The Durga idol, asuras (demons), tiger, birds and human figures all come together in colourful canvases created by Kolkata-based Assamese artist Nandan Purkayastha who uses the rotring ballpoint pen for these intricately detailed patterns.
You can spot all his characters in flowing garments almost floating in air and sharing space with the flora and fauna, all intertwined with each other to form a surreal dreamscape of magical realism. Inspired by Indian folklore and western cowboy comics, 30-year-old Purkayastha, an alumni of National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Delhi, is showing a solo show titled ‘Festive Fantasy’ at Gallerie Ganesha, Greater Kailash II, New Delhi from October 21 to November 14, 11 AM to 7 PM.
Shobha Bhatia, Director, Gallerie Ganesha, says, “This is a collection of works filled with fantasy forms that border on and feed from the edge of reality.” In some of his works, done both in monochrome drawings and colourful paintings, the prime figure is that of Goddess Durga, though constructed in a surreal manner.
“I was born in Tinsukhia in Assam surrounded by folklore, and was extremely fond of reading western cowboy comics. In my work, you will find stories that have emerged from the East but the drawing style is inspired by western comics. Durga Puja and Bihu were part of my childhood in Assam so they always form part of my work.”
Hence, paintings like Celestial Realm and Devotion focus on Durga Puja festivities and rituals, ranging from creation of the idols to their immersion. “There is an entire ceremony associated with the creation of these idols, from collection of clay to decorating the idol.”
In the same work, one can also spot myriad other figures, Raavan (the demon kind), for instance. “I think he is a strong, spiritual character, who has both negative and positive attributes.” It is this dichotomy in human nature that Purkayastha also seeks to show through the recurring motif of masks in many works. “Masks are used by different people for different things. A clown uses a mask to make people laugh, while some use it to hide their real emotions. There is a mask for everyone.”
The impact of his training in fashion is evident in the use of the rotring ballpoint pen and in the clothes and hairstyle of figures and the contours of birds and beasts, which are derived both from mythological and modern stories. Motifs from nature form an integral part of his work as well, as do human figures that portray different expressions and sentiments.
“The tiger has been part of my mythological series in which I explore the Goddess Durga. Buddha came at a time of contemplation between projects,” says Purkayastha.
Talking about his black and white pen and ink drawing titled The Enlightened, he says, “We are surrounded by so much chaos in our daily lives and what can help us, is meditation. The meditative quality about Buddha attracts me.”
Dominatrical Wits is a work inspired by his trip to Amsterdam where his visit to the iconic red light area made him observe how beauty can dominate people’s minds. Solomon, on the other hand, depicts a writer or a thinker whose imagination can create both beautiful and disturbing characters. “It is always about how we perceive things. Someone may see religion in my work, others may see a larger narrative of strength and beauty.”
Apart from his canvases inundated by figures, he is also showing a body of abstract works, inspired by his travels to Spain and France. “I saw Picasso’s cubist works for the first time, but I wanted to create something that combined my fascination with colour with my own roots.”
His abstract works, like Reminiscence, and Insomnia hence have a very tribal and folk-like form that comes from “being exposed the tribal way of life” in Assam.