Painting the inner self

Forests, lakes, and rivers, clouds and winds, stars and flowers, stupendous glaciers and crystal snowflakes — every form of animate or inanimate existence, leaves its impress upon the soul of man.
— Orison Swett Marden, American spiritual author.

He stands out with his paperwork and sets his class apart. Garnished with both drawings and water-colours, the carefully assorted line cuts a fair amount of impression about his craftsmanship across the board.
The artist in question is none other than the seasoned hand, Sanjay Bhattacharyya, whose eye-arresting exhibition “Existence” got unveiled over this weekend at Kolkata’s Emami Chisel Art Gallery.
Explaining the title and the theme, Bhattacharyya says, “Recently, I had a public release of a collection of poems called Existence in Delhi. In fact, the opening poem itself goes by the name of Existence. Having compiled the same into a book format, my mind would sub-consciously start conjuring up images to reflect on those composed lines in a compatible response. Hence, the visuals for ‘existence’ took a sudden flight from print to the art-walls one day. The motif predominantly highlights one’s route to self-realisation, where a person lies in the quest for his inner-self. Well, he embarks upon a soul-searching mode.”
Having worked on three different mediums for this particular show, the artist enlists three different styles emerging into three different ways for the display. One, the drawings segment, which comprises water colour impressions and ink lines on paper. Second, the section of pure aqua-hues again on paper and last but not the least, a series of photographs, which seem to simulate paintings.
With use of sandy bright yellow, strokes of monotones or chromes employed in double-tones and tints of dark pigments, brushed in mad rush, the artist makes his paintings almost life-like before the art-gazers.
To import inspiration for the softer water-palette, Bhattacharyya took frequent trips to the scenic Rajasthani city of Jaisalmer.
“I’ve already visited the place at least seven times and wish to go back more often to bathe in its breath-taking panoramic beauty,” he confesses his treasured urge.
Call him Mukul, the quintessential character from master movie-maker Satyajit Ray’s eponymous mystery-novel and film Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress), and the artist immediately ripostes: “Well, I would slightly beg to differ here. While Mukul would desperately want to tour Rajasthan in search of his golden fortress on the plea of having recurrent visions from his past life as a Rajasthani localite, residing inside the famous fort of Jaisalmer made out of the glowy golden yellow limestone, I’m more under a hypnotic spell of the historical site. I travel far and wide and into the outskirts, almost covering 150-200 km away from ‘Sonar Kella’.”
Enlightening more on the magnet called Rajasthan, the tourist inside the artist now speaks out loud, “The remote villages, mud houses, architectural splendour and the surrounding ambience just attract me like an oasis amidst an arid desert. If you lay supine on the soil, you may well gauge the middle of the sky being shaped as a glistening, glass bowl. Your eyes can easily capture the charm of nothingness and anonymity, and that’s absolutely incredible. With vast expansive vistas on all sides, it lends a clear picture of a zone of no man’s land with an earthy plateau and a lonely horizon lying at a mile’s distance. There is no apparent obstruction to halt one’s movement in a congested jungle of concrete, so discernibly conspicuous in cities otherwise.”
In the third category, where his photographs take precedence, the artist then talks of setting a criterion as a shutterbug. “Look, am not a professional lensman. And so, I’m technically very poor. But I make my clicked output appear as paintings through the lens,” he reveals.
Steeped in with elements of graphics and paintings, once Bhattacharyya had shown a specimen of his framed snapshots to his expert photographer-friend for a critical assessment of his work.
“Much to my surprise, my dear friend got confused between a photograph and painting. He thought, mine was a work of water-colours and not a shooting still!” he exclaims.
Presenting the first set of pictures from his mixed array, the artist has reportedly experimented with forms and textures in this exhibited collection. “I remember when Delhi metro rail work was in progress, several iron boards were planted along the roadside, which with gradual exposure to air and moisture, got heavily rusted, thereby creating a network of peculiar lines, patterns and designs. So I would even grab those mundane sights on my gadget as they might have appealed to my thought-process then. But at the end of the day, I could only boil down to a meagre few 40 pieces for a select showcase at Delhi’s Religare Art Gallery, located in Connaught Place out of a total 150 photos, which I had randomly freeze-framed at the spot. So you see, a lot of rethinking, development, analysis and improvisation go before churning out the finest cream from the bottom of an unwanted clutter,” he shares of his experience.
With plans up his sleeve to chisel out more figurines of bronze sculpture in his forthcoming shows, this Delhi-based artist declares to have shifted gears from ad-agency jobs to pursue his true calling.
“I chose not be complacent by settling over any lucrative career option,” he recalls with a sense of rectitude.
Having graduated from Kolkata’s Government College of Arts & Crafts in the Fine Arts department in 1982, Bhattacharyya left for Delhi only in the following year on the pretext of landing a job.
“Even while trying my luck at the creative department of designing and illustrations in the ad-world, I could fathom that this field isn’t my cup of tea. After resigning and migrating to Delhi with a new job, I couldn’t dig in my heels inside an office atmosphere for long. After a short stint, I quit that job too and freelanced for a considerable period to fend for myself. And now I’m here doing what I’ve have always wanted to do: to paint and photograph,” he says.
Having showcased his last solo oeuvre in the culture-capital almost a decade ago at the well-known Birla Academy’s Art and Culture gallery, the city’s native will now return with a brand new exposition-cum-sale this spring. Welcome home!

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