Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Contribution of vetran artist-collector Jatin Das

As a little boy in the eastern state of Orissa - famous for its wonderful cloth appliqué wall hangings and exquisite temple carvings - he returned home with brightly lacquered handcrafted toys from bustling village fairs even as his doting grandmother would often indulge him. This is how Jatin Das's journey as a collector began. Not many of his countrymen, he states, share his high regard for craft traditions.

The veteran artist rues how they are destroying their heirlooms and their treasures. They’re opting for the plastic or the synthetic culture, he observes. While his artistic ambitions led him to J.J. School in Mumbai and subsequently to set up a studio in the capital city of India, he still regularly visits his home state to purchase tempting terracotta objects, ceramics, toys and other handicrafts. Of all the amazing artifacts he has amassed, the collectible closest to his heart is the vast variety of pankha (a hand-held fan) sourced from across the world.

The master artist moans the fact that theatre and painting has lost their prominence, if not relevance, over time. Instead of blaming the circumstances or simply giving up, he is striving to bring about a change through the JD Centre of Art in Orissa. This institution formed to encourage both traditional and modern artists in India promotes tribal, folk, classical and contemporary art forms, bringing together painters and sculptors, dancers and craftspeople, scholars and philosophers.

It’s an effort on his part to present the most representative and authentic representations of the various art practices in different corners of the country. Despite official apathy and hurdles he faces, such as lack of funds and archival support, he still remains committed to arouse awareness and interest in the rich craft and art traditions.

In an acknowledgement of his valuable contribution to the field of art and also his efforts to preserve our rich visual traditions, Jatin Das has been selected for the prestigious Padma Bhushan award by the Government of India. It’s a timely gesture to appreciate his achievements during an illustrious career spanning over five decades.

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