Art News & Views

Creative Impulse

A Master's degree in painting, an avid practitioner of photography from a very early age, experimenting with different mediums and creating a language of his own are the ways of recognizing artist Samit Das. He talks to Sourya Deb regarding his passions and future projects.

S.D :
What was your subject of Master's degree when you passed out from Visva Bharati?

Samit Das : My subject was pure painting and the departmental heads were Suhas Roy and Jogen Chowdhury.

S.D : At present you are working on installations, but till what time did you practice pure painting in true sense of the term?
Samit Das : It wasn't like I did pure painting for a specific period of time. I did it for two three months, then I started doing photography. From 1992-93 onwards I started working on mixed media.

S.D : Why did you shift to mixed media? Were you comfortable or interested with that or you just wanted to experiment with the medium?
Samit Das : That was a strange juncture in my life. I studied at Government Art College of Kolkata but however I didn't like the college. I didn't want to study there anymore and at that point of time one of my friends suggested to me about Visva Bharati. I had a great confusion at that time that what actually study means, some told me to change the thought process. Then I talked to two persons, one is Siva Kumar and the other one is K.G.Subramanyan. I asked them what do they mean by studying? For example I did flower study but I did not like them at all, though they were my works. Mani da told me something which I understood. And as far as photography is concerned I got my camera in 1989 when I went to Santiniketan. Siva Kumar then told me that I had a good imagery in my photographs, but he could not find that imagery in my paintings. So he suggested implementing that in my paintings. I asked him how to do it and he told me that it's my job to find out; he was not going to tell me that. So that was at this juncture, I started doing collage where I transformed my photograph into a collage using flat coloured paper, magazine cut outs and other stuffs. From then onwards collage became my basic tool and using that I created my own language.

S.D : According to you what is the meaning of installation?
Samit Das : Installation is a big term actually. Something you are installing can be called an installation until it is meaningful. It is basically a language. The way various artists do the installation cannot be called the definition of installation. I'm documenting the street peddlers for the last fifteen years, they do fantastic installations on streets, may be that is our popular street culture but that is an installation.

S.D : German installation artist Phillip Geist does light installation and he has created a language of his own with the lights. How important is light in installations?
Samit Das : Coming back to the streets of India, as I have already said, the street peddlers' installation is magnificent thing. Sometimes they use candles or gas lamps and that create an imagery which is different altogether. So light is definitely very important.


S.D : What are the main objects in your installations, as you may have a fetish for some elements or objects that unconsciously, subconsciously or consciously come into your works?
Samit Das : The grotesque quality is always there in my works because I want to explore the beauty. It has its own language.

S.D : What do you think about the scenario of using installation as a medium of art in India, particularly in Kolkata?
Samit Das : It depends on the idea of the project, like in my next project in Kolkata I would be using old furniture, maps, some of the photographs that I have taken in Kolkata which are focused on the rich cultural heritage of the city. I think medium comes later, first the concept and the content, in context of that the medium occurs. Kolkata itself is a living installation.

S.D : You told us that photography was the reason that encouraged you to try different things like collage, installation and other things. Are there any other inspirations or thought processes behind you coming into installation?
Samit Das : Obviously there were different thought processes. During our course we had to do scrolls using wash painting process, I did not want to do that and instead I chose collage. We also had to make artists book and I was never very fond of that because does not prove anything. Different projects also came in after I passed out and I participated in a project at Chandigarh, organized by Chandigarh Fine Arts Society. There I used artist's books, collage photographs to make the installation as the fund was very low.

S.D : What is the commercial aspect of doing installations? Does anyone buy installations?
Samit Das : Some times it's very difficult because very few people buy installations. But till now the projects in which I have participated have been supported by galleries, sponsorers and curators. I did a large installation at the Ramchandrapur temple with 800-900 kites, it didn't cost much but the installation was effective. One has to work, no one can sit and wait for the ideal materials to come and then start working.



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