Kalighat style revived

Kalighat style revived

Ace artist Lalu Prasad Shaw is back to showcase his work influenced by Kolkatas life

Kalighat style revived

A slice of life in old Calcutta is up for view in an art exhibition in the Capital. Veteran artist Lalu Prasad Shaw is exhibiting his works inspired by the Kalighat style of painting which depict men and women going about their daily chores in traditional Bengal.

It uses very simple, and yet elegant, colours and lines which lend it a dream like quality. Suitably, the exhibition is called ‘The interpreter of dreams.’

Lalu Prasad Shaw was born in Bengal in 1937 and completed his education in fine arts at the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Kolkata. Influenced by pre-Independence Company School of art, Shaw’s works, mainly executed in gouache or tempera colours, are simple and graceful.

Over the years, he has dabbled in many styles of painting, but the Kalighat style has left a lasting impression on his work.He informs us, “In ancient times, artists in Kalighat – a pilgrimage spot in South Kolkata, used to paint passing men, women, birds, animals, gods and goddesses on the banks of Adi Ganga river. These paintings would then be sold near the Kalighat temple and fondly taken away by pilgrims as souvenirs. Over time, the Kalighat paintings became a distinct school of Indian painting.”

“This tradition has almost vanished from Kalighat now and the style of painting is also rarely practiced by artists these days.”

Exhibitions like this senior artist’s though hope to keep it alive in the coming days. The 40 works he has displayed comprise mostly of portraits of women. Bengali ladies, in bright cotton sarees, running fingers through their hair, combing it or tying it up in ribbons dominate the works. They pose against a wall or a piece of furniture, watching a cat or a wilted vase of flowers or simply look away wistfully. The large eyes are always averted, looking inwards as if waiting for someone.

The men are lost in thought – smoking, eating fruit or sniffing a flower, reminiscent of the elite Bengali society of 19th century. In this sea of undramatic paintings, perhaps the most striking one is that of a man holding an umbrella where his body is below it, but the head appears on top of the spike.

Though at first sight one may not find anything special about these paintings, the beauty lies in the details - the way the pleats of the sarees and dhotis (in case of men) have been painted – crisp and neat, the combination of colours and minimal distractions in terms of characters. They reflect sophistication in simplicity.

As Lalu says, “There is no intellectual business in my paintings. One doesn’t need to stress his or her mind to understand them. They are just a simple representation of Bengal for those with an interest in art or that region.” 

The exhibition is on at Art Indus Gallery, Santushti Complex, Chanakya Puri from 11 am - 7 pm till September 30.      

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