Critics Speak

Solo Show – Story teller- stories told and retold…
Essay by Rahul Bhattacharya (Curator and Writer)

Re telling a story teller: The early works of the artist reveal a deep love for expressing an autobiographical narrative. Often using portraits; she created metaphors of herself and her realization of womanhood. Even at that point one can locate an attraction towards popular culture. Thus it was not surprising that her work has focused on fashion, cinema and popular icons. However, over a period one could notice many changes in terms of medium, style and technique. Her natural flair is towards a modernist gestural approach to figuration, but possibly the artist felt that that style came too easily for her. In an effort to challenge herself ,Dasgupta began ajourney into a more controlled technique, and began to introduce various compositional elements in her works.

As the artist was going through a re-visitation of her personal understanding of style and technique, she also became more interested in telling stories about the world and her social empathies and engagements… Yet the search continued, she discovered that to work with popular imagery she needed to re-present them with greater conceptual layering. The gestural modernist within her can only be deconstructed through a practice connected with tradition and discipline. Her (re) discovery of Raghurajpur folk painting tradition finally leadsto this search finding a resting place from where she can explore future directions. How do craft, storytelling and meditative practice become carriers of contemporary concepts? This body of work ‘The Story Tellers’ marks an important turning point in her journey, specially reflecting a sustained engagement with technique, inspiration and concept. Odishahas been a part of the artist’s childhood, and that nostalgia has played an important role in Dasgupta being able to culturally respond to it’s artistic tradition. The Raghurajpur folk painting tradition also offered her adifferent access to the ‘popular’, a ‘popular’ that was deeplyentrenched in a disciplined and controlled approach to art. This art making is robust, colorful and yet deeply in dialogue with the culture of contemporaneity. The philosophy of craftsmanship attracted her deeply along with its notions of detailing, precision and the ‘handmade’. Moreover, Raghurajpur offered her an escape from the noise of mainstream popular culture as well as an alternative understanding of the narrative possibilities of art making. Since her (re) visit to Raghurajpur about three years ago, newer pictorial style and artistic practice slowly began to find space in her works. Initially it was just motifs coming into the borders of her paintings depicting Bollywood and popular personalities...and slowly it entered deep, deep into the artwork itself. The encounter with Raghurajpur did not lead her throw away her personal love for the urban popular traditions, instead what resulted is a complex layering of both. Taking photographs of the Raghurajpur paintings,the artist painstakinglymakesnumerous canvas rolls and usesthem to make portraits of painters, performers and story tellersto make her world. Paint is given at a final layer of detailing that helps the artist to develop a language that challenges the boundaries of painting. This merging of boundaries makes her a child of postmodern eclecticism and also gives her meditative therapy of craftmanship that her soul has been looking for. Apart from the artist’s natural flair for figuration and an ability to strike a chord with portraiture, what makes her current body of works significant is the possibilities of enquiries that they open and the complex layering of folk and urban they embody. This layering of folk and urban also mirrors the zone between art and craft that mark the physicality of her works. The inspiration behind these rolls has been earrings she discovered where in Coke and Fanta cans were cut and rolled. This dismembering and creation of a new identity opened up the possibilities for Dasgupta to assimilate the Raghurajpur paintings into her works and yet mask them. Over the last two years apart from the painters and performers of Raghurajpur, other prominent personalities have come in her artworks...almost as a continuation of her earlier subject matter. However even though sometimes these popular mainstream icons enter her work, their representation has completely changed. There is a fragmentation and realignment that happens, this breaks their iconicity and positions them within the vulnerability of popular storytelling. As she moves deeper into understanding and practicing this direction in her practice, she is also beginning to realize that within this idiom there is a great possibility of conceptual fine-tuning and experimentation. These works have captured the imagination of viewers, yet the artist is looking for more, eager to walk a tightrope between making her practice more deeply personal, and universal. The journey is to entrench her works deep into the dialog of contemporary, yet go deeper into her love for craft and the handmade. The Storytellers is standing on the edge, rooted and yet ready to take off.

Solo Show – Bollywood Reveries
Essay by Nanak Ganguly

This body of work resulted from a piling up of images from a huge corpus of Indian Cinema bringing in an ambivalent language that facilitates the seizure of aesthetic and cultural meaning. Vinita Dasgupta has always been a pilgrim of intensity and one of our finest painters working at present in our contemporary art scene. She has dedicated herself to a quest for a surrealist imagery that can carry the freight of her early memories, cultural space, realism, of living in a city, a politico-social conditioning, a politics of identity, culture and language and above all an inner silence that pervades our existence. And yet, her works have never been nostalgic hymns to an existential epoch rather her aim has been to inhabit, and share with the viewer, a pictorial space that is ever-renewed

