Saturday, February 27, 2010

Husain discovered

Ever since he was offered honorary citizenship of Qatar, M.F. Husain seems to have gone underground. They say galleries are afraid of displaying his work, but Calcutta stands all rules on their head, and Gallery Rasa in New Alipore is happily displaying his celebrated graphic art.
These serigraphs and offset lithographs seethe with reds, yellows and greens while his masterful handling of lines has become a byword in Indian contemporary art. Varanasi, Ganesh, Kerala, Kali, Bengali cinema, stolen kisses, the great religions and cities of the world and of course curvaceous beauties burst forth with life in these works that are so neatly structured.
Prints are meted out a step-motherly treatment because of confused popular notions about graphic art in general. Each print may be a one-off work of art that bears the cachet of the artist, but this is often confused with commercial printing and by association, mass production. For this reason, few if any exclusive exhibitions of graphic art are held in galleries today.
This week Gallery Sanskriti is the second one to hold a show of prints.
Gallery Sanskriti presents a portfolio of 60 limited edition etchings put together and executed by Yashpal Chandrakar, a former student of Kala Bhavan, who has himself participated in this exhibition.
The two-volume catalogue of the show, Mark of Masters, which contains informative essays on the history and art of printmaking in India, adds weight to this exhibition. For this show, the artists had contributed their drawings or brushwork and the actual etchings were done by Chandrakar himself. Although the resultant prints are interesting, sometimes they do not look as if the artist concerned was involved in making them. This is particularly evident in the case of the remarkable Anupam Sud, Suhas Roy and Lalu Prasad Shaw.
Having said this, it has to be admitted that Jogen Chowdhury’s face with contorted features stands out as it immediately reminds us of the Sahaj Path linocuts with their broad and bold strokes. This one is an extraordinary study of a grimace in which Chowdhury makes best use of the rhythmic line whose origin can be traced back to the Kalighat patas.
Yashpal Chandrakar’s idea may have been a commercial success but his own handiwork depends heavily on nostalgia and sentimentality and that can be tiresome.
Partha Shaw’s works at Galerie 88 may be non-figurative, but only insofar as he does not use human figures in them. On the other hand his works are strong on design that allude to architectural drawings, Google Earth images of cities and even the Roman alphabet, not quite literally though. His palette is confined to grey, black and silver, which seems limiting despite the occasional touches of colour. Another large work in brown is heavily dependent on texture — there is little else to it.
Sunil Das is synonymous with his drawings of horses and bulls. At Ganges Art gallery he has gone one step further to display equine and bovine creatures in heat. The mind boggles to think what these beasts and their human riders are up to. Perhaps this veteran artist had tribadism (to stretch its meaning) in mind when he conceived these animals enjoying a tumble in the hay.

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