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Surreal images

If some of Aloke Tirtha Bhowmick's works are abstract in nature, some deal with contemporary issues


LIVING AND working in Dehra Dun, Aloke Tirtha Bhowmick is witness to some phenomenal moments in Nature — the valley with its lush vegetation and the snow-capped Himalayas. The sun glistens on the snow on the mountains, which in turn gets reflected on the lakes and forests. The glowing red and yellow of the setting sun makes the surface of the lake shine like a sheet of gold. At night on a new moon day, the sky could turn almost green. Bhowmick has tried to capture all these in his oil and acrylic paintings. There are flowers in vibrant colours, expressed in quick brush strokes and not realistically. While sweeping strokes of the brush are used to create the sky or water, the effect of light on the rocks, ground and flowers is made up of short thick energetic blobs of the pigment. Initially, one might tend to think the paintings are a little too bright, but after talking to Bhowmick and learning about the Dun valley they seem possible. Of course, the colours have been exaggerated a little for effect; after all who can imitate Nature exactly?

Bhowmick's figurative works are different from his landscapes, both in content and style. They deal with contemporary issues; Nature depicted here is quite stylised. Even in technique the colours are applied in thin layers and the fine lines, particularly in painting the woman's hair, are a throw back to his interest in etching. His subjects are mainly women; a few of the works deal with the wavering mind of the young woman; the uncertainty is suggested by the waves and the rocking boat; while on the one side the woman looks longingly at a bird, suggestive of freedom, on the other, the face considers the passing time indicated by the clock. In fact, the motif of Time is a strong contender for attention in most of his works.

`Mother and daughter' shows the mother's head and shoulders emerging from a rocky hill with a temple above her head, indicating that the older woman is firm in her beliefs, while the daughter who faces her mother is seen on a boat on the waves with a satellite above her head, suggesting that she is still vacillating, thinking of modern technology. The panel between them has a landscape with stylised plants and flowers in the foreground. In fact, in all the works, depending on the theme, trees, flowers or machines are drawn in a lighter green on a darker background.

`Lady lifting by machine' shows how modern life seems to drag a person inexorably on its course. In many paintings, the woman is shown looking at a bird, which is a metaphor for freedom. A recent series of paintings like `Round Table Conference' and `Imperishable Pegs' are about the recent religious strife in the country. In his ink drawings too, human forms and elements of Nature are interwoven to form a complex imagery. For instance, flowers take the place of hair on a woman's head. Here too the fine firm lines are a reminder of Bhowmick, the graphic artist. These drawings are somewhat surrealistic.

Somehow none of the faces either in the paintings or drawings is expressive of any emotion and appear similar; also the compositions are rather static even though the concepts, including the birds in flight, are supposed to suggest movement. The figurative works often lack a sense of depth with their flat dark background.

The exhibition of Bhowmick's paintings is on at Studio Palazzo, 9, Seethamma Road, Alwarpet, ph: 24364265.

LAKSHMI VENKATRAMAN

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