Wonders created through print

BENGAL ART

It is interesting to know that the intricate pattern in the dress of a tribal girl is created through wooden blocks filled with black ink. A woman worshipping a Shivalinga is also depicted in a black backdrop.

 But after this display of divinity, the human skull drawn with black ink hits right in the face.

These artworks are by three different artists which document the theme of everyday life and living of people of West Bengal. Chittaprosad Bhattacharya’s wood cuts, Haren Das’s etchings and Somnath Hore’s lithographs are brought together under one roof as part of the exhibition ‘Print: Three Masters’.

“All have worked extensively on the life of Bengal, so we selected them,” says Vijaylakshmi, the curator of the exhibition adding, “All three are masters in their own genres and are printmakers rather than just artists.”

A row of wood cuts portray ordinary people in different stages of their life. Especially women doing household chores, accompanied by children. Infact, woman in the form of a mother has been largely captured by Chittaprosad. 

“In the 40s and 50s, the household chores were mainly done by women which led to the artist creating prints of women as homemakers,” informs the curator adding “wood cuts are a process of painting where blocks of wood with grooves are carved. The grooves are filled with colour or ink and pressed on paper to create prints.”

The process has enabled Chittaprosad to create complex works that seem inspired by tribal designs. Vijaylakshmi admits that there was presence of tribes in and around the area of Shanti Niketan (in West Bengal) which might have influenced the artist. His depiction of tribal dance and female dancers verifies the same.

Even the simplicity in the facial expressions in print of Radha-Krishna is admirable. On the contrary, the etching of a woman worshipping Shivalinga is both intense and intricate. The artwork has a lot of depth due to the tree under which Haren Das has placed the Shivalinga. 

The more striking piece, however, is the etching ‘After The Rain’ which shows a young boy and girl heading to the coast with fishing nets in their hand. Their companionship speaks volumes such as the relationship between a fisherman and his net, that enables him to earn his livelihood.

The charmings bit is the etching created in a coloured version which is rare to see. “Not many artists created coloured etchings,” says Vijaylakshmi as one appreciates the etchings inspired by the daily life of fishermen.

But without much ado, the ace lithographer Somnath Hore draws few broad brush strokes and to make a strong statement on the Bengal famine. 

“Hore was a genius who was able to convey so much without using too many colours or lines,” says the curator as one is rendered speechless to describe the artist’s work through words.    

The exhibition is on at Art Indus, Chanakyapuri till June 28. 

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