Saturday 8 October 2022

Asish Kumar Das will be showcased in a solo art show at Jehangir Art Gallery

Recent work of a renowned sculptor from Baroda, Asish Kumar Das will be showcased in a solo art show at Jehangir Art Gallery, Gallery AC-2, M.G. Road, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai 400 001 from 11th to 17th Oct. 2022 between 11 am. To 7 pm.  

Artist: Asish Kumar Das

Baroda based 56 years old, Asish Kumar Das, is one of the outstanding sculptors working in India today especially in the domain of using human figures and animal imageries. Presently we are witnessing in our country the phenomena of projects like installations and such ventures which require collaboration of creative artists as well as technical persons or undertakings where deliberately assembled artists and traditional craftsmen just put together some hybrid patchwork. Amidst such an environment, Asish Das stands out as a multi faceted sculptor who has expertise in all aspects of the bronze casting processes which continues to be his medium for his fascinating, stimulating, captivating, mind arresting sculptures. His works are as much complicated in terms of bronze casting and finishing processes as much as they are intriguing in terms of conceptualization. For an artist with such in depth and subtle creative thinking, it is commendable to observe how he manages to sustain his creative impulses through the long complex technical procedures involved for its concretization or objectification.

Asish Das has intense empathy for the natural animal and human forms so that he does not take recourse to distortions, though he modifies the proportions as required to give them the anticipated elongation, slimness or slight attenuation at the body joints. Consequently his animal and human bodies are graceful with discrete modelling, we as viewers could call them ‘lyrical’ or   ‘sukumar’ , corresponding to the ‘Kaishiki Vritti ‘ of Sanskrit language. However they are also ‘serious’ or ‘solemn’, i.e. ‘Gambhir’ or possessing ‘ Audharya ‘ , dignity. Although apparently Asish Das portrays aspiring human beings engaged with daily existential activities in their lives in this world, yet he does not take recourse to oppressed or suffering imageries. The human figures, their faces, limbs, draperies are very patiently modelled in clay and subsequently “hollow casted” in bronze metal using, “the lost wax” process. This technique is often quite complicated when the sculptural form has additional details, such as projecting elements, which require separate channels for pouring hot molten metal during the casting stage.  Even when he portrays elegantly modelled animal forms, they too reflect the human aspirations theme, by transforming their faces into those of humans.

Actually the human aspirations as Asish’s thematic concern, are also implied in several sculptures in which the human figure is sometimes associated with a bird, thus a bird like form with long beak is attached around the waist of a man (see ‘The Royal Flight’).  Or the man is attempting to fly like a bird, thus he rises on his toes, giving an agile stance to the rising figure. A pair of small metal wings is attached to the shoulders (see ‘The Feminine Upthrust’ ). Alternatively a large pair of wings, shaped in wood planks is hinged with the bronze casted upper back, giving an impression of powerful wings (see ‘The Blissful Draught’ ) . Here we may also draw attention to Asish’s amazing sensitivity  of ‘detailing’ such as an exquisite small bird motif with spread out wings, which are delineated on the human torso and the limbs and given buffed polish, so that they shine like gold,  amidst the contrasting greenish colour of the patina. In the “ Vanquishing Thought – II”, the figure stands on the toe of left leg with raised right leg,  as if the figure is  already air-borne. The spread out arms have the gesture of releasing an arrow from the bow. A thin metal sheet covers part of the groin in the front and spreads behind the back as a foil. This metal sheet is perforated with cut outs of the same bird form in fine contours, creating a pleasant contrast with the glittering bird forms on the body. No doubt to render these motifs with finesse requires special skills, which the sculptor has inherited from the fact that he belongs to a family of jewellers. At the same time, this design motif of the soaring bird has a creative purpose which is metaphorical.

Asish’s ingenious command of the balance in his sculptural forms is marvellously arrived at in the manner the human body is placed horizontally in mid space supported by a spiral form in the circular centre of which is placed the three  dimensional earthly globe ( see “ Frolicking with Nature”).  Another unique example is that of a human figure in dynamic upside down position like that of an acrobat supporting the base or the earthly surface with thumbs of each hand. In this case also spiral form serves as the base ( see “ Bonded with Nature”, bronze and aluminium).

The human figure metaphorically transformed by adding some kind of drapery ( as part of a particular type of costume) along with some details attached to it, thus the associated accessories implying a certain expression or a type of specific character, has been explained by Asish himself, as an unconscious reflection of having seen in his childhood in a Bengal village, the folk actors impersonating a typical character wearing appropriate costume and facial make up, such as long hair and beard. The folk actors are called “ Bahurupi”, thus some of the sculptures comprising of nearly full size human form, are like a “ Bahurupi” impersonating a “ character”. ( see “ I Pave  My Destiny  - III”).

The combination of naturalism and simplicity with a certain eternal calmness of Asish’s sculptural works, also remind of similar qualities in the ancient Egyptian monumental sculptural forms. The easy flow of line along the contours of simplified abstracted volumes of the Sarnath Buddha images of the Gupta period ( 5th and 6th centuries) is a quality of India’s great classical sculptural style, that has apparently been unconsciously absorbed by Asish Das in his sculptural forms. His handling of delicate surface modelling of the human body along with the equipoise of the human form, links his sculptural forms with the early twentieth century Bengali sculptor, Fanendranath Bose, who had been commissioned more than half a dozen sculptures of Indian male and female workers by  the late Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad. Asish Das’s work, through the last three decades, has grown and matured consistently in a meaningful direction with surprising variations and creative innovations.

