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Culture on the canvas

The paintings of Sudip Roy make a statement about preserving our heritage


THE WATERCOLOUR studies of Delhi-based artist Sudip Roy are a visual delight with their delicate and nuanced tones, subtly built up to construct his pictures. Sudip finds his comfort level in working with this poetic medium. The subject matters that he tackles are architectural monuments, both past and present, and interior studies that include sofas, chairs and still life.

The medium of watercolour is difficult to work with unless one is highly proficient in its manipulation. It demands an easy felicity of brush strokes and spontaneous approach. These elements are found in abundance in Sudip. He manifests an intuitive understanding of the medium that comes through with clarity in his mastery of the technique.

The remarkable qualities about his paintings are the complete control of the technique and the intelligent handling of colours, including the shadows. The effect of tenebrism or extreme contrasts of light and shade is dominant in his portrayal of the monuments. Renaissance history is rich with artists exploring qualities of light for spiritual as well optical effects. The case in point would be Rembrandt and Velasquez respectively. Sudip negotiates his ideology through these shadows that are not dead areas but live and vibrant, structured and organised like the architecture he seeks to portray.

The fundamental concept that inscribes his representation of architectural iconography, that has been portrayed so meticulously and with eye for detail, is that he wishes to mark them for posterity using his brush.

Sudip, who is saddened by the advancing technology and virtual reality that is replacing interest in traditional values, is making a statement about their preservation through these photographic renderings.


A striking quality about his compositions is a sense of melancholy that pervades them. He has not peopled them nor is there any human presence. This was the implication that every monument is a portrait with its character and psychological depth. By psychological it is implied that they take on human values, that each monument has a character that speaks of the age in which it was constructed, and like life, these monuments should be preserved so that generations will enjoy their aesthetic beauty.

Sudip juxtaposes the real with the imagined. And it is this quality, which provides a heightened sense of aesthetic appeal in his works. With an eye that seeks out details even in shadows, Sudip has an amazing visual memory. If he sights an object in passing and if it is interesting then it stays with him. His "Gramaphone" rendered from memory proves this. He also visits numerous historical sights and makes a quick study to be translated at leisure in his studio. He takes about three to four days to complete a painting.

The paintings may appear as overtly inscribed with emotional and sentimental lyricism, but they carry a message — of preserving a cultural heritage. The metonymy of this ideal finds an extension in his paintings, as silhouettes appearing like shadows behind the main structure, whereby he suggests that the same monument 50 years hence may be wiped out by man's insensitivity to his heritage.

Sudip Roys' works are on show at Artworld, Ganeshpuram, off Cenotaph Road, till November 20.

ASHRAFI S. BHAGAT

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