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Brush with ‘Folk’

Brush with ‘Folk’
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Celebrating the genius of ariste Jamini Roy, the Akar Prakar Art Advisory is showcasing his selected works from 31 October to 6 December. His paintings have an individual 'modernist' artist's uniqueness, with an unmistakably Indian identity and that  is the reason why Jamini Roy needs to be celebrated as 'modernist' Indian artist, of highest significance, even if his art was not contextually as relevant as some of his contemporaries and juniors.

Born in 1887 in a small village in Bankura district, West Bengal, Jamini Roy joined the Government School of Art, Kolkata in 1903. He began his career by painting in the Post-Impressionist genre of landscapes and portraits, very much in keeping with his training in a British academic system, but by his late 30s began experimenting with the Kalighat Pat (Kalighat painting), which was a style of art with bold sweeping brush-strokes.

By the early 1930s, Roy made a complete switch to indigenous materials to paint on woven mats, cloth and wood coated with lime. The inspiration for painting on woven mats was the textures he found in Byzantine art, which he had seen in colour photographs. It occurred to him that painting on a woven mat might make for an interesting mosaic-like surface. His paintings were first exhibited at the art school in Kolkata in 1929, and the artist also had notable solo exhibitions in London in 1946 and in New York in 1953 among other numerous solo and group shows.  Jamini Roy was honored with the Padma Bhushan in 1955. He died in 1972 in Kolkata, where he had lived all his life, at the age of 85, a celebrated and revolutionary artist.

Those who study the various pictures will be able to trace the development of the mind of an artist constantly seeking his own mode of expression. His earlier work done under purely Western influence and consisting largely of small copies of larger works must be regarded as the exercises of one learning to use the tools of his craft competently and never quite at ease with his models. From this phase we see him gradually breaking away to a style of his own.

Sir Alfred Watson, Editor Statesman (1929) pointed out, ‘The work of those who are endeavouring to revive Indian art is commonly not appreciated in its true significance. It is sometimes assumed that revival means no more than a return to the methods and traditions of the past. That would be to create a school of copyists without visions and ideals of their own.’

Roy’s greatest credit has been that he really challenged the rearguard action of remnants of the Neo-Indian school stubbornly defending the studied archaism. By his campaigns he defeated them. This he did by relying on the vigour and vitality of folk art. Folk art was his source.

Where: Akar Prakar Art Advisory Hauz Khas Village When: On till 6 December 2014

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