVE Debangshu Das' wash painting  

This past week, New Delhi saw two young artists; Debangshu Das carrying forward the old wash technique in his paintings and Manish Nai Limbachiya inventing a new medium on canvas with jute, paper and oil.

Das's works depict many moments, many people. There is a work showing the plight of a lonely royal lady, a yawning guard looking after her in her palace. There is one of a poor, toy-seller boarding the last train home after selling most of his ware. There is the Radha-Krishna series in miniature style, the architecture of present-day Bengal mixed with Ajanta Ellora look, and so on. There are very few artists working on wash technique of watercolour painting as it is considered cumbersome and time-consuming. But Das has decided to carry forward the technique, claimed to be invented by Abindranath Tagore. Says Das, "My father was also a wash painter. During his time David Cox and Kent papers, etc., were available which I guarded very zealously. I work on them now using Winson Newton colours which are no longer available as they are considered toxic. England, from where it was imported to India, banned it long back. The new Winson Newton colours are synthetic ones. They are not as bright and as soft as the older ones."

Manish Nai's mix of canvas, paper and jute attracted the viewers in New Delhi.

Manish Nai's mix of canvas, paper and jute attracted the viewers in New Delhi.  

Das retains the original technique of wash painting by "applying first layer of colour and washing it till it remains only 20 per cent on the paper. "I do so 10 to 12 times, temperate it, dry it to get the desired effect of the colour. Putting it on temperature is the most difficult phase of all as it always carries the risk of getting burnt."

Das claims that no artist in Kolkata is using the wash technique painting and he himself gets very few students. "Since it takes time, students lose interest as they want to paint something that can be quickly prepared and sold," says this 34-yer-old teacher of art at Rama Krishna Mission Institute of Culture in Kolkata. He exhibited his works for the first time in Delhi at Taj Palace hotel.

Twenty-five-year-old Manish Nai Limbachiya's father lost heavily in his jute business. His godown was full of coloured jute. A person with an artistic mind, Manish saw his images in them. He plucked a few threads, pasted them on the canvas, and painted the rest of the canvas with the same colour as the jute. He depicted the plight of the people of Mumbai during the recent rains that washed away many houses by shaping jute as flowing water. He portrayed his floating canvases in that water which damaged 40 of his works. He developed a new method to create a work of art. He pasted thick jute on canvas base and stuck a sheet of butter paper over it. He then applied washes of transparent colour on this surface, and fine-grained jute over it. From a distance, they just seemed a combination of light and dark colour divided by half on a canvas. A closer look revealed the intricacy that they had.

This graduate from L.S. Raheja School of Art, Mumbai who showed a collage of such paintings at Apparao Galleries, is also a winner of The Pollok Krasner Foundation Award for Art from New York. He has exhibited in Japan and Singapore too.