Saturday 22 February 2014

Re telling a story teller:

The early works of the artist reveal a deep love for expressing an autobiographical narrative.  Often using portraits; she created metaphors of herself and her realization of womanhood. Even at that point one can locate an attraction towards popular culture. Thus it was not surprising that her work has focused on fashion, cinema and popular icons. However, over a period one could notice many changes in terms of medium, style and technique. Her natural flair is towards a modernist gestural approach to figuration, but possibly the artist felt that that style came too easily for her. In an effort to challenge herself  ,Dasgupta began ajourney into a more controlled technique, and began to introduce various compositional elements in her works. As the artist was going through a re-visitation of her personal understanding of style and technique, she also became more interested in telling stories about the world and her social empathies and engagements…

Yet the search continued, she discovered that to work with popular imagery she needed to re-present them with greater conceptual layering.  The gestural modernist within her can only be deconstructed through a practice connected with tradition and discipline. Her (re) discovery of Raghurajpur folk painting tradition finally leadsto this search finding a resting place from where she can explore future directions. How do craft, storytelling and meditative practice become carriers of contemporary concepts?  This body of work ‘The Story Tellers’ marks an  important turning point in her journey, specially reflecting a sustained engagement with technique, inspiration and concept.

Odishahas been a part of the artist’s childhood, and that nostalgia has played an important role in Dasgupta being able to culturally respond to it’s artistic tradition. The Raghurajpur folk painting tradition also offered her adifferent access to the ‘popular’, a ‘popular’ that was deeplyentrenched in a disciplined and controlled approach to art. This art making is robust, colorful and yet deeply in dialogue with the culture of contemporaneity. The philosophy of craftsmanship attracted her deeply along with its notions of detailing, precision and the ‘handmade’. Moreover, Raghurajpur offered her an escape from the noise of mainstream popular culture as well as an alternative understanding of the narrative possibilities of art making. Since her (re) visit to Raghurajpur about three years ago, newer pictorial style and artistic practice slowly began to find space in her works. Initially it was just motifs coming into the borders of her paintings depicting Bollywood and popular personalities...and slowly it entered deep, deep into the artwork itself. 

The encounter with Raghurajpur did not lead her throw away her personal love for the urban popular traditions, instead what resulted is a complex layering of both. Taking photographs of the Raghurajpur paintings,the artist painstakinglymakesnumerous canvas rolls and usesthem to make portraits of painters, performers and story tellersto make her world. Paint is given at a final layer of detailing that helps the artist to develop a language that challenges the boundaries of painting. This merging of boundaries makes her a child of postmodern eclecticism and also gives her meditative therapy of craftmanship that her soul has been looking for.

Apart from the artist’s natural flair for figuration and an ability to strike a chord with portraiture, what makes her current body of works significant is the possibilities of enquiries that they open and the complex layering of folk and urban they embody. This layering of folk and urban also mirrors the zone between art and craft that mark the physicality of her works. The inspiration behind these rolls has been earrings she discovered where in Coke and Fanta cans were cut and rolled. This dismembering and creation of a new identity opened up the possibilities for Dasgupta to assimilate the Raghurajpur paintings into her works and yet mask them. Over the last two years apart from the painters and performers of Raghurajpur, other prominent personalities have come in her artworks...almost as a continuation of her earlier subject matter. However even though sometimes these popular mainstream icons enter her work, their representation has completely changed. There is a fragmentation and realignment that happens, this breaks their iconicity and positions them within the vulnerability of popular storytelling.

As she moves deeper into understanding and practicing this direction in her practice, she is also beginning to realize that within this idiom there is a great possibility of conceptual fine-tuning and experimentation. These works have captured the imagination of viewers, yet the artist is looking for more, eager to walk a tightrope between making her practice more deeply personal, and universal. The journey is to entrench her works deep into the dialog of contemporary, yet go deeper into her love for craft and the handmade. The Storytellers is standing on the edge, rooted and yet ready to take off.

Rahul Bhattacharya
Curator and Writer

(From the solo exhibition : Story teller- stories told and retold… )

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Thanks for comment JK