Grounded in art

Written by Garima Pant | Updated: Mar 7 2011, 03:48am hrs
The city of Joy has been his abode and muse for long and no one has better depicted her bustling life and its varied vividness. For the 65-year-old artist, whose ongoing retrospective in the Capital is a selection of the best work to come out of his long and eventful career, its his upbringing in the city and his personal interactions with its urban milieu that make him so attached to his home ground.

Ive grown up in difficult times and it was a challenge to survive in those modest surroundings. No dream could have survived on those hard times, recalls Shuvaprasanna. But for him, art was the only desire. I always depended on art and began with making illustrations for the local papers, magazines and journals. I had to be satisfied with that money, which was meagre, but I did not give up art, says the artist. He faced stiff opposition at home as well on his chosen path, but nothing could deter the artist in Shuvaprasanna to give up his passion.

Though popular amongst his peers and contemporaries, the artist had to struggle a lot in his heydays. And as Kolkata-based gallerist Vikram Bachhawat, the owner of Aakriti Art Gallery, says, Shuvaprasanna never got the major exposure early in his career. But I am glad he has got the desired exposure as well as recognition now. And it's this recognition and his relation with the fraternity that the artist is now cashing in on. This was further highlighted when a book of essays in his life Black, Brown and The Blue (by Roli Books) was released recently that saw the coming together of more than one gallery jointly unveil the book. And Shuvaprasanna refuses to be bonded by the traditional outlook. Ive maintained good relations with all these people who have worked so hard to get this book out. And I dont believe that just one gallery cares for me, I dont like that bondage. A retrospective is a huge show, involving my old and recent works, and I did not want to disappoint anyone. So, I chose to work with more than one gallerist, says Shuvaprasanna.

The sizeable amount of work the artist has done in black, brown and blue inspired the title of the book. I wanted it to be called 'Anarchy and the Blue', but some people did not like the usage of the word anarchy. And since the beginning of my career, I've had a special affinity for the colour black, charcoal. I love the density of the colour as it absorbs every other colour. And that is the reason why I have done a number of portraits and animal drawings in the black hue, says the artist, who finds brown to be an extremely vibrant colour and blue symbolic of romanticism. Its an abstract title, but as a painter, what more will you expect, adds Shuvaprasanna. Besides owls and crows, Shuvaprasanna is known for his Icon and Illusion series of Ganesha, Durga and Krishnas raas-lila, which he has created over the past four decades in the form of numerous paintings, lithographs and graphics and a wide variety of mixed media art.

A multifaceted personality, Shuvaprasanna has donned many hats in his illustrious careerhes been a teacher, activist and builder of institutions like Art Acres to encourage and also to promote promising, talented artists. Known for his association with German Nobel laureate, Gunter Grass, Shuvaprasanna can never forget the advice he received from Grass. Hed told me Dont be an ignorant man, making him reach out to the common man and becoming their voice. And is this why his works have undergone a change, bringing out his thoughts on the canvas in a powerful manner Maybe, says Shuvaprasanna, after all its our inner self and thoughts that drive our creativity. But sometimes, art is not enough, says the artist. And its this thought that he has explained further in his book where he says, A painting does not give speeches. It does not give grand messages. It only moves. Art is not about detraction. Its about attraction.

Known as an artist who works comfortably in an assortment of media, including oil on canvas, charcoal, and mixed media, he is quick to emphasise that its his expression that decides the medium. And its not necessary that you have to work on costly paper. Even newsprint is enough, says the versatile artist whose inspiration has always come from the people around him.