A cubist conundrum

Niren Sengupta's works in a cubist-sculptural style are all about finding connections within a deconstructed space, writes Subhra Mazumdar

Symphonic interpretations

Niren Sengupta is an artist who has imbued his artistic personality with much more than mere canvas and paints. Unlike most practitioners who are generally seen hobnobbing with their own kind, Niren is the sort who is often surrounded by youthful faces, some demanding selfies and others chatting with him about their own artistic progress.

The heartening fact is, this former Principal of the Govt Art College in Delhi has not severed his links with young art makers, who like to treat him not just as a retired faculty but as a likeable senior. You can hear him tell them how they should paint and sketch tirelessly and how their ‘individual styles’ ought to be developed organically. 

Being an ardent follower of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Niren’s inspiration has sprung often from his close links with the Ramakrishna Mission. “It was a message from a devotee in America that I often recall,” he muses. “This gentleman wanted me to make portraits of Sri Ramakrishna and Ma Saradamoyee to be placed in his prayer room and was making enquiries about the price. The artist in me wanted to fulfil the devotee’s desire but doing it for the sake of money seemed distasteful. Ultimately, I painted an image of the Belur Math, the headquarters of the Mission, and the gentleman gifted it to his daughter for it to be kept in her puja room,” he recalled.

Though spiritually inclined in his thought process, what greets his viewers on the walls is no conventional depiction of mythological suggestiveness. Instead the works are imbued with a sculptural style, where the space is demarcated into cubist forms of chiselled faces, deconstructed geometry, defining graphics, determined by colour contrasts and fusions that are elegant, to say the least.

Also, the works are large in format, so that viewers, when standing before a work, can hold long conversations with the art, by splicing every section and examining the art with concentrated vision. Finally, the viewer can have the satisfaction of binding the entire geometry and combining the work into a holistic statement, even while enjoying the exercise of connectivity amidst deconstructing.

Contrary to what one might gather from first impressions, this ebullient former teacher likes to have a one-to-one chat with his viewers, wherein, every work is diagnosed and commented upon, stroke by stroke with candid sincerity.

Though the works bear a spiritual undertone, they are figurative representations of divinity but surprisingly they speak to the ‘nihilist’ and the atheist, claims the artist.

“It is because I have veered away from painting the pantheon and prefer to paint our ancestors. I am always thinking of our forefathers, not as spiritual or earthly beings, but as a source of recall that is universal.”

Disciplinarian painter

His phase of ancestry depiction according to the artist is a distilled product of his art journey. In his earlier years, the artist confesses that it was the plight of w omankind that had drawn his sympathies. 

He is not sure how his foray into cubist painting came about. “I can trace it to two aspects: Tagore’s poetry which I enjoy reading and understanding and of course the maturity that crept into my output with age.”

What he categorically denies is that it was not a conscious, forceful change. ‘Any style of painting cannot be derived in this way. It is a relationship, tangible on the canvas but wordless in the heart.”

Reputed to be a prolific maker of art, he attributes the reason to his strict regimen,which unlike many of his ilk, is confined to the morning hours. 

“For me, each work is a precious possession, that I treat as a child of whom I am the parent,’ says this disciplined art maker of white symphonies around ancestral themes.


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