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Confluence of myth and reality

The mixed imagery used by Joydip Sengupta in his paintings are thought-provoking. The artist's works are on show at Artworld till January 24.


IT IS a strange yet thought provoking encounter. As one's eyes get accustomed to the sombre light within the gallery space of the Artworld, one is confronted with the mixed imagery on the hung canvases. The iconography is mythical, dominantly hybrid, as the Hanuman, Garuda — half man half bird, Narasimha — lion headed human, Kali with tiger's body and the Sun with human face. The tone and tenor of the theme are set here. This amalgam defines the artist's ideology of `hybridity' since it is an evocative mix — of the here and now and the surreal. Or is it perhaps a projection of artists' inscapes? Or confirm that art is about myth making? The answers are not easy to come by when one looks at the works of Joydip Sengupta, a young Delhi based artist, who is showing in the city at the Artworld. Joy has breathed art from a sensitive young age, as both his parents are artists — Arputharani and Amitabh Sengupta. A graduate from Shantiniketan, he completed his master's from the Delhi College of Fine Arts.

Joydip in his paintings, rendered predominantly in oils, has sensitively and intellectually interrogated the `self' to negotiate questions of identity, roots, tradition and modernity, to a realisation that hybridity has become an accepted norm of the postcolonial reality developed within Indian cultural traditions.

What is this hybridity? And Joy extrapolates with deep conviction, "an interaction of traditional culture with modernity, in which different realities intermingle bound by a national and cultural ethos within a global milieu."

When on a Commonwealth Scholarship, the question of postcolonial experience was raised for Joy during his residency at Dundee, by his guide Alan Robb. This notion was debated upon and it became central to his conceptual as well technical exploration. Says Joy, "My stay in Dundee made me feel rootless and that I did not belong to any culture. In Scotland, there is homogeneity, purity and a sense of continuity of culture from past to present which is not evident in India." For Joy, the colonial intervention has made `discontinuity our continuity' since colonialism is today a living history for Indians.


The overseas sojourn for this young artist opened up avenues to explore and manoeuvre his artistic expressions through the viewing lens of post-coloniality. His paintings in the present show reflect his experiences in tackling the question of identity. He says, "If my paintings are to be shown in any part of the world, they should relate to Indian identity." This `Indianness' in the 21st Century is to maintain a sense of individuation of the nation, in a global milieu of cross-cultural currents without having to get its voice muffled amid many other cultures either Western or otherwise.

`Myth' and `reality' as they commingle on the space of his canvas hence, are an integral part of his consciousness to define and relate art to his tradition. It is a very firm skein of idea that enables the materialisation of his iconography. Since myths and folklore are ubiquitous phenomena of the Indian traditional landscape, Joy precisely attempts to amalgamate them with the actuality of daily life, lived at various social levels. The ideological content of his paintings is at varied stratums, sometimes symbolic as in Hanuman in Flight or Garuda in Flight or allegorical as in Chinnamasta.

Navigating his creativity through such complexities is what makes his art a challenging encounter. For one is not making a simplistic reading. Subsumed within the real and surreal imagery is the angst of the artist to come to terms with duality, which he describes as `hybridity'. This is the confrontation of tradition with modernity, in which tradition is mediated through mythical icons, signs and symbols, while modernity establishes it through the representational forms of vehicles, buildings, street signs and graffiti.

The power of his imagery, the intellectual depth of his ideologies, the experiences of his interactive cross cultural global currents and his sharp perceptions in defining the contours of his artistic arena undoubtedly come through with clarity. A confrontation with his varied `realities' subsumes his fine sensitivity within it. But what comes through is the young artist's journey, as he searches for his identity and roots within his cultural milieu to question the links `is it in the past or is it in the present'.

Says Joy, "The images I create rely on the visual reality I experience, internalised for the projection of my inner realm. This realm is a make believe world where anything is possible."

Joy is a promising young talent who has years of creative fulfilment ahead of him. He has a definite vision and is passionately involved in the creation of his artistic expression. The show is on at the Artworld, 1/12 Ganeshpuram, 3rd street, Chennai, till January 24.

ASHRAFI S. BHAGAT

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