- by Ratan Parimoo


From: 11th to 17th October 2022

“The RHAPSODY 2022”

An Exhibition of Sculptures by Renowned sculptor Asish Kumar Das

VENUE:Jehangir Art Gallery

161-B,  M.G.  Road,

Kala Ghoda, Mumbai 400 001, Timing: 11am to 7pm

Monday 3 October 2022

Still-life is considered as a work of art depicting mostly inanimate subject matter typically commonplace objects which are either natural or man-made.

Still-life as a subject matter has always interested artists not only to understand the physicality of an object but also how that object becomes an extension of our body and memory. But how does an artist standing at present looks at an object and stillness both physically and conceptually?


Santosh's large 7'x9' acrylic on Canvas painting named 'Still life' is a confluence of memories, experiences, and realities. But the question here is what kind of stillness is the artist referring to? Is it just the visual stillness or this stillness is to identify the sudden pause we all are going through. The multiple encounters that the artist is trying to narrate through all these stilled objects and gestures do this lead us towards the stillness before a storm or all these objects with encoded meanings are the result of a huge storm. This large autobiographical painting of Santosh travels between the duality of past/ memories and present/experiences.


Artist: Santosh Kalbande / Title : Still Life  Size : 7x9 feet / Medium: Acrylic on Canvas

The artist as protagonist introduces himself in the painting making a gesture of peeping through the spyhole, amplifying the idea of stillness as if the artist is caught in between the action. But what does this gesture of looking suggests? The exertion of looking from a personal/secured space to a public unknown domain adds a sense of tension. This anonymity of who or what is on the other side triggers the theoretical mystery in the painting. This action of peeping from a private to a universal area acts as a metaphor which he repeats multiple times. He tries to bridge and connect his personal and childhood memories of conflicts with the current socio-political situations around him. There is a constant negotiation with inside-outside, memories-experiences, conflict-silence, violence-rights running throughout this painting hidden between each layer. The artist very thoughtfully creates the composition in such a way that the viewer automatically becomes a part of his studio space. The inclusion of audiences makes them the witnesses of the fabricated situation. 


The monumental structure of accumulated objects on the right side of the painting draws one's attention in various layers. Our eyes strike at the colorful patches representing godhadi a hand-stitched blanket native to Maharashtra, made by Santosh’s mother during the lockdown. According to Santosh “.… to me, this godhadi shows the diversity of our country and tries to stay together no matter how different we are from each other, but how difficult it is to stay together I realized from the present situation.” Creating godhadi with old used clothes is a very common household practice in our country. But Santosh here refers this act of stitching old memories together to create a new identity and object to build fresh memories as a metaphor. While stitching these layers his mother used to share her experiences of the changing socio-political situations and composed poems that became his inspiration. One can identify the dairy of poems as a part of the still life on top of the chair. It acts like a stage/platform/podium for the homemade kerosene lamp. Using these typical household objects Santosh almost personifies them to narrate the struggle one goes through during a conflict. He also mentions- “The Glass bottles on the chair are from my studio, but after arranging it differently, they started looking scary.” What happens when a simple household object becomes a reason for conflict? What draws attention next is the blood-stained stones inside a transparent glass bottle and the blood splatter on the shirt hanging on the clean and white wall. 

That blood-soaked shirt belongs to his father who unknowingly became a part of the violent mob in the ’80s while Santosh was growing up. The shirt became a memento to represent that memory. He juxtaposes all these tiny motifs from the past with the present events of violence he noticed around him. This occurrence left a deep impact in Santosh’s psyche, as a result, the relationship with these daily life objects has changed into a terrifying memory. The matchbox pack placed below the bottle bomb conveys two stories, one to light the kerosene lamp or two to fire the bottle bomb, which he leaves us to chose. Placing a chair on godhadi he tries to underline the politics of the object- chair and the importance of power structure. There is another jar placed on the table carrying clean stones. Santosh again gives space for his viewers to decide whether the clean stones are washed after being used as a weapon or are waiting to be the next weapon. 


The reference of the table on which the whole structure rest is taken from the government office where his parents used to work. He adds “We often go through different experiences on and under the table in a government office”. The experience which he is talking about is hidden under the object. The face of the lion is towards the shadow. According to Santosh, this lion is a representation of the fourth pillar of democracy. He questions the efficiency and importance of the fourth lion by painting it in the form of a soft toy. The almost negligible wire with a socket painted at the background, is a source which brings in both positive and negative information and it's also the only source of connecting the artist with the world during this pandemic. With so much going inside the room the walls one may observe are clean and white. Is this intentional? What does a white cube/space denote? Could it be any space? Could it be your space/story? Have those whitewashed walls buried the evidence of violence? Santosh once again leaves us with this conundrum.  


Traveling through Santosh’s large painting, one has to halt at various stoppages to explore the scrupulously navigated metaphors. And as discussed at the very onset of the note the conception of the term still-life is not just limited to being the title rather it is the point of departure.


Arpita Akhanda