Exhibition::Remixing Charm : Post-Painterly Art of The Local:Kolkata:03-25 July 2015
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Elegant Fantasies

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by Nanak Ganguly

The idea of the return haunts Shuvaprasanna. “Every day, every hour there are Images that flash across my mind’s eye. All I do is to release them onto the canvas.” Once we have cleared that irrelevance out of the way, we can begin to explore the increasing complexity of the issues in politics, in our beliefs, personality and religion which fascinated this detached and deeply absorbed observer of our times. The painter is a reliable and clear sighted guide to that exploration of our soul. The impact of Shuvaprasanna the painter is immense. In a pictorial world that is vividly rich in colour and detail, his imaginative and extraordinary narrative outpourings in portraits, graphics, black and white drawings, illustrations, water colours, acrylics and oils, mixed- media, sculptures through different series over the years Man and Space (1971), Dream and Illusion (1975), Calcutta Black and White (1989), Icons (1998), The Golden Flute (2005), Night Watch (2008) and Expressions (2009) among others to name a few continue to reverberate with a certain surrealistic imagery, arresting the viewer in thrall. People can do sense of embedded architecture and hidden compartments, of the paintings inviting access to spaces which they simultaneously obstruct leaving the viewer with the feeling of standing before a sealed door or window, from which only echoes of paint, seeping around the edges suggesting the drama unfolding inside Procession (1993), A Play (1993). Metropolis (1994) - imageries seen with a linear gaze acts as a map of elegant fantasies.

His work  speak to contemporary practices continuing fascination with isolation and depersonalization of the autographic gesture that maintain a certain austerity, these paintings celebrate their artifice, and sweeping brushstrokes seem genuinely felt, warm and intimate. He has an ability to state the most enduring truths in a style that is measured and patiently gathers a luminous energy as we navigate his work inexorably forward. His approach is much more visual in its address than being polemical. His language shifts from spectacle to presence, a psychological space where there is absence in spite of presence; and that presence is the sole key to a state in which ratiocination of any kind is suspended- the inadequacy of the faculties is accepted and the viewer advances humbly towards faith. Here concrete objects become tokens of a concealed desired principle.

The conceptual transformation is decisive here, it opens the investigation of a domain in which each fact reveals as a gaze sensitive to difference, simultaneity or succession, and frequency, observed, isolated, then, compared with a set of facts and symptoms and thus become a sign. This could take its place in a whole series of events in his abstracted narratives, the imagery of the crow, so much an integral part of the metropolis he lives in, as a narrator where convergence or divergences were in principle measurable. While he chooses this to paint, the noises intertwined, the darkness is heightened with deeper and darker shades of black wondrous shifts between intellectual processes and explicitly physical activities reunite the life of the mind with its bodily ground. The melancholia is infinite here redolent of Pamuk layered with an evocativeness. These remain chanced encounters for us; the dignity that once existed within the interface is now scattered across the silence of these forms. And yet the energy, intensity, romanticism and sensuousness of the way they are painted in Icon-Padmavati or as diverse as Metropolis or Banaras Gali provide a celebratory transcendence of the subject matter.

An all pervading light permeates through a magic ochre red and burnt sienna, parts confirms that feeling of enchantment: for all its perceptiveness is somewhat nostalgic. From all the ingredients of magic realisme found in Latin American fables of Borges or Marquez his present body deal with at present. The works here merge the role of artist and a social commentator. This body of work is within a variety of formats and media, and rarely in traditional modes of artistic expression that come into view. Often these works are ephemeral in nature, and can sometimes be understood as events as the artist in him connect that are playful, metaphorical and times robust that lead to a kind of enquiry in these series of industrial spare parts, which comes from a desire for a language to shake up our everyday lives, rituals, and social constrictions and work. Play a lot to aesthetics; they are not devoid of political import. That Shuvaprasanna is able to achieve any recognizable image over such which can be seen up close where the paintings turn into chaotic brushstrokes skitter across the jagged surface ranging subliminal spaces, jumping countless tiny gaps, sometimes coagulating into hardened globs of paint, blithely ignoring or else artfully echoing the shapes or any decorative painting schemes- his insistence as the romantic side of expressionism partly accounts for his marginalization. Consciously or not Shuvaprasanna invented a grammar that makes achieving recognizable images dredging up the subconscious. The conceptual transformation is decisive in his work, it opens the investigation a domain in which each fact reveals as a gaze sensitive to difference, simultaneity or succession, and frequency, observed, isolated, then, compared with a set of facts and symptoms. This could take its place in a whole series of events in the history of painting where convergence or divergences were in principle measurable.

