Review by Sarmistha Maiti
October 15, 2011


Social And Political Injustice
Group show: Tapas Biswas , Subrata Biswas,  Akhil Chandra Das, Nantu Behari Das, Mithun Dasgupta,  Priyanka Lahiri, Sagar Bhowmick,  Partha Guin, Prandeep Kalita, Pappu Bardhan, Swapan Kumar Mallick,  Ketan N. Amin, Debashish Dutta and Buddhadev Mukherjee.
Spetember 9-October 10, 2011
Aakriti Gallery, Kolkata

Art as a medium of reaction, anti-establishment and rebellion force is not new but with the changing times the thought process and execution mechanisms have definitely altered and taken new paradigms according to socio-political contexts. Guernica, the famous mural painting of Pablo Picasso stands as an epitome of the reflection of social and political injustice. This particular artwork was conceived and created by Picasso as a reaction to the bombing of Guernica, Basque Country, by German and Italian warplanes at the order of the Spanish Nationalist forces, on 26 April 1937, during the Spanish Civil War. Pablo Picasso was commissioned by the Spanish Republican government to create a large mural depicting this social trauma and tragedy at the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (1937) Paris International Exposition in the 1937 World's Fair in Paris. The tragedy of a war and the immense suffering it inflicts upon individuals and the innocent people was the main content of Guernica. In the history of art, Guernica marks an anti-war symbol, and an embodiment of peace. And moreover this work of art constantly reminds us that how art can be a form of a social communication against injustice serving a greater cause and becoming a platform for generating peace and harmony and hope for the future.

Art on ideas, themes and concepts started propagating from the middle of the last century since when as the core enhancer of rebel in the form of art; artists through their individual languages became a part of a broader social dynamics and reflected their protest through the art works. As the witness of the sufferings of the present world from great distresses - be it in the form of genocides, catastrophes and natural calamities, battle for boundaries and borders, racial discriminations, religious wars, terrorism and its worldwide protests or the struggle between local and global identity and the conflict between the indigenous and the hegemony of imperialistic cultures, the encroachment of lands, the suicides of peasants, the regular female foeticide, the increasing anti-social turmoil and so on and so forth – the contemporary artists too don’t sit idle but voice their take on social and political injustice in various forms of art mediums and Aakriti Art Gallery, Kolkata has become one of the primary initiators to put this discourse of contemporary art by putting forward a complete show of paintings, new-age art and sculptures on “Political and Social Injustice – Trends in Contemporary Art” in September 2011.

Works of these fourteen contemporary artists at the pan-Indian level were displayed who had poured in their thought-process and executed works in their individual and independent language as their individual take on social and political injustice. The show came up as an evolving dais to propagate a common consensus of how the world is gradually becoming a space of degraded value system with an imbalance in the harmony of human existence with invariable form of discriminations at every level. The best part of the show was the sculpture section where Ketan Amin created a strong metaphor against corruption. In fiber glass, the hand metamorphosed into a human figure is holding a thousand rupee note as a paper plane which inevitably connects the changing dynamics of the social psychology where kids no more play with paper planes but planes of notes and currency. Nantu Behari Das’s “Cyborg” in fiber was the depiction of the head made of gadgets constantly swinging in the virtual world. Partha Guin’s  “150 ml solution” in new art medium, print on paper cups and sticker has tried to create a visual snap shot of a universal protest on different issues of corruption, violence, terrorism etc.  Subrata Biswas has been more conventional in handling terracotta emblems as engraved seals to lament on the loss of childhood in the cyber age. And Tapas Biswas in painted aluminum sheets incited the injustice done to a girl child as a wholesome social discrimination based on gender hierarchy.

The politics of gender, the discrimination associated with it since time immemorial and the farce in the name of bringing equality was the core area of concern in Swapan Kumar Mallick’s paintings “Carcass of Eros” in synthetic tempera (water proof) on treated cloth and “It’s her wish” in conti, soft pastel and ink on paper. His painting and drawing stood remarkable and unique in the painting section of the exhibition both in handling the medium he has innovated over a practice of many years and the content that deciphered the ballgame of gender politics in different binaries and dichotomies at each level. Otherwise Sagar Bhowmik’s addressing the concern of poverty on a 60”x60” canvas with the brilliant realistic effect of every tonal quality and fold of skin of a blanket clad beggar sitting on a railway foot-bridge as if a digitized impression being worked out in oil though the medium mentioned was exclusively oil on canvas. Priyanka Lahiri’s works were having the same old stylization that she has been repeating for the last five years in terms of texture and colour selection and compositional space balance on the canvas. The difference was this time it wasn’t against terrorism but more on issue of equality and human rights.

Pappu Bardhan’s work revolved around the search for an identity lost in the glam and gloss of the fakeness of urbanization in his painting “It’s Party Time” more with the Pop Art stylization. Debashish Dutta has moved out of the conventional approach of execution and taken a more installation orientation to create the metaphor of ‘entrapment’ in the world which is left without a fresh breathing space for an individual. Prandeep Kalita created a farcical note on the ruler/emperor who now requires borrowing clothes from others. Hegemony by default does lead to corruption. Akhil Chandra Das also followed the same line of conceptualization in his sculptures. “Puzzle Box” in bronze was one of the works in the whole show to reflect the curse of the evil as a grand puzzle on human civilization that it is carrying on its own shoulders towards further demolition and destruction.

The exhibition in totality invoked a space of thought-provoking ideas and reactions to bridge the gap between art and audience where a common viewer could also feel for the cause and interact with the visual medium. The burden of abstract and obscure modern art is no more falling heavy and plurality of expressions are being welcomed in the art world in a much larger scale with greater participation.

Prandeep Kalita,The Emperor Borrow Other's Clothes, Acrylic on Canvas, 42 x 32

Swapan Kumar Mallick, The Carcass of Eros, Synthetic Tempra on Cloth, 20" x 24"

Bantu Behari Das, Cyborg