Review by Sarmistha Maiti
October 20, 2012


Dramatic Conflict in Life and Nature

Ganesh Haloi, Ramananda Bandyopadhyay, Sanat Kar, Jogen Chowdhury, Sunil Das, Rabin Mondal, Partha Pratim Deb, Kanchan Dasgupta, Jaya Ganguli, Aditya Basak, Ashok Bhowmik, Goutam Chowdhury, Arunima Chowdhury, Wasim Kapoor, Eleena Banik, Samir Roy, Asit Pal, Samir Aich, Debabbrata Chakaraborty, Rabin Ray, Shantanu Maity, Swapan Kumar Mallick, Dilip Guchait, Shamindranath Majumdar, Tarun Ghosh, Mallika Das Sutar, Nobina Gupta, Mrinal Kanti Mandal, Sumana Ghosh, Bimal Kundu, Sunil Kumar Das, Tapas Sarkar, Asim Basu, Debabrata Dey and Debashis Mallick Chowdhury.

October 3-9, 2012.

North Gallery of Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata

There is a world outside the box… but if you are so content within it, you will never be able to experience the joy of getting out of it. This was my instant feeling when I stepped into the premises of the recently held exhibition Dramatic Conflict in Life and Nature, curated by the eminent critic and writer Mrinal Ghosh.  

Thirty six artists, belonging to the last four decades, worked on a concept to build a cultural integrity between visual art and performing art (theatre), since the exhibition was hosted by a theatre group of the city known as Sudrak. This show is part of the theatre festival this year organized by Sudrak. 

“A blank canvas or any other support is mute. It has no life force or tension on its own. Whenever a point or some other sign-system appears on it, a conflict or tension emerges through the dialectical interaction between the form and the void.”  Adhering to this statement of the curator, it can be misinterpreted and mistreated that whatever is being executed by the artist is a ‘dramatic conflict’, be it in nature or in life and so anything and everything can be incorporated in the subject. The balance between the formal expertise and the intriguing content and the conjugation of intuitive mindscape with the intellect evolution is expected to reflect from every piece of artwork when the artists are being given such a wide range to conceive, create and execute their works. But that was exactly what put me in an awful situation to see that most of the artistic expressions in this exhibition carried no such pulse to invite its audience for a stimulating dialogue.  

Senior established artists gave their usual trademarks with not even a single attempt to think beyond his/her signature – Sunil Das with his ‘bull’, Wasim Kapoor with his ‘Christ’ with the thorn crown, Ganesh Haloi with his usual rhythmic abstraction on monochromatic picture plane, Rabin Mandal presented the same face in thick texture of acrylic on board… and so on. The second and third generations as categorised by the curator were no exceptional. The ensemble of cliché jargons occupied their works as well and though a few like Jaya Ganguli, Samir Aich, Samir Roy attempted to move out of their boxes but could make only little difference.  

The fourth tier of the exhibition which would be referred as the most ‘contemporary’; artists who came to the limelight at the dawn of the new millennium could have really made the difference and could give this show the ‘life’ it really missed in the name of ‘dramatic conflict’. But nothing much did either evolve from this category. Nobina Gupta’s “Intangible Dilemma” was nothing new apart from her obsession with the cellular/microbial world to essentially poke anything as ‘intangible’. Mrinal Kanti Mandal’s juxtaposition of five individual works in a series done in charcoal on paper inflicted with a kind vibrancy of different stages of nature more to say natural calamities had a kind of finesse, so was Shantanu Maity’s ‘box within a box’ patterned collaboration of invariable elements on a picture plane that generated a kind of interest to hold on for a while and perceive the connectivity or dissociation if any among the knitted elements, but again failed to provide any kind of dynamism. Shamindranath Majumder’s patches of acrylic to bring forth a relief quality on the canvas could not even grab the viewer’s attention to pause for a moment and take a glance of it. Dilip Guchait possibly for the last two decades has been doing the same works repetitively punctuating the serenity of village women practicing their daily chores in tranquility far from the maddening crowd without any sign of effect from the external world. But why should we even look at such a work that doesn’t also give any impact at the level of its formal execution and realization of a thought process... and the rest in the list were nothing greater than this. 

Last but not the least in this entire show to be mentioned and critically read was Swapan Kumar Mallick, Mallika Das Sutar and Sumana Ghosh’s paintings and Tapas Sarkar’s sculpture. To begin in the reverse order, Tapas has innovated a novel style in depicting the famous ‘pata-chitra’ in sculptural forms with allegories from the past maintaining the legacy with the present. Sumana and Mallika attempted to critique hegemony of different orders in their own styles yet limitations of their ideation could not be surpassed because such counters to hegemonic discourses have now become common gimmicks. Though Sumana’s naïve quality in tempera on handmade paper has an appeal following the trail of the Bengal tradition of modern art, Swapan’s skills, technique and accuracy of depiction in synthetic tempera on treated cloth with acrylic dominant base carried an appeal to the audience at the first glance. But the most problematic part of his deliberation again as a discourse of an artist is that he finds conflict only in libido, lust, organic substantiation of material desire and consumerist culture even in the second decade of the twenty-first century. He is yet to assess that a woman’s pair of sexy legs in high heels and mini skirt cannot echo the conflict of today’s pseudo-urban culture even in the rural Indian context at the global forefront. Time has in fact gone ahead of it! 

The limitation of every participating artist to remain inside their boxes in this exhibition which could otherwise have been a brilliant showcase of progressive minds and aesthetic innovation with novelty of ideation and clear vision, instead lagged behind to let down the curator’s entire endeavour and the host’s initiation of bringing in visual arts and dramatic expedition on a common plane of sharing experience and realization of a bigger message through contemporary art forms. It’s high time that artists from Bengal should give up their attitude of carrying the baggage of their ‘glorious’ past and their taken for granted approach of a curator’s effort and think not what they couldn’t achieve that they deserved but what they still can do… as Joseph Cambell stated in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, “The myths of failure touch us with the tragedy of life, but those of success only with their own incredibility.” 

Or else as the Head of the State takes esteem in her mockery on a public forum that as if nothing happens in West Bengal except it’s becoming ‘a land of rapes’; this mockery can boomerang any moment, if creative vision fails to meet the optimal scale of evolution. 

Dilip Guchait

Jaya Ganguly

Samindra Nath Majumder

Samir Aich