Monday, 10 March 2014

When Nature is resurgently splendid amid decay :Pirti Tamot

( Pirti Tamot working in studio )
As one gazes at the prints on display at an exhibition of Priti Tamot’s work at the Kala Parishad one is struck, first of all, by the literal and visual highpoints. As a child the artist was fascinated by a passage from kalidasa’s ‘Meghdootam’ where Megha, the cloud was told by the Yaksha that a hill from on high would resemble a woman’s breast (shades of the tortured priest in Maugham’s ‘Rain’?). This lending of a whole new perspective by a change in the observer’s position stayed with her and the ‘birds-eye view’ is the predominant perspective in her creations.

PT: The future isn’t very bright for the simple reasons that people here do not understand graphics. Most of my work is purchased by foreigners. The only thing that people in India are interested in is canvas as there is a misconception that prints (which are published on paper) do not last. I would like to say here mat a print if conversed by glass and taken reasonable care of can easily last 70-80 years. What further confounds the public is the printing of Xeroxes of printings of who wonder why they should pay, say RS 10,000, for a print when they can get a copy for a pittance. They should understand that a print is the original, not a copy.

Upon closer inspection one notices the recurrent themes of erosion and dilapidation. Of palaces and forts fallen prey to the ravages of time. These harbingers of a glorious era reclaimed by nature. The melting together of stone and creeper in such a manner they are not separate entities anymore but part of the same continuum. It is not so much nature run amok as returning to stake its claim as the rightful owner after a brief interlude by pretenders to the throne. And one can’t help but think of the magnificent monuments as interlopers. An oberration, no less so for having been cast in stone. The annexation, however, is from any element of coercion.the undulating vines slowly seducing the arches while moss plays footsie with the courtyard; a testimony to the wiles adopted by nature.
(Rare Prints by Priti Tamot)

When one is finally face-to-face with the artiste one scrutinies the forty-something lady seated across the table to discern any traces of inner turmoil or a vestigial loneliness that find expression in her work, of which decay and depredation is the leitmotif. One may as well look for meaning in an Aditya Chopra flick. Comfortably ensconced in her beautifully constructed house the lady exudes serenity and a quiet confidence. Dressed in a printed sari with her hair pulled back in a no-frills bun she seems the archetypal Hausdorff whose worst nightmares would comprise a dust- speckled mantelpiece or God forbid, roaches in the kitchen.

Meet Priti Tamot; graphic artiste extraordinaire. Honoured with a national fellowship by the government of India and winner of the 71 st annual All India Art Exhibition (AIFACS 2000) as well as the all India Art Exhibition, 2001 Tamot was the recipient of the MP state Award in 1999. Success rests lightly on the shoulders of this diminutive woman who has exhibited her works at Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi, Jehangir and Zen galleries in Mumbai, Bharat Bhavan, Alliannce Francaise Bhopal as well as in Europe. When asked about future plans, with touching modesty she expresses a desire to’improve’.

Born academically in lnelined parents (her father was a sanakrit professor and Amateur painter) she did her BSc and followed it up with an MA in Fine Arts from Vikram University, Ujjain. Marriage and looking after her children kept her away from her avocation initially but it wasn’t long before she succumbed to the muse. She joined the Bharat Bhavan workshop in 1988 and hasn’t looked back since.

During a lengthy chat with the Central Chronicle, interspersed with frequent trips to the kitchen for cups of steaming tea, Priti Tamot revealed many shades of her personality, the vibrancy of which is, perhaps, matched only by the hues of her palette. Excerpts from the interview:

Sk: When did you start painting?

PT: As far back as I can remember I have wanted to paint. When in Ujjain I took classes in art from Vishnu Sridhar Wakhandkar, who discovered the cave drawings at Bhimbetka. He was in the midst of his search in those days and the graphic descriptions he provided about his visits to Bhopal and surrounding areas resulted in an interest in architecture that lasts to this day

SK: were you inspired by any particular genre or artist?

PT: My role model among contemporary painters was Almelkarji who was a master at creating a plethora of details with the repetitive stroke. Detailed work has always attracted me and so jain miniatures as well as the figures of Ajanta hold a special place in my heart.

SK: Any western painters?

PT: No, not really.

SK: What made you shift from painting to graphics?

PT: First of all, it was a new medium and that is always alluring. Lots of detail in what I create, like I said, has what I have always hankered for and graphics allowed me to pursue this much more than canvas did. Things I could only dream of while working on canvas were a tangible reality while doing graphics.

(Rare Prints by Priti Tamot)
SK: The terms ‘graphic artiste’ and ‘graphics’ seem to be much misunderstood. Could you explain what exactly these means?

PT: I’m glad you brought this up. A few weeks ago I had given a detailed explanation to a gentleman from the vernacular press but he went ahead and wrote his own version. Graphic means ‘painted picture’. How it works is; drawings are made on a zinc plate with the aid of a nail polish like substance and the plate is then dipped in acid. That part of the picture, Which has been worked upon, is not dissolved when exposed to acid and further drawings are made after which the plate is again dipped in acid. This is done repeatedly with the result that those parts of the plate which have had prolonged exposure to acid acquire greater depth while those dipped only a few times remain lighter. When the plate is coloured using printing colour the hue permeates the most to the areas with the greatest depth while the lighter areas remain relatively unaffected. After this the plate is printed onto paper in the same way that is done in any printing press.

SK: Are the monuments in your pictures taken from real life?

PT: Let me say that the genesis of any print that I do lies in real life but by the  time I remix it in my head it  in my head it bears absolutely no resemblance to the original. You wont’s find the palaces depicted in my prints in Bhopal, or elsewhere. And this is how it should be.

SK:Any plans to marry painting with graphics in your quest for perfection?

PT: I am experimenting with something for a show to be held in japan soon. The thing is that if a graphic artiste works on canvas his artistic genealogy is immediately evident.

SK: what do you make of the recent trend to launch young artistes with gala openings followed by glitzy luncheons? Do you think their sales are based more on hype than on intrinsic value of their work?

PT: The publicity, bookings and all the promotional stuff is dealt with by the galleries who make 33 per cent on every sale and so I think it is unfair to blame the artiste for the ritzy openings. Then again times have changed and today everyone wants to have oodles of money so……(trails off).

SK: Painters like Hussain, Raza etc. command as tronomical prices…….

PT: (interrupts quickly) So what is wrong with that? People like Raza, Hussain, are ‘old masters’ to whom we are indebted for having gotten rid of the stigma that was attached to being an artiste. Before Hussain the general perception of a painter was that he was perennially penurious. In any art there are people who get critical acclaim and those who win popular acclaim with a tiny minority attaining both. Hussain is among this rare breed.

SK: You seem quite enamored of him

PT: on the contrary. Personally, I identify more with Raza’s paintings but Hussain’s contribution towards bettering the financial condition of artistes cannot be overstated. The way he has marketed himself is something from which all of us can learn.

SK: Have you?

PT: (A little taken aback) My material needs are very limited. Plus my husband is quite well-to-do and so I do not have to depend on the income from my work. So you could say that there is no pressure to do so.

SK: How do you see the future of graphics in India?

SK: Finally, as an artiste what do you look forward to?

PT: A time when I am better able to transfer my thoughts onto paper. What else? Perhaps getting international recognition to the same extent that I have received in India (smiles)

(Report courtesy Chronicle :Saturday Bhopal)

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Thanks for comment JK