Trained by Chintan Upadhyay, 9 inmates to exhibit their works for the first time at Breach Candy

Mar 14, 2018, 08:53 IST | Hemal Ashar

Inmates who have trained under the supervision of celebrity under-trial Chintan Upadhyay will exhibit their works for the first time

Chintan Updhayay is on trial for the murder of his wife and fellow artist Hema
Chintan Updhayay is on trial for the murder of his wife and fellow artist Hema

Artist Chintan Upadhyay is not the only one who has mastered the art of living behind bars. Nine other undertrials at Thane jail have flourished into artists under his tutelage and will now make their debut at an exhibition at the Cymroza Art Gallery in Breach Candy on March 17 and 18. The exhibition is called Tabula Rasa, which means 'clean slate' in Latin. It is part of a larger initiative called Art from Behind Bars (AFBB).

While Chintan has participated in AFBB exhibitions before, this will be the first time for the other undertrials. The Thane inmates' work will appear alongside artwork from Byculla jail. The exhibition will also feature art by a self-trained artist called Sudeb Pal, who was an inmate of Nashik jail but is now lodged in Morshi jail (Amravati).

The Thane prisoners started dabbling in art under the supervision of Chintan, a renowned contemporary painter and sculptor, who is facing trial for the murder of his estranged wife and fellow artist Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer, Harish Bhambhani. There have been numerous reports about how Chintan has been painting through his angst in jail and started workshops for inmates.

Sudeb Pal's work titled Imparmanance
Sudeb Pal's work titled Imparmanance

These nine are fine
"Chintan started training 18-20 inmates who joined the workshops. The final group that stuck on till the end of the workshop, spread over two weeks, reduced to nine inmates. There was one undertrial who had a good calligraphic hand. The rest have never had any exposure to art," said Kavita Shivdasani, managing trustee of the Dagar Pathway Trust, which sponsors the AFBB initiative.

Shivdasani clarified that it may be an exaggeration to say that the nine were "trained by Chintan". "Proper training would require a lot more time than two weeks. But Chintan did do interesting art exercises and demonstrate interesting techniques, and got them to create along those lines," said the trustee, adding, "He was the facilitator."

The Process of Decay, a 2x5 ft graffiti panel comprising 10 smaller canvases painted by Chintan in collaboration with the 9 undertrials
The Process of Decay, a 2x5 ft graffiti panel comprising 10 smaller canvases painted by Chintan in collaboration with the 9 undertrials

Letting go
Giving an example of the interesting techniques, Shivdasani explained, "Chintan got the group to start by sketching the face of another participant in pencil. The paper was then swapped with somebody else, who continued the work in crayon, then swapped again with another inmate who used acrylic paint. Ultimately, that single work was completed by yet another person. This was an exercise in letting go of ego; the work you started is completed by someone else, and you must accept that."

Noted colour therapist Amisha Mehta, who worked with Byculla inmates, said, "When I worked with the Byculla women prisoners, they all got stuck in the routine — ponds and hills and falls, which are so typical. The idea was to let go of form and let the work be free flowing."

The exhibition will also feature a piece by Sudeb Pal, who, Shivdasani said, "has matured immensely through the seven years he has participated in the AFBB initiatives. His forte is surreal, his work is disturbing, expressive of emotions, dealing with social issues."

The inauguration is slated for 11 am on March 17, at the hands of Mumbai's Rajvardhan Sinha, special IG of police (prisons). All sale proceeds will go to the appropriate jail, or inmate, or his family.

Also read: Hema Upadhyay murder: Chintan wants judge to visit crime scene

What you can see at the exhibition
Tabula Rasa will have 18 works from Thane jail, facilitated by Chintan — three acrylic on canvas, two acrylic on paper, 12 acrylic on practice sheets, and one 2x5 feet graffiti art panel 'The Process of Decay'. There are also six artworks from Byculla jail, all acrylic on canvas, with the Byculla facilitator, colour therapist Amisha Mehta, overseeing the work.

Status of the double murder case
There has been little progress in the probe, because the key conspirator — Vidyadhar Rajbhar alias Gotu — is still absconding. Chintan is scheduled to appear in court today.
Input by Suraj Ojha

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