The familial in his art

homegrown artist

The familial in his art

Jamini Roy is one of those names much ingrained in our cultural memory. Consciously or subconsciously, most of us have come across an image of his work in our lives, through the overwhelming visual cues we live by and have grown up in. One is sure to not miss his painting style, especially the eyes and the elemental lines.

One of the early modernist painters to talk about the return to the rural, a return to the roots, Jamini Roy’s conscious shift from the oil colour — a colonial hand-me-down — to mediums of watercolour, tempera on paper and natural earth colours closer to home evolved into his typical aesthetic.

There is a sudden domestic frankness in his paintings that speaks to you directly, through the portraits of people and their wide eyes — always open to grasp every bit of this world they can take in. The portraits of the Vaishnavas and their distinct forehead lines, the gopis and their birdlike profiles, the birds and beasts, the series on Christ and the mother and child — all seem to resonate with kinship.

The repetition of style works as a reinforcement, an establishing of ground for intimate dialogue. The recurrent core of humanism manifests in a renewing structure of simple and clear geometry, mass and line in the works. They become iconic and monumental and home exaggeration deftly.

Jamini Roy does away with excess — hysteria and tragedy are cloaked, almost feverishly avoided, and what prevails is a melancholic celebration of life. What emerges is a newness of clear vision in this familial atmosphere of his portraits. His aesthetic has been termed as modernist ‘pop’ by art historians. Somewhere in this pop, emotions condense and the works become very accessible.

His recourse to themes from mythology tide over the ‘meaning making’ obstacle that one often faces in an encounter with art. Like a token or an example, some witty caricatures of earnest kinds, and some honest observations of everyday, the works endear the viewer with a rather animistic, irrational appeal. Contrary to realistic aesthetic that thrives in print images, where space turns dispensable, the joy of viewing these works remarkably heightens in a gallery.

It becomes evident that such elemental styles flourish spatially, where time automatically slows for the viewer — the same experience might be of a completely different pace and effect when seen in print.

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