50 shades of black
A Mithila artist Santosh Kumar Das comes to town with paintings that celebrate the colour, and his mother Savitri Devi's influence
Story of Colour Black: The painting depicts his mother, a chronic ashmathic, who spent countless nights coughing in a semi-dark room, without electricity. "But it was in the darkness that she made her own black colour, using soot. It was magical to see light reincarnating as colour on paper."
Back in 1950s and '60s, Savitri Devi, an artist residing in the Madhubani district of Bihar, would sketch striking, calendar-style images of Ram and Krishna with pencil on large canvases. She followed the traditional Mithila painting style that originated in the region, characterised by geometric patterns and gaps on canvas filled with flowers, birds and animals. While many other artists in the neighbourhood would sing folk tunes during the painting sessions, Devi was the first to start humming Bollywood tracks.
Deep Concentration Unflinching: Das has depicted the story of Arjuna in the Mahabharata. "I was fascinated by his concentration when he attempted the archery test to win Draupadi’s hand. When I began to paint, I would try to summon the same."
Her son, Santosh Kumar Das, also a Mithila artist, follows this tradition while he's at work. "I learnt the art by observing her style of painting. She played an important role in exposing me to the culture of my birthplace through stories and songs," says Das, as he readies to present his first solo exhibition in the city. It features five paintings that are part of 11 illustrations that make up Black: An Artist's Tribute (Tara Books) to be launched this evening.
Perennial source: "The search through my life has been to experience beauty in art, both in material and non-material ways — I love cinema, and have been buying clay idols of gods and goddesses from the time I was a child."
An ode to his mother, the book derives its name from the colour that predominantly features in Das' work. "Generally, bright colours like red, yellow, blue, green, purple and orange are used in Mithila art.
Santosh Kumar Das
However, I share a special relationship with black. In the '70s, most artists, including my mother, used red and black in their works. I associate it with spirituality." Das uses a combination of colours — Indian red, brown, sap green and sea green — to create the hue. "It provides texture to the paintings," says the fine arts graduate, whose artworks are inspired by politics, natural disasters, cinema, music and religion.
FROM: Today (book launch: 6.30 pm) to August 16, 11 am to 7 pm
AT: ARTISANS', VB Gandhi Marg, Kala Ghoda.
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