Repeatedly we ask what just what possessed Shuvaprasanna the artist. Exquisite feeling for words, meticulous, but, like himself, without any affectation, a springy, firm rhythm and a feeling that every line has been worked on by a craftsman sure hand in no hurry. ”Looking at Shuvaprasanna’s cityscapes, elegiac almost in mood, painted in shades of burnt siennas, ochres, browns, greys and black, there is a sense of lover lost, a deep nostalgic urge to reclaim  what once was”. Ina Puri writes with the simple, touching truth, in his own way that Shuvaprasanna is unrivalled. “In Shuva’s art, the city reveals itself  in myriad ways, through  the poet’s perspective, through a spectator’s eyes, through the painter’s , as he witnesses its moments of triumph and failure… tears, laments, ecstasies of a people coalescing into a dream some would perhaps call a nightmare.”

The exhibition also showcases paintings like Netai or Agenda-2011 for a Better Governance that deal emphatically with the relation between complexities of power and representation of reality and ground level politics of discrimination and social injustice in the sense of Foucault, where power is never an entity or something essential, a kind of fetish, fatigue and anger while we showcase the present body of work. Here the electorate’s engagement against an irresponsible Government is through a referendum but not by contestations on the streets, quite a complex situation on issues like corruption and displacement in Singur or Nandigram- an upsurge led by the present Chief Minister of West Bengal, a woman with a free and fierce spirit on displacement that ushered in a new rule. The hieroglyphic is pronounced in his oeuvre.

While he chooses this to paint, wondrous shifts between intellectual processes and explicitly physical activities reunite the life of the mind with its bodily ground. These remain chanced encounters for us; the dignity that once existed within the interface is now scattered across the silence of these forms. And yet the energy, intensity, romanticism and sensuousness of the way they are painted in his recent paintings on canvas provide a celebratory transcendence of the subject matter of his oeuvre like The Flute Player or  The Kiss that demonstrate with almost poetic vigour, just how fine and fragile these threads are. The inscriptions erupt across so many paintings, and been, by turns, puzzled, intrigued, enlightened and frustrated by them. His visual text is almost like a pictorial territory- a jerrybuilt borderland intensified into a meditative pitch. His readiness to gamble that something might succeed as a painting despite its ambitions the solemnity of its poetic cadences and the austerity of its black, white and yellow tonal range that all the elements despite their values and divisions, the task is not, therefore, one of correlation, but purely simply, of retribution of what was given by perceptible extent given by him in a conceptual space defined in advance. The attempt is to wrest a painting of some kind of confrontation, at epic scale, of a dramatic quality and a few seemingly random abstract gestures barely that disturb the pictorial plane, tropes of awareness seem to be to gently escort it into the realm of painting. The painter connects these to contradictory realm, the quotidian and magical. It makes nothing known; at most, it makes possible recognition.

