In a world of fakes, genuine art exists not for art’s sake

Readers of my column will probably recollect my comments on the rather sensational news when 20 paintings by Rabindranath Tagore exhibited at the Government College of Arts & Crafts in Kolkata in 2011, were discovered to be fake. The exhibition was among the major cultural activities held in Kolkata during the Nobel Laureate’s 150th birth anniversary and the verdict of the works being fake, was pronounced by the Archaeological Survey of India. The ‘Fake Tagore’ case, as it is now being referred to, is once again in the news. The paintings are said to belong to a private collector and a Visva-Bharati professor is being quoted as having warned the college authorities, regarding the doubtful provenance of the works. It now appears that the CID is exploring the possibilities of an involvement of several persons in this case. I can only say that a copy will always be a copy. It is impossible to create what is inside an artist’s mind and create a painting in just the same way as he might have done.

This week again we draw attention to the unique Ahuja Museum of Arts in Kolkata that exhibits the personal collection of a keen collector. Mr Ahuja, who created this very special gallery prefers not to be seen, but continues to add to his already vast collection, which he displays for the enjoyment of art lovers in Kolkata. Through September and October this year, the gallery offered Young Bengal, an exhibition that was a truly eclectic mix of art works that may well be considered a true guide to today’s trends among the younger artists of Bengal.

The exhibition featured the works of 18 artists rendered in all possible mediums, styles and subjects. Take for instance, Sylvia Dasgupta’s thought-provoking untitled acrylic on canvas, depicting the shoes of affluent modern females beside the bare feet of those who have none. Besides the importance of the subject matter, the painting showed a fine sense of design. Then there was Samir Paul’s The Rickshaw Puller 1, also an acrylic on canvas, which was special because of its orange background and composition. It is also interesting that traditional techniques like tempera on rice paper are being used by today’s younger artists. Gautam Pramanick, chose to use this time-tested technique in creating his landscape, not in the usual, rather pastel shades of yore, but in bright primary colours.

Pen and ink with wash on paper — a technique that I am particularly fond of — is Abir Mukherjee’s choice for his faultless but rather disturbing untitled work, which appears to be of a baby in distress surrounded by helping hands. Also depressing in subject, but splendid in colours, are Eleena Banik’s People series in oils, in which she composes black-clad elderly men and women against a chrome-yellow background. The more interesting one being the composition of standing figures in a pyramid shape. There are many more works that demand attention — a circle of old men in monochrome, landscapes of India and abroad, collages and more wash and tempera. I congratulate Mr Ahuja for his excellent choice of artworks, which highlight the fact that there are many ‘thinking artists’ in today’s “young Bengal”. His continued encouragement to young artists offers them hope and support in difficult times. May his tribe increase.

(The writer is a winner of many advertising design awards and a painter of repute)

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