Friday, April 19, 2013

Paintings as lively narratives

Sumitro Basak describes his work as a ‘thin world created out of various shapes of varied colours and textures’. His current body of work on view at Kolkata-based CIMA gallery includes book making – also pop-up books - emerges seemingly out of a need to document the events of a specific time period.

In this way, his visual and personal chronicling of a time span is akin to literature, more specifically, to storytelling. The observant artist’s narrative paintings have to be not just seen, as we would see an image of still life or a cubist painting – but also heard. He acknowledges the influence of cinema and literature in his work

“Story telling maybe is the crux of my art practice, but I like to draw and relish the visual form,” says the artist, also an avid traveler who frequents the route between Kolkata, Burdwan and Bolpur often and photographs the changes around - the houses with LUX billboards, the increasing urbanization of the Mofussil and the multiplying, changing and glaring visual culture.

Sumitro Basak’s appropriation from popular visual culture; not only Indian but also Japanese Manga comics and Tokyo’s 60s cultural underground, symbolizes the departure from the heroic and classical vision of the artist, to one which focuses on his ludic and ironic questioning role. Perhaps in that respect, he shares an affinity with Andy Warhol. Both artists like to blur the distinctions between art and life; between the fine and plebeian. Even if the viewer sees the work as playacting, hyperbolic and comic, it is also deadly serious with almost a powerful sense of the penultimate.

In a way, he creates an ambiguous world – they are either true ‘false’ realities or false ‘true’ realities. His forms are constructed, collaged out of materials which are in their actual use, meant for celebratory purpose. However, the world the artist creates out of them are not about celebration – it is filled with shadows; the fragments of paper suggesting a relationship to a fragment of a memory.

Sumitro Basak’s ‘people’ are amorphous forms, they change, and shift and activate spaces randomly. There is a palpable tension between what is seen and unseen, a sense of a lurking presence. In many ways these unfilled areas complete or add to the spatial complexity; he creates this with minimal forms by making the empty spaces a part of the ‘picture’.

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