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'Art is nothing but a shade of the mind'

November 09, 2009 16:37 IST

At least that's what Paramita Chakraborty believes. In a tête-à-tête with Indrani Roy Mitra, the young artist discusses her philosophical outlook towards life, her career and artistic influences. Photograph: Dipak Chakraborty

She is an artist who can paint dreams. Paramita Chakraborty does not believe in the Freudian theory that dreams can only be black and white. In fact, she finds she conceptualises most of her works in sleep.

"My dreams are essentially a riot of colours that get reflected on my canvas when I am awake," she says. More than 30 of her works are on display at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Kolkata.

What strikes one the most about her paintings is their vividness, a curious mix of fantasy and reality, a marriage of the nature and urban life.

Paramita loves to work on huge canvases. "There is so much to do, so little is done," she reasons. "Even after I finish a piece of work, I realise so many things are left unsaid."

As we settle down to talk about Paramita's passion for colours and the paintbrush at the sprawling Abanindranath Tagore Gallery and Ramkinkar Baij Sculpture Court of ICCR, she talks about her stint in Santiniketan, her brush with greenery, emotional upheaval, Indian art and its Western counterpart among other things. Read on...

Solitude expressed in colours

"It used to be a long wait for the Saturdays. Every Saturday afternoon -- when many would prefer a siesta in hot and humid Kolkata -- I used to walk down to the art school at the corner of a road with my colourful umbrella and a giant-size drawing board. I was only six at that time," she recalls.

"Gradually, I would take to the world of painting every now and then; everyday were turning into Saturdays. The pencils and the brushes, the textured papers and the colours became my best friends."

"The Russian fairy tales I heard from Grandma would all take life on paper. This was the beginning of an effort to put my dream world on paper, although I did not know my teachers would later call it 'fantasy'."

"I owe my creativity to solitude," says the young painter.

The child in her finds expression through works like A Sombre Afternoon, The Stormy Night, The Goddess and Her Family.

Santiniketan: A blissful experience

The idyllic place left a strong impact on Paramita's young mind. Her eyes light up as she recounts her experience, "I left for Santiniketan at the age of 17. It was a wonder world for me.

"The excitement would be evident in my paintings: the big bottles of colour looked like puddles, taking the shapes and sizes of the ponds of Santiniketan. I would then immerse myself in those colour puddles."

It was also a new exposure to the world of artists. "I developed strong liking for the works of Rabindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Gaganendranath Tagore, Benodebehari Mukhopadhyay, Auguste Rodin, Henry Rousseau, Marc Chagall, Rene Magritte, Frida Kahlo and Bhupen Khakkar."

"My early paintings of fairly tales were now changing. I saw myself in various moods of Santiniketan: the sombre afternoon, monsoon night filled with the croak of frogs, or the Kopai River on a winter morning", she adds.

Paramita's sculpture The Croak probably evolved out of her new experiences as an adolescent. It is her way of explaining the nature's ever-existent ways of procreation.

In London and Paris

Quite expectedly, accolades came Paramita's way early. As a winner of Camlin Eurotour Award, Paramita got the chance to visit major art galleries and museums in London and Paris in 2005.

"Though the trip was a short one, it opened the world of colours to me. As I was busy hopping from one gallery to another, I seeped in the Western tenets of art. I realised how different it is from its Indian counterpart."

What impressed Paramita a lot is the Western approach to art conservation. "They are so respectful of the works that the artists create. Each gallery or a museum is so well-equipped. Preservation of art is done with such intense care and unfailing professionalism. India still has a long way to go in that respect."

Speaking about forging a career as a young artist, Paramita continues, "Sometimes I feel the constraints of Van Gogh's era -- the uncertainties that a young artist has to go through even today -- have not changed. Money and fame could suddenly show up, but there are also possibilities of not earning anything in one's lifetime. Maybe other cities are changing, but Kolkata still hesitates in accepting a young talent. The adversary nature of the city has possibly not changed much from the time when Sunil Gangopadhyay wrote Pratidwandi. But my advice to all aspiring artists would be to keep on working, under all circumstances."

Rousseau, the role model

Paramita confesses to be influenced by Henry Rousseau and his unique way of blending the wild with the urban, mixing nature with life. One can see a generous use of wild life in many of her works -- A Futile Race, My Parents and Their Daughter's Marriage!, Swayed By His Bicycle Which Got Sold and Dharmatala T-shirt.

"My urban upbringing prevented me from coming in contact with nature. Hence, I though of inventing it through my works," she says.

How Kolkata painted her canvas black

"Though I grew up in this city, ever since my return from Santiniketan, I was taken aback by the changed face of Kolkata. It hit me hard with its rather incongruous alterations. The city suddenly looked so strange", she says.

As a direct corollary to this state of mind, Paramita's canvas lost its colour, it became dark.

"My detachment with the city introduced my paintings to pitch black, and the colourful dream of fantasy lost itself into darkness. I found myself falling into the intense darkness of abyss", she says.

A few colourful imagery remained against the colourless backdrop as a few dreams struggling to survive in a hostile urban life.

Her recent works When I Cloth Myself in Pulu's Body, The Messenger of Heaven and Her Unwanted Moustache and After Dinner Walk a Mile! are cases in point.

Life -- a canvas that changes colour every minute

To Paramita, no canvas can be as huge as life itself. She has vowed to explore its avenues, dark alleys and brightly-lit roads with equal exuberance.

"I enjoy every minute of my existence and express my gratitude through art," she contemplates.

"Be it happiness or pain, suffering or bliss, I am here to take on life as it unfolds. After all, art is nothing but a shade of the mind. It can never be black and white. The human mind is a strange canvas of varied hues."

Indrani Roy Mitra