Tale of the four-legged


It is clever, it is creepy. It is the wise culprit without a fingerprint. There is no evidence of its mischief but we all know that “Macavity” — the mystery cat is the one who gave the law a clear slip and squeezed its hidden paw out of the handcuffs.

Though this feline creature is a fictional character from the famous poem by T.S. Eliot in his Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the truth is that cats are a cunning species and they love to outfox people. What goes on inside their shrewd minds and beneath their closed eyes is nobody’s cup of tea to assume in advance. They take calculated steps; make a manipulative move and carefully manouvre even before catching their favourite prey — the rat. So, there’s always this cat-n-mouse chase in most of the movie climax sequences. These so-called maternal aunts of the big cats are indeed alert, watchful and observant by nature. They are conscious about a given situation and seldom meow without a reason.
This quadruped with a silent gait walks in absolute beauty and schemes with accuracy, keeping its immediate foe in complete darkness. Either petted at home or found on the streets as a stray animal, this four-footed mystic charmer also appears in Cats, the popular Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. No wonder then that the cat becomes a predominant subject for a painter. At least the talented artist Sheikh Nur Ali of Burdwan (district in West Bengal) claims so. Recently, the creator showcased his solo exhibition of fresh works at The Promenade Lounge of Taj Bengal Hotel in Kolkata. His oeuvre of 23 specimens titled Musical Chair, Depth, Composition, Dream, et al lend an insight into his world of aesthetics and vision. “On my mental landscape, the existence of cats is a crucial feature. Without its presence, my works would otherwise appear unfinished and imperfect, as if it’s lacking something or somewhere. And I am well-known as a specialist in drawing out a clowder of cats in my circuit,” asserts Ali.
Replacing the masked humans with a flurry of cats’ faces, the humble artist corroborates that “like mankind, the animal kingdom is too festered with jealousy, hypocrisy, struggle, politics and hardships.” Personifying the cat, the artist adds a human element to its characteristics. So it can play a musical chair game, wear masks to conceal its true identity and even dream of gliding through the water, riding on a fish-back that it is so fond of. Just because cats love to eat fish, so the latter naturally stray into the painter’s frame, as seen in some of his works. Toying with the theme of cats since 2001, Ali claims to have dabbled in both solo as well as group shows.
Having displayed a row of 23 paintings, priced between `5,000 and `40,000, the low-profile artist politely reveals his unremitting proclivity towards a palette of bright colours. Currently busy lending finishing touches to a Shiv-Parvati portrait, in the run up to the forthcoming pujas, this alumnus of the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts (AFA) with a Diploma in Visual Arts has earlier also delineated a picturesque Radha-Krishna painting for the under-discussed gallery splurge. Besides drawing a series of paintings on cats, tigers and dogs, Ali has also tried out his hand at sketching the cattle family of cows and goats. A scholarship holder from Charukala Parishad, West Bengal government, the artist owns a permanent art-studio inside his home. A member of the reputed Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai and Rarh Bangla Art Society, Burdwan, Ali divulges that he is in talks with the concerned authorities for a number of shows lined up from early 2014. Seems his art-calendar is already booked for next year.

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