Although Shuvaprasanna is fascinated by how little it takes to make a painting fascination for literature is well known and his life long association with Gunter Grass, it is a surprising stance for an artist who is known for making intensely overworked canvases- he has not forsaken the physicality of pigment as in Middletone series. In some recent works, thin veiled brushstrokes are laid down over a painting that it looks like nothing that the painter has done before and is full of visual wit mysteriously occupying a single plane and share the surface with graceful equality- their tonalities pushing and pulling and overlapping in space. These fabled journeys are difficult to contain within a genre. There must have been sights and sounds arising from childhood, once receded to the quiet chambers of the mind, layered with the passages of time and covering them. No wonder they aglow with a magical inner luminosity of a soul-trembling. A meditative silence that rises from lush amalgamations of restless lines in that seduce vapourized fields or in A Signal and framing edges to define a somewhat unreal space that is temporarily free from inane strictures that shed new light. In these works, where images of his protagonists have the opportunity to displace objects, and fantasy has the chance to hold reality at bay. Within the relatively quiet frame there is intense activity, a narration, nuances; obviously, the energy made visible is controlled, and one has to watch closely the expressive visual modulation of color into which are woven interlocking planes which are so thin that they may go unnoticed.

Sombre paintings like The Kid float weightlessly unconstrained by necessity yet no less connected to material realm of natural demonstrating an element of disdain and sardonic charm.  It makes nothing known; at most, it makes possible recognition. The search is spontaneous and an bodying forth of feeling delivering the pleasures of traditional gestures in a personal or expressive idiom and at the same time transform figurative markers that ends a sentence into visual experiences which is particularly his genius.

Extremely skilled he is never caught up with the old standards of skill which proves Shuvaprasanna’s resourcefulness as a painter some unequal to the artist ambition. This change has given rise to landscapes charting the mind’s subterranean terrain with a blood-rushed ecstasy. Done with oils/acrylics on canvas show a move back towards the landscape but with newer and stronger symbols filling the space; they seem to suggest an earlier preoccupation with his fundamentally elegiac temperament (Metropolis). Thus each visual plane assumes a significant value.  Sometimes he plots the position of objects around the nudes, marking the points where their forms reflect, intersect or overlap; the frame within the frame diverges instead of converging into a unitary whole. Seductive yet austere paintings float weightlessly unconstrained by necessity yet no less connected to material realm of natural. These remain chanced encounters for us; the dignity that once existed within the interface is now scattered across the silence of these forms.

A fusion of the visual and literary, and on another level a visual engagement with life around him, the mystical , surreal and the living in Time (1978) or She and the Church (1976).  The big to medium sized oil on canvases stretch before us comfortably encompassing our field of vision with its complexity held in check by its reticence of colour, the solemnity of its measured cadences and the austerity of its black, white and gray tonal range that all the elements despite their values and divisions, mysteriously occupy a single plane and share the surface with graceful equality- their tonalities pushing and pulling and overlapping in space. About his Owls he once said- “all these alien whispered creatures, or perhaps, familiar human faces”. The canvases are replete with images that substitute the external one translating feeling and emotions into a visual language. It is evident in the fact he uses light and keeps the source as a revelation of some kind of the spiritual. At the last moment, a few touches of bright colour are added: earlier they would have threatened the tone of an essential eclectic exercise.  The artist is intoxicated by the degree to which his own powers can enter the serene painted space, can alter, withhold, made precious the clear view beyond, which they are in danger of shutting off forever: their calm shimmer overwhelms a field; slowly as they accumulate in scene after scene, they begin to speak of relinquishment, of escape lacking any exuberant painterly iridescence and control the contradictory interplay of colour and sweeping lines with pleasures and bliss that as a subject puts at present out of place. While delving into his painted space, a social and historical critique, critical imperatives that make notes on contemporary art practice and our cultural production comes to mind. His lucid technique makes the completion of his large works a demanding task- a longing for one’s own roots speak of a stillness of mind, enviable in our frenetic world. In these works, he reveals the individual deviating not from his reality of being but delving deep into cracks and crevices of mind.

The search is spontaneous and an bodying forth of feeling delivering the pleasures of traditional gestures in a personal or expressive idiom and at the same time transform figurative markers that ends a sentence into visual experiences which is particularly his genius. Harmony and style play a vital role in these works and readings that chart them. In keeping with the spirit of the ‘right to narrate’ as a measure to achieving our myths of belonging, by identifying ourselves with the starting points of cultural practice and by placing himself at the intersection (and interstices) of these narration, Shuvaprasanna struggles between poetry and technique, however poetry triumphs.


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