Published: 30th September 2021
Here's how this artist from Kolkata 'collaborated' with Abanindranath Tagore for an exhibition on a post-deluge city
The young artist, Soumyadeep Roy, feels that Abanindranath, who laid the foundation of the Bengal School of Art, was misunderstood over the centuries as a staunch, monostyled artist
Have you ever wished that you could collaborate or work with a legend in your field? One who probably no longer lives in the same dimension as you? But there is no way you can do it, right? Wrong! Soumyadeep Roy, a young artist from Kolkata, just wrapped up an exhibition with his idol and famed artist Abanindranath Tagore.
As you enter the exhibition, Portraits From An Imaginary City, a set of palm prints greet you — one that belongs to Soumyadeep and the other to Abanindranath. Well, the exhibition is not exactly a 'real' collaboration but a reimagination of Abanindranath's artwork. "When I first studied Abanindranath's work, I found him to be preachy. This was back in school. Later on, at an exhibition at the Victoria Memorial, I got to see his work again. And this time it struck a chord. This exhibition has some reimaginations of his work and how characters from his artwork would be now," says Soumyadeep, a self-taught artist. For those of you who do not know Abanindranath Tagore — he was an author, a renowned artist who set up the Bengal School of Art and almost as multifaceted as his uncle Rabindranath Tagore.
The exhibition also showcased an installation of sketches — the city of Kolkata has gone underwater and a huge fish, from Abanindranath's literature, has eaten up everything, gulped an entire city, protecting it. "The entire city is built on wetlands and experts believe that it won't be long before we go underwater. So, if the city goes underwater, what remains is the art. I have taken characters from Abanindranath's literary works as well as his artworks and have recreated them. His world is eccentric and weird in itself. I was thinking what would happen if that alone survived. He talks about a fish that swallows very strange and random things. What if that fish swallowed this city and had it in its belly. The whole city survives and these characters survive with it," he says.
Soumyadeep also feels that Abanindranath, who laid the foundation of the Bengal School, was misunderstood over the centuries as a staunch, monostyled artist. "I started reading his autobiographical works and random pieces of writings, which I found very eccentric and not at all the orthodox persona that is attributed to him. Visiting art residencies across India, I have found that people perceive him, as well as Nandalal Bose, as these staunch artists. He was definitely not that. This was the general perception among artists. He was bracketed as a particular type. I found a lot of similarities with him on a few themes I was working on. Maybe the approaches were totally different but thematically, I thought there were romantic elements that interested the both of us," says Soumyadeep, a graduate of English from Kolkata's St Xavier's College. He went on to complete his postgraduation in Film Studies from Jadavpur University and became an artist.
Soumyadeep's exhibition on a post-deluge city ran from September 21 to 26 at the Smart Art Gallery in New Town and opened on a day when half the city was underwater — as if he was telling the story in real time.