Rooted in Tagorean ethos

Rooted in Tagorean ethos

City Ideograms

Samanta’s ‘War Mementoes’.

A solitary blue bird perched atop a branch transports you to a time when one woke up not to the ringing of an alarm bell but to the incessant chirping of birds. On yet another canvas is unfinished embroidery suspended from a sewing machine that tells the tale of innocuous domesticity while a key transforms itself into an animal bone that depicts both strength and magnificence. Simplicity in both content and form is what defines 36-year-old Tanmoy Samanta’s new works on canvas and paper for a show titled ‘Eye of the Needle’ on display at Gallery Espace in New Delhi till November 7.

Often hailed as the modern day Gaganendranath Tagore whose work reveled in using indigenous mediums like gouache and tempera to create astute portraits of city life, Samanta similarly creates a simple yet bold dialogue with forms, lines and colour which is aesthetically sound and interesting to unravel.

Unique language

Like the illustrious Bengal master, Tanmoy too creates paintings that act as ideograms, reaching beyond syllables and sounds to create a unique language of his own. Unlike others, he does not flit from one artistic style to another, but has chosen to stick to a colour palette and creations that are traditional in content but modern in interpretation.

Take for instance, his collage of nine shoes that soldiers wear titled ‘War Mementoes’. The canvas is a portrayal of the artist’s interest in socio-political causes as well as he explains that “these are shoes strewn over war fields that remind one constantly of the heroism of our soldiers.”

Brought up in an environment rich in literary experience, Tanmoy Samanta obtained a BFA and MFA in painting from the illustrious Kala Bhavan (College of Fine Arts and Crafts), Santiniketan, in 1996. He grew up to savour the Tagorean ethos of the college and held on to the traditional materials for picture making, namely gouache, rice paper and pigments. Recipient of Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award, New York, Samanta has created a niche for himself in Delhi art circles with his understated yet elegant art.

Says the artist, “I have always been mesmerised by shape and form that become the starting point of my work. I then weave my fantasy and imagination around these day-to-day shapes using multi-dimensional hues and textures not to get an end result but to depict continuous movement. In my laboratory, in the process of achieving something, I make small discoveries along the way which are as significant as the intended result where success and failure cease to be the opposite.”

The inspiration for his work comes from the memories of the coastal town where he grew up, memories like the dusk beckoning to a mysterious hinterland, the rising sea trying to devour the full moon, sparkling movement of phosphorous-coated fish lighting the pitch dark backwaters, tall shadowy trees swaying in a synchronizing mystery, lighthouses signaling alarm as well as reassurance, a thatched roof made of coconut-leaves catching fire, a huge black snake coiled inside the rice reservoir to cool itself, one night spotting an UFO and yet another night witnessing dacoits fleeing on their stilts, Soviet magazines being translated into Bengali, getting a globe as a birthday gift, remains of a fighter plane on the sea shore from a nearby military base — all remain etched in the nook and corner of his mind.

While the context may be both esoteric and overt at the same time, what comes forth in his work is the complex relationship between the inside and outside, the interior and landscape. For instance in his works titled ‘War Mementoes’, the painting on first glance depicts various sizes of leather boots but on a closer look, it reveals a ball, socket and system of levers that form the bones of the foot. In yet another work titled ‘Butterfly’, the painting represents a proposal for a flying city. In ‘The Beetle Car’, the vehicle opens up like a loquacious body, its machine parts turning into limbs, as though animated by a life force that takes away its destructiveness and makes it an instrument of festivity. Similar enigmatic works that are on display include ‘Accessories’, ‘Germination II’, ‘Night & Day’, ‘Sewing Machine’, ‘Flying Machine’, ‘Treasure - Box’, ‘Lovers’, ‘The Key’ and ‘Harbour’ among others.

In an era dominated by young artists who eulogize the virtues of the magnified scale, an indescribable simplicity is what pervades through Tanmoy Samanta’s works with some unexpected twists and twirls. He chooses mostly muted tonalities like the blood-pricked reds, dusty metal blues, leaf-shaded mulberry and shadowy jade. Sometimes there are recurring images of inherited objects like mementoes and sometimes there are old items that may be outworn yet preserved. They become the subjects that enumerate the mundane hustle and bustle of our daily lives yet chuckle and tease while seeming to tell that regardless of time and progress, what was then remains now!