Sengupta serves surrealism with spiritualism

Sengupta serves surrealism with spiritualism
SUSPENDING REALITY: Sengupta’s Angel 1 in pen and ink (1984)
Niren Sengupta’s Forty Years, Forty Works was previewed at Delhi’s Visual Art gallery on August 2. Sengupta, a popular figure in the capital’s art circle, was earlier principal at the Delhi College of Art. Needless to say, among the melee of upcoming and even some established artists, there are a large number who have profited from his 30 years of teaching art, both at graduate and postgraduate level.

He was among the few artists in India to use a structured style of cubism. Sengupta’s earlier works, which included collages, showed streaks of surrealism. It was through this exhibition one learnt that the artist had not planned on cubism as his preferred style, but slowly moved towards it over the years. It is also apparent that much of his work is of spiritual nature. He says: “Life is a constant seeking of answers and finding one’s own path to salvation. My own spiritual journey is integrated with my work.”

Closely associated with the Ramakrishna Mission, Sengupta has discovered that “spiritual life and religion are very different. While religion might be restricting, true search for spirituality uplifts... teaches one the meaning of compassion and to serve mankind in a selfless manner.”

This latest exhibition may be considered a landmark, as it comprises 40 years of the artist’s work and is dedicated to his mother, who is said to have had a profound influence on his work. The collage titled Mother (1983) shows the Sengupta’s dexterity with pen and ink. Here a portrait of the artist’s mother is surrounded by symbols that reflect her personality and age. These include an armchair, a lighted diya and a dried pumpkin on a creeper pulled out by the roots.

Among the 40 works at the exhibition, there were two superb pen and ink sketches done in 1984 titled Angel 1 and Angel 2, which attracted considerable attention. These were rather disturbing images of children with suggested wings, holding pots in their emaciated fingers — perhaps seeking alms or are they offering heavenly gifts to the living? Deserving mention are some of Sengupta’s latest acrylics on canvas — Celebration (2013) measuring 48”x96”, Ancestors IV and Ancestors V (2012) each measuring a 60”x72” and Bhagirath (2011) measuring 48”x60”. Among his oils there is the Moksha series, which brings in the mood of nirvana in joyous colours — Moksha (2006) 36”x36”.

Sengupta who graduated from the government college of art and crafts, has had 12 solo exhibitions and participated in innumerable group shows in India and abroad. His works are part of the collections of the National Gallery of Modern Art, the Lalit Kala Academy, Delhi, the Delhi College of Art, the Indira Gandhi international airport in Delhi and Kolkata Raj Bhavan.

About Sengupta, it has been written, “A painter of strong colours and softer hues, his paintings enter the perception of the spectator through his black ink pens, brushes of vibrant colours and ideas emerging from his emotional being. A man of sublimity in art, he evokes motifs from the animal world, contemporary life ... and spiritual existence”.

(The writer is an author and a former art gallery owner)

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