The works in this exhibition communicate the parable of a world where the close-ups of its members are mere overlapping of an individual’s close- up but an overview of a situation – a rare gesture. Vinita Dasgupta pays tribute to film noir. The visual parable is construed based on a huge corpus of mainstream Hindi cinema. The subjects of this body of work are the glamorous actresses of popular films made in Bombay that is crucially located in the terrain of culture that the nation, as an imagined community in these spaces, is most powerfully articulated into existence. The significance of Bombay’s cinematic idiom, from this perspective, lies in the fact that it represents the hegemonic vocabulary of cultural terrain in Indian. The local traditions and popular culture where social and political conflicts that are central concerns are virulent in her works. It proves to be a seismograph of a society locked into a transformation process, establishing its own positions to confront a discourse of modernity determined by the west. Though portraits of leading actresses of mainstream Hindi cinema and image from pin up girls of yesteryears and posters like Waheeda Rehman , Nutan, Madhubala, Suraiyya, Sharmila Tagore, Rakhi, Rekha, to Maduri Dixit, Kajol, and Rani Mukherjee or films like Shree 420, Aag, Awara, Bees Saal Baad, Madhumati, Johny Mera Naam, Yaadon Ki Baraat, Bobby, Sholay, and others that helped in the construction of our cultural, social and national identities, these are not mere portrayals of a popular genre but of our cultural icons that cut across regional and national boundaries resulting in a new class of popular cultic, eclectic and visual imagery. At this point of career, she is deeply driven by a desire to search out the noble form: perhaps by a sort of need to aid ourselves and especially narcissistically and now its time for her to paint all the phenomena on the canvas before they are precipitated, assembled, crystallized that dwells in a space free from all bondage to the visible, definite and the finite-most spare and ascetic, referring to her inner world she made in consummate bursts of energy in defined periods of time. Her work is figurative and illuminated; it never gives itself away though as external sign- rich in privacy and inwardness. Some of the digital photographic images transferred on to the canvases here are replete with images of a world that substitutes the external one translating feeling and emotions into a visual language.

Vinita Dasgupta has ability to state, as she does assiduously the most enduring truths in a style that is measured and patiently gathers a luminous energy as we navigate her work inexorably forward. Her approach is much more visual in its address than being polemical. Her language shifts from spectacle to presence, a psychological space where there is absence in spite of presence; and that presence is the sole key to a state in which ratiocination of any kind is suspended- the inadequacy of the faculties is accepted and we the viewer advance humbly towards faith. Here concrete objects become tokens of a concealed desired principle.

Solo Show – My Window Shut to Open
Essay by Nanak Ganguly

Vinita Dasgupta’s body of work in this exhibition is built on a metaphoric mode of self-presentation: self understood as quasi –self, for it has no perceptual components. The perceptual components are woven into the surface: what we are exposed to from her earlier series (they are almost like reading lost love letters) done in acrylic centering on the fashion industry and its fashionistas with either their power look on the ramp or cascades of flounces, ruffles, tassels at the end of a tunnel which is stark darkness to the present titled “My Window Shut To Open” is an evidence of a process of maturing, the continuous toil of factual transformations asking questions ‘What if the nostalgia runs down the runways?’. In accordance with the painterly gesture, she has ‘set aside all the facts’ at the moment, when she wishes to recapture the specificity of a structure and conceives the origin of a new structure and overturning a natural interruption of any given sequence. Within the relatively quiet frame there is intense activity; obviously, the energy made visible is controlled, and one has to watch closely the expressive visual modulation of color into which are woven interlocking planes which are so thin that they may go unnoticed. Technically the phenomena of sheer surface in which is included the neutral white surface space of the canvas inasmuch as it is part of the woven layers of colour tonalities. Her technical skill is commendable and attention to detail meticulous. Dasgupta’s act of painting makes multiple entries, her acrylics on canvas or transferring of digital images on the canvas are travels of a pensive mind that adheres to a humble submission of space and its infinite possibilities rather than to specificities of form and their impositions- it is evident in the fact she uses light and keeps the source as a revelation. At present she makes a t return to figuration, is not to be viewed simplistically as work of an incurable romanticist that yields several possibilities, in turn giving rise to polemical queries that demands a sort of substantiation. A previous figurative series takes into account the complex manipulation of space in her works- large areas of a flat delineation of pigment act as a catalyst to the simplification of techniques to a form of visual text.

“When I do my paintings, I am curious about the possibility of exploring and do not wish to mystical at all .Here, I refer to emotions that grip one in the ordinary context of one’s life: oppression, anxiety, self-absorption, anger. A sub-text of my works are the pictures about control and duplicity and mysteries” (-Vinita in a recent conversation).

Seductive yet austere paintings float weightlessly unconstrained by necessity yet no less connected to material realm of natural. The poetic and structural sign of another immersion in an essentially fluid domain will take us a step further in the exploration of Vinita Dasgupta’s ingenious future meditations.

Essay by Keshav Malik

An examination of art works could do with a look at the nature of the self that creates them. After all self and environment, and self and art are inextricably meshed. In other words, artistic expression reflects and unfailingly interacts with the overall human environment. There is a continuous interaction between the two. Since, it is obvious that our metropolitan culture is changing at breakneck speed, the working artists can perforce become creatures of their circumstance, even while at that same time trying to master it.

But, what better not change, is the name and nature of art itself. If that happens art would end up by being just anything. Indeed today non artistic goals often masquerade as art. It is only at this point one must put ones foot down on artistic license. Not every artwork may pass the test of art. Yes the inclusion of images from the latest in line physical or mechanical worlds are in order, but still art works must conserve the scent of art alone. The laws of art have to be rigorously followed, else confusion follows.

As is evident from her works this painter belongs to the age of mechanics and instant communication. Like others she too knows no ‘nature’ in its naive or innocent aspects. The age has worked hard on her perceptions. In this sense at least her creative work bears the heavy imprints of social change and uncertainty. Modern reality? That is, of a reality violently ambiguous; very bright, but also neurotic as much as psychotic. But then, this artist is critically aware and energetic enough.

In her works we see posed or stylized women figures. And these many figures come in several incarnations - - as though executed by some fashion designers, except in that, in her hands they become graceful. She retains her humour. Her realism does not make for dullness. Her hardware subject is injected with her own playful vision and idiosyncrasy.

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