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  Life   Art  17 Nov 2016  In camera era, clock is ‘clicking’ for landscape art

In camera era, clock is ‘clicking’ for landscape art

Published : Nov 17, 2016, 6:09 am IST
Updated : Nov 17, 2016, 6:20 am IST

It is what you do with a brush which matters and that is exactly the role a camera must play in the creation.

Paintings by Gurjit Singh
 Paintings by Gurjit Singh

For someone like me who has drooled over the great realistic landscapes of artists from all over the world and especially in Western Europe, I feel there is a certain naiveté associated with realistic landscapes that I am not sure I relate to anymore. It has probably to do with my conviction that the time for realistic painting is over thanks to the ubiquitous presence of the camera as a device.

I call it a device with the specific reason of its usage as a medium of expression, like a brush. It is what you do with a brush which matters and that is exactly the role a camera must play in the creation or expression of thought of capturing a moment. In the present scenario, these can at best be visually related to as capturing a moment when cameras were not so omnipresent.

In the last and this week there have been two shows of artists who have worked in the realistic genre — Gurjit Singh and Suddhasttwa Basu. Gurjeet Singh is a young artist whom I have great affection for as a person. His humane nature and spiritualistic approach to life is gratifying to see in this day and age when even student level artists think nothing of seeing themselves as incarnations of Picasso!

In this ongoing show at the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, Gurjit has chosen to show a selection of his works and the various genres he has worked in in landscapes. His rural background and connect with his roots is evident in the works he has chosen to showcase. There is almost a wistful longing in him to be part of his beloved rural Punjab. The symbolic metaphors of the vast open fields, the swaying crops, the mendicant’s dhol (a percussion instrument) and the winding paths in the villages with their quaint homes are all there. A more judicious selection would have been in order, but youthful enthusiasm is understandable.

On the other hand, Suddhasttwa Basu’s works at the group show ‘Between the Lines’ have an English garden look and feel that is sophisticated and elegant but equally wistful. The empty bench that beckons you to sit on it and look at the flowers, the trellis of the not-in-use iron garden gate and the old style fountain complete with a dancing cupid could well be of a nearly-abandoned castle in rural England. There is also a sense of silence that could also be eerie as the greenery threatens to overtake the buildings.

Another artist, J. Raj Dassani, whose show is at Rasaja, is indicative of the spare élan of his brush strokes. The beautiful gallery is being run by the Rasaja Foundation set up by Jaya Appaswami to promote the arts. The senior artist works in monochrome a lot and understands the genre beautifully. The human body and the horse have been painted with an energy that speaks of his immense experience and comfort level with his idiom.

His sojourn at Shantiniketan exposed him to the influence of icons like Nandlal Bose, Sudhir Kastagir, Kiran Singh and Surendranath Ganguly. He had the fortune of being trained by giants like Ramkinkar Baij and Binod Bihari Mukherjee. It was under the latter and Sukhmoy Mitra that J. Raj undertook his academic research in the field of Jain miniature paintings from 1966-68.

While his early works were not preserved, his creations during the period 1966-73 found place of pride in the exhibitions at Barwaha, Indore, Gwalior, Shantiniketan, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Windsor, Detroit and New York. His first patron was Mulk Raj Anand, the then chairman of Lalit Kala Akademi, who bought three of his paintings.

For the last 43 years, though J. Raj has ceased exhibitions of his works, he has continued to pursue his calling solely for his own satisfaction. In the last decade, he has devoted himself to the Chinese and Japanese style of painting using black ink on paper. His creations in this style are in the thousands. These works reveal a very powerful brush stroke that is a rarely-seen or experimented-with genre in India and one that has very few exponents outside of China and Japan. The current exhibition is a rare event for art connoisseurs as it provides a much awaited opportunity to see the works of J. Raj after nearly half a century of his self-imposed withdrawal.

Dr Alka Raghuvanshi is an art writer, curator and artist and can be contacted

Tags: pm modi, camera era, art exhibition