Friday 18 April 2014
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Popularising pseudo realist renderings

Poonam Goel

New Art

He seems a most unlikely artist even while sitting amidst his 30 odd-paintings on show at Shridharani Gallery in New Delhi, but 35-year-old Devajyoti Ray insists that we talk only about his art and not about his government job.

So, you turn your attention to the vibrant, colourful canvases that Ray calls his contribution to Indian modern art or as he calls it “pseudo-realism”. “When I began to paint as a child, I was doing watercolours like most Kolkata painters — the same landscapes and buildings. It was under the influence of my father’s artist friend Balraj Panesar that I tried to discover my own identity and began to delve in oils, but phase was also inspired by Bikash Bhattacharjee,” says Ray, who is an economics post grad from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

But oils was not to be his choice for long either because Ray soon gave that up and went ahead to dabble in a totally unexplored concept in art — pseudo-realism. “In the 90s, American filmmakers flooded the market with computer-generated graphics for their films,” explains Ray, “Critics called these scenes pseudo-realistic to describe something that is not real yet makes an impact instantly. I felt that there was no one working on this concept in art at least in India and wanted to become the first to do so.”

In pseudo-realistic stylisation, reality is approached through abstraction, often contrary to the more common place opposite. But what makes Ray’s work so special is the amalgamation of offbeat colours, simple geometric shapes and often meaningless renderings that come together to create a smooth, comprehensible reality.


Ray’s canvases in the show titled ‘Pseudo-Realist Renderings’ are figurative, often with more than one protagonist holding centre-stage. What makes them different is that the faces have been rendered featureless, yet it is easy to decipher their story because of the simple lines and props they use.

Take for instance ‘Learning the Balancing Act’ where a young girl walks along a wooden plank conveying the composure of a modern-day character, ‘Indignity’ showing a beggar woman seeking alms from a car owner or ‘Early Hours’ which shows a woman reading a newspaper with her back turned to the world. Similarly, ‘Lost in Debris’ portraying a desolate child or ‘The Ideologue’ showing a leader flanked by bodyguards are faceless people yet powerful in their imagery.

While most of Ray’s work seemingly portrays an urban milieu, natural as he is a Kolkata lad who honed his art in Delhi before settling down in Bangalore with his family, he claims that his work doesn’t have any set images in mind.

So, you also have a woman spinning the charkha, a Baul playing his instrument and two rural women gossiping with abandon in canvases that are equally evocative. Ask Ray how he is able to portray such a wide range of emotions without the use of facial expressions and features and he replies, “That is the challenge. I would like to believe that pseudo-realism is the new age art and its acceptance is very important for me.”

He also admits that his own work within this genre has evolved since the time he first displayed it in 2003 where he would use only a solo figure on his canvas. “My work now has not only several characters but also many motifs and props. Soon, I’m going to use mixed media on canvas and related installations for my show in Mumbai next year in February,” he says.

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