Glimpses of Contemporary Bengal Sculpture
India is a land of sculpture with long glorious history. The Harappan and Mohenjo Daro artists have executed gorgeous images nearly 5000 years ago. Manifold growth of the plastic art can be traced from the remote past. Every period and regions reveal varied stylistic sculptural excellence and amazing variety of contents. As for example, sculpture of Bengal has its own distinctive mark. Three dimensional sculptures in different media and the relief in the panels of the terracotta temples are rich in aesthetic appeal. As a medium of sculpture clay was very popular then for its plastic quality and easy availability. In the Sunga,Kushana,Pal,Gupta dynasties the Bengalee artists produced a high quality of sculptures. The best of the sculptures of Bengal can be detected between eight and twelfth centuries. The terracotta works excavated from Chandraketugarh, Paharpur, Tamluk etc deserve special merit for their characteristic elegance and sculptural values.
The magnificent tradition of this culture was disrupted in the medieval period due to Islamic invasion. However, the practice of sculpting as an art again came into existence in the colonial period, where western academic art was dominant. It was included in the curriculum of Government School of Arts and Crafts, Calcutta by the foreign administration. Even memorial sculptures were imported from England for installation in the city. Rich people of the society took pride in placing western paintings or statues in their dwelling house. This change of fashion and on the contrary lack of patronage put a brake on the further progress of Indian sculpture.
At this juncture many Indian sculptors inclined and adopted European academic style in their representations before beginning of the 20th century. Amongst them Rohinikanto Nag (1868 1895), Fanindranath Basu (1888 1926), Hiranmoy Roy Chowdhury (1884 1962), Pramathanath Mullick (1894 1983) etc are prominent for their worthy contributions in undivided Bengal. In the midst of this western culture Abanindranath Tagore (1871 1951) originated his new style of painting at the turn of 19th Century known as 'Neo Bengal School', which spread far away through his disciples and their successors. So, Indian traditional painting was revitalized with a marvel identity of modern out look. But unfortunately in the realm of sculpture no such movement was initiated, therefore, creative sculpting was put in a state of negligence.
In this painful milieu a spark of modern vision found expression in the execution of Deviprasad Roy Chowdhury's (1899 1975) head study of his father, under the title 'My Father' (1924). Thereafter, the work of 'Sujata' (1935) by Ramkinkar Baij (1906 1980) was an evolutionary attempt in introducing modernism in Indian sculpture. His composition of 'Santhal Family' (1938), 'Mill Call' (1956) and other works are the lively examples of his extraordinary creativity apart from the general direction. More over he is probably the first Indian sculptor who have designed purely abstract composition in sculpture. One of such splendid specimens is 'Lamp Stand' (1941) installed in front of the old guest house at Santiniketan. The sculptures made by Ramkinkar are expressly lyrical. His works have the refinement of spontaneous mode of expressiveness coupled with movement and vitality.
Amid the decendants of Deviprasad and Ramkinkar, few sculptors of the country like Dhanraj Bhagat, P.V. Jankiram, Rajanikanta Panchal, A.M. Davierwalla, Raghav Kanoria etc have extended the modernism in the approach of their performances. A handful of Bengalee sculptors also came forward with their modern yet original outlook. Out of them SudhirRanjan Khastagir(1907 1974), Prodosh Dasgupta (1912 1991), Chintamoni Kar (1915 2005), Sankho Chowdhury (1916 2006), Somenath Hore (1921 2006), Meera Mukherjee (1923 1998), Sunil Kumar Pal (1920) etc occupies a significant place for their decent inventive addition in this domain. They worked with individual artistic independence and did not hesitate to assimilate the essence of western art and its philosophy with archaic Indian perception, in the making of their visual language. Besides human and nature manifestations they were socially conscious, and also protested against community injustice. This dynamism established a new insight. In fact, this kind of stimulative progress was regarded as a period of transmutation.
The sculptors of the next generations, i.e, sixties and seventies of the last century, have widened the apprehension of their predecessors in multifarious features. Perfection of knowledge and extraordinary skill can be marked in their depictions displayed in this exhibition. The important key note of their artistic appeal is distortion of the organic structure aiming to capture the inner feelings and laid emphasis on international aesthetic understanding. Out of a few distinguished sculptors of this period are Sarbori Roy Chowdhury (1933), Madhav Bhattacharjee (1933), Uma Siddhanta (1933), Raghunath Singha (1933), Bipin Goswami (1934), Shankar Ghose (1934), Debabrata Chakraborty (1935), Niranjan Pradhan (1940), Biman Behari Das (1943), Dilip Saha (1944), Manik Talukdar (1944) etc whose unique thought provoking works can be seen in this exhibition.
Works of the succeeding generations have also opened up a new vista, revealing a novel meaning of three dimensional art in terms of style, subject matter and medium. They have more or less shattered the conventional practice. Three dimensional solid nature of volume and weight, monumentality and massiveness are not always utmost important to them, besides, time became more meaningful. Modern age science and technology are being used in the construction of the body of the sculpture. Images do not always belong to an organism. Even irrelevant details have been eliminated with a view to bring out the significant inner form of the object. Further eternal themes, complex human problems, chaos of the universe are gradually becoming main focus.
Technical methods of handling of materials and their use has also been changed now a days. The sculptor of the new generation prefer to use new materials like plastic, fibre glass rubber, leather, glass, steel plate, etc and many other synthetic materials as their medium, instead of ancient familiar ingredient such as stone, wood, clay, bronze. Now sculptors are in search of new possibilities through their irresistible experimentations. Delightful works of a few talented sculptors of the aforesaid period are on display.
Our aim of this show is to bring the recent artistic research works of the selective practicing sculptors of Bengal representing different decades close to the public view, with an expectation that the viewers can get an idea about their distinctive styles and aesthetic values.
- Prasanta Daw