GESTURES | রূপভঙ্গি
Drawings and linocuts by Partha Pratim Deb
December 18, 2020 – March 30, 2021
Partha Pratim Deb, who is best known for his unique and colourful assemblage of the discarded household objects, maintains a long, persistent and productive career in exploring newer possibilities in drawing as an independent medium of creative expression. A student of Kala Bhavana, he drew his early inspiration from the work of the great artists of Santiniketan like Nandalal, Benodebehari, Ramkinkar and KG Subramanyan, who strongly emphasized the importance of drawing both in modern art practices and in art pedagogy. Although he always recognizes their productive and lasting influences on his approach, his later drawings, informed by the idioms of the post-war artistic developments in the West, show a clear departure from the drawing practice based primarily on perceptual experience, marking a paradigm shift in both artist’s vision and method.
What Partha Pratim wants to practice can be called “the pure cultivation of the means” of drawing. Instead of setting out to depict something visible, he uses the shapes and lines for their own sake, giving sole emphasis to their graphic quality. His drawing begins without pre-planning, allowing the abstract composition to emerge through a process of improvisation, introspection and submission – an innovative approach makes him something of a rarity among the contemporary Indian artists. The first stage of the process is free and playful, while the second stage, where he includes the objects and figures as fun elements into the picture, is carefully calculated. Swinging like a pendulum between the two opposite poles of abstraction and representation, familiar and unfamiliar, affective and notational, denotative and metaphorical, each drawing presents, despite their uniformity of format and style, its own world of unique existence and particular atmosphere. In his drawings and also linocuts, what we are drawn to is the dynamic quality of the images, the rhythm and emotional import of the gestures. In seeing the directions, curves and forces of the shapes, lines and figures, the viewer engages kinaesthetically with the movements and intensities of the effort. The eye cannot rest due to the optical sensations and rhythm of the line-work.
There is truly something Rabelaisian about Partha Pratim’s works in the exhibition. He, who as a young man wanted to be a cartoonist or an actor in the popular theatre, was deeply interested in the visual economy of comical gestures, which variously connect him to Rabindranath, Sukumar Roy and KG Subramanyan in India and Paul Klee, Pop and Op art in the West. The comic gestures, at once absurd, indeterminate and self-mocking, have subversive potentiality, opposing to all that is official, serious, finished and polished.
Born in 1943 in Sylhet District, Bangladesh, Partha Pratim Deb studied fine arts in Kala Bhavana, Santiniketan and MS University, Baroda. A popular teacher who taught painting at Rabindra Bharati University over three decades, he is one of the rare contemporary Indian artists, known for his experimental and non-conformist approach to art, clearly exemplified in his recent drawings and colourful assemblage of discarded household objects. Working with a wide range of mediums, both conventional and unconventional, he explores the relationship between materials, objects and contemporary discourses on art.
He has showed his works in many solo-exhibitions at Aicon Gallery, New York (2006); Aakriti Art Gallery, Kolkata (2006); Birla Academy of Art & Culture, Kolkata (1997); and Academy of Fine Arts (1974, 1976, 1978). His works has also been featured in many group exhibitions including the Glimpses of Contemporary Bengal Art at Birla Academy of Art and Culture (Kolkata, 2006); Folk in Modern at Aakriti Art Gallery (Kolkata, 2006); Lines at Birla Academy of Art & Culture (Kolkata, 2005); New Wave in Bengal Art at Akar Prakar (Kolkata, 2005); Contemporary Art Exhibition at Chitrakoot Art Gallery (Kolkata, 2002); Art of Bengal at CIMA (Kolkata, 2000); among others.
A member of Painter’s Orchestra, an artists’ group in Kolkata, Partha Pratim Deb lives and works in Kolkata.