Art News & Views

Hard Talk

Witnessing an open conversation between two artists has led me to observe that ideals in making art change with time or as we say “the times they are a changing”. Painter Chandra Bhattacharjee and Sculptor Bimal Kundu, contemporary to each other, are of the view that art is an expression of self which requires being spontaneous and an artist desires to be true to that. As being a much younger practitioner to them, I am growing in the time where change has been constant. I don't see a conflict in time but what I see is the transformed values of consideration.  I see adjustments, I see insecurity, I see attempts to create the next within the community.  As an observer of art and its history, I read this conversation in the light of understanding a generation within its periphery, justifying their way of life.

Painter Chandra Bhattacharjee to Sculptor Bimal Kundu

Chandra Bhattacharjee : When a painter conceptualizes his work, he usually starts off by making sketches of the subject of the painting with its related ambience in mind, where the whole turns out to be his composition. But a sculptor usually only works on the object he plans to sculpt. Where do think this difference comes in terms of practice?

Bimal Kundu : For a sculptor, it is necessary to identify the subject itself that he intends to render, where its surrounding context remains a secondary. For a 3-dimensional form, space is considered to be a crucial factor, defining the object's placement, but a sculptor is not always in control of the space where his sculpture will be displayed. Therefore, he engages primarily with the form rather than its related ambience; whereas, a painter needs to justify his subject with its accompanying conditions in the total area chosen for the painting.

CB : In the contemporary context, there has been a deep engagement in making art site specific. Here, an artist is extremely aware of the location/specific space where his art work will be displayed even before he does the work. This site specificity gives the artists the point of focus for his work. As a sculptor, how do you see this development and have you ever worked on such terms?

BK : I have seen such site specification with art even before we learnt to be modern, as I term mural, a form of art from ancient history through modern times till date, to be site specific. When an artist is commissioned to do a mural or a sculpture to celebrate an event or building of public importance like the one for All India Radio, he will definitely think about his sculpture or mural in terms of the background that he is given. This will justify the character of the site.

I have done commissioned works that are displayed in places like Nicco Park in Kolkata, which was then called Jhilmil, and also at the centre of Kankurgachi crossing. For me then, my subject evolves according to the ambience given, so that a relationship builds within it and also with its viewer and after a point of time the work of art becomes a part of the total temperament of the place.

CB : How do you see body moulds to be a valid form of making a sculpture?

BK : Here I would like to clarify, that taking a body mould to reproduce the structure of a body or any part of the body in any preferred material is a technical process to quote the form. There is no form-carving, modeling, chiseling as we understand for sculpting involved in this process. This is a process that was practised decades back in the western part of our world and has been now influencing the certain other half of the geography. But for me as a sculptor, I see the practice of body moulds to be a process of form reproduction, where the artist doesn't have his own individual input to the formation. Here I would like to mention Rodin's sculptural forms, were we see an amount of assertion which would determine the portrait/figure's character. But if indeed, a body mould is used for a work of art, I believe that it is important for the artist to intelligently incorporate his artistical intentions. There we find the artist's creative additions and not just a mere clone of a face. The work of art should speak for itself. But the contemporary trend has been that artists speak/write pages for its works which is again a practice I can't justify to myself.

CB : David, a masterpiece of the western renaissance movement, which had the blood, sweat and tears of its creator Michelangelo, went beyond being just a perfect work of figurative art and transcended into an all-time classic. Do you think that an artwork created with a body mould can become a similar classic?

BK : I definitely don't agree that a mere figure construction done through molding and casting can turn out to be a classic work of art. David is known as Michelangelo's David or the statue of Balzac is recognized as Rodin's Balzac because we identify the artist's impression on the created aspect.

Sculptor Bimal Kundu to Painter Chandra Bhattacharjee

BK : As an Indian artist do you think, it is important to identify your Indian-ness through your work of art?  

CB : My paintings reflect the time that I belong in. I believe that my paintings are communicable to a farmer in China or visitors to a gallery in New York or Berlin. When I paint, the colours, forms, the environment that I portray comes from the sources that I live in. I cannot conceive a subject that is out of my own context. The changes in my life have brought different elements in my work. I have never imposed any element or style in my painting to deliberately compete with the trends in our country or internationally.

BK : When speaking of time, we cannot avoid our easy access to modern technologies. Right of entry to information through the internet has opened the world for us. An artist sitting in our part of the world gets to know what is happening at the other end just with a click of the button. Do you think this has become a very handy device for artists to survey and collect successful styles and forms in art and incorporate them in their own work? Have you ever gone through such an exercise as an artist your self?

CB : My formal education in art finished in 1986 and I did my first exhibition in 1992. It has been more than two decades now that I have been practising my art. Through this long period of time, my own style of picture making as well as my thoughts and beliefs have evolved and that's what I see myself relating to. Just the sight of some other mannerism or 'successful' style cannot wash away my evolved language. But I should admit that there have been times when I have been influenced by or attracted to certain artistic endeavours and have closely studied them. It's not as if I am closed to influences or the styles, approaches, concepts and attitudes of others, some of whom I admire. But in order for my language to be real and original, the process of assimilation has to be slow.

BK : In the contemporary art scenario, we find working in interdisciplinary mediums gaining in popularity. Did some like you who's established as a painter, ever feel an urge to work in three dimensions?

CB :  There can be various reasons why an artist might shift from one medium to another. An artist might seek to get into the trend of working on new media art or they might also feel an inherent necessity of expressing themselves with the alternate media if they find that have nothing more to tell through their conventional medium. As a painter I believe that I still have more to share through the method of painting that I have always related myself to. Here, let me mention that in my current exhibition, I have displayed one of my desks and a chair along with my drawings and this has been done to give the viewers an idea of the ambience in which my works are rooted. Therefore, this works as an extension of one's view and not a work in itself.

BK : Has the upsurge in the art market scenario in any way regulated your art practice?

CB : When I entered the art world as a fresher, I was totally unaware of the existence of a market in art. The concept of collecting art was also not much known to me. During that phase I used to take up small commissioned works as a source to fund in my education for art. At a later point of my life, with the incidence of the boom, I too, like everyone else, came face to face with this phenomenon called the market and may have been touched by the euphoria. I have gone through times when anything I painted would be picked up by someone. This was a high and I must admit that I was pushed into speeding up my practice out respect for the demand. After a while, I realized that this was not what I had set out to do. Therefore I started restricting access, because the rapidness in producing art left me with just preparing visuals on my canvases, and not a complete work of art. I realized this when I re-viewed those works after a span of time and I felt that I needed to give more time to those paintings which I couldn't due to the demands of my commitments. I became conscious that I was not giving my whole to a painting as I had meant to. It did not take too long for me to distance myself from the market.

BK : How do other forms of art like poetry, music, cinema or theatre influence you?

CB : As a social being, issues related to my society and my world have determined the subject matter of my paintings. I portray my visuals as I see or rather as I would like to see my society. Here, the other forms of art as you mention have been a space for my release. They don't work as a direct influence on my work but I appreciate and enjoy them in there own independent forms.

Compiled by  
Sampurna Chakraborty




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