Art Review

Art Review

Among stylistic options

In fact, the dominant impression was of the persistence of such diverse options throughout Shivaprasanna’s career, evident in the nature of their sources, coming back strong, if varied, during the subsequent phases, both separate and somewhat pervasive. This trait, helped by the mostly modernist inspirations and the character of the formal journey, makes one see the senior artist from Kolkata together with some painters a generation older from him, for instance, Satish Gujral, rather than his contemporaries.
His is an empathic response to life that leads him from close observation of singular people and creatures to expressing generalised compassion for the fate of the poor, where protest alternates or blends with humour, to eventually seek solace in the beauty of myth and modern classics. It is mediated by the strands of realism and stylisation, the latter shaping overstressed variants as well as simplified and tradition-alluding ones.
Interdependence can be noticed also in the simultaneous need for individual formal expressiveness and for dependency on certain existing idioms. Its reflection enters the relationship and shifts between a quite literal description or illustration of sights and thoughts and their universalised, compact suggestiveness.

The earliest pieces belonging to the 1970s are portrait drawings, very competent and often sensitive in an utterly academic manner, bridge the conventionality frame and warm, intense immediacy, especially in the nude studies.

Such directness recurs later, either in an obvious way mixed with not-realistic figural exaggeration or softened more cogently over modernist accents in portraiture. Beginning in that decade and increasing afterwards is the compulsion to speak about the suffering of the destitute and the state of the urban wasteland.

The dark, emphatically shaded figures become distended, gnarled by hunger and labour, yet not allowed to turn expressionistic under the hold to fairly pleasant mannerism, whilst metaphors are clear but a little simplistic, for example the forest of desperate, hopelessly rising hands.

Much more successful in their reliance on sensation are the animal pictures – compassionately funny or rough-graceful.

If Shivaprasanna sometimes directly depicts an illusive, hybrid human-beastly condition, one appreciates best its compact evocation in the images of crows and owls that merge eerie rapacity with mild vulnerability, silliness with brooding wisdom, the recent insects too.

Ambitious in scale, the 21st century canvases may disappoint because their transposed quotations from Hindu iconography or Picasso that convey the artist’s new serenity and bright joy experienced by participating in a grand lineage are dressed in a yet more mannerist and pleasing way, fortified by a tendency towards smooth, linear design.
Beside several paintings and drawings, the selection included a rich gamut of graphic prints and a number of sculptures. Whereas the lithographs, woodcuts, silk-screens and intaglios frequently allowed the viewer to admire the artist’s abilities; the three-dimensional works, though equally consummate technically, seemed to be focused on decorative effects.

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