Curatorial Note

August 2007 : Signature images

Group show by Paritosh Sen,Akbar Padmsee,Suhas Roy,T.Vaikuntam,Jogen Chowdhury,Jatin Das, Prakash Karmakar,Shuvaprasanna  & Sunil Das.

A signature style is the style by which the artist is instantly recognized. One doesn’t have to wait to check the name signed at one corner of the canvas or to be told who is the painting by. Since style is the artist himself it’s a sure guide for the viewer to guess the artist’s identity in an unsigned painting. Only in case of a fake, which looks as good as an original work of a famed artist do we look for other means to authenticate it.

A signature image is thus which the artist paints again and again featuring fresh variations on the same subject or those works, which besides being masterpieces, emblematise the artist’s most characteristic manner.

Installation View Of The Show

August 2007 : Signature images Group show by Paritosh Sen,Akbar Padmsee,Suhas Roy,T.Vaikuntam,Jogen Chowdhury,Jatin Das, Prakash Karmakar,Shuvaprasanna  & Sunil Das. A signature image is thus which the artist paints again and again featuring fresh variations on the same subject or those works, which besides being masterpieces, emblematise the artist’s most characteristic manner. A subject or an image—rather an image content— so recurrently occurs in the works of some artists over a certain phase of their creative practice that the image itself becomes their unfailing identity index. We can talk of a George Stubbs, Hsu Pei horse or a Sunil Das horse. Definitely what tells them apart is the distinctive style of each but in such cases the subject sticks in the viewer’s mind much more tangibly than the style. Style after all is not subject-specific, it relates to form. But in such instances the image/subject and style are inalienable. Sometimes style is so associated with some of the most famous works of the painter that one cannot talk of his style without recalling those works. Picasso and his Cubism are best remembered by his first major work in the style Les demoiselles d’Avignon and another masterpiece of his later life, Guernica. Not that he always painted the same subject in the same style or that his manner didn’t unfold remarkable variations all through the different phases of his practice of Cubism. Similarly the most casual mention of Somenath Hore in the context of an artist’s life-long work will inevitably bring to mind those famished humans of his graphics or sculptures and moments later those stunning paper pulp prints titled Wounds. Style is an abstract concept defined and remembered by art critics or art historians. In popular art historical memory a famed artist’s style survives embodied either in some of the recurrent subjects of his paintings or in some of his most well known works.

Art Work In The Show

Paintings on view in this show sport such signature images of some artists selected and in other instances the frames may not feature any signature image as such but the motifs and subject can be dependable leads to the artist’s signature not because he repeats but because he moves within a range as regards the choice of his subject. Sunil is an archetypal instance of subject-signature equation. He won wide and instant recognition quite early on in his career simply because of his hundreds of equestrian images exuding the raw vibrant primal vigour of the animal. In later life he switched to other subjects, such as bulls, human heads etc., which etched no less unmistakably his stylistic identity. Akbar Padamsee has painted most of his life nothing but faces—faces that make compulsive images of life lived by each of the teeming millions, distinguished by subtly nuanced variations of the expressional register. A maestro like Jatin Das too is known by what he paints as much as by how he does it. The human body is the prime motif in all his images. He draws, paints and etches nothing but the human body ‘without any narrative, devoid of placement of time.’ Suhas Roy is another renowned painter whose current identity index is his numerous portraits of Radha evoked with a great deal of diversity in their technical and formal handling. Shuvaprasanna passed through a major phase of his career as a painter when a regular source of his imagery was the urban reality of his immediate perception. At one point his grand obsession was Calcutta’s crows so much so that a British admirer of his drew a parallel between his corvus images and the famed crow poems by the British poet Ted Hughes. His crows became an unmistakable identity mark of his paintings. He has of course like Sunil left far behind this periodic subject-signature identity. Thota Vaikuntam is widely known everywhere beyond the borders of his native state of Andhra for his Telengana village belles painted in brilliant blues, yellows and reds with all the splendours of rhythmic lineal contours and fascinating decorative details of their wears and ornaments. His women as subject bear his signature. No straightway style-image identification is possible in many of the artists represented in the show such as Paritosh Sen, Prakash Karmakar and Jogen Chowdhury. But it is not difficult for the regular art audience familiar with their works to recall vividly their style inseparably linked with a few subjects that they choose to paint or draw not recurrently but with a certain frequency. Paritosh Sen’s favourite subjects, for example, are self-portrait; men, women, boys from different walks of life and sometimes street dogs and birds of prey—all viewed with an angular attitude of urban sophistication. The boys eating a corn or a slice of melon in the oils in this show appear not for the first time in Paritosh Sen’s paintings. In Jogen Chowdhury’s repertoire of images too, there is a wide range of motifs including men and women that keep reappearing at intervals with everfresh evocation in broad varied crooked contour lines. A baldy, either only head in profile or in full figure, crouching or doubled-up, showing diversely scarred or scratched back or an ogling luscious beauty with fairly large fish-shaped eyes and wobbly limbs may instantly come to mind when we think of his signature imagery. Another most frequently seen subject in his drawings comprises one or two motifs such as a flower or a creeper plant, fish, a vase, a human head etc. evoked briskly in broad-brushed nervous lines and in asymmetrical design. With a most casual look at an image like this the viewer knows for certain that his favourite “Jo” is inscribed in one corner. Large fish-shaped eyes are assets also of the Prakash Karmakar females by which he is often recalled. More so because his female nudes are rendered askew with voluptuous curves, drunken stare and sometimes wantonly explicit erotic gestures. At one time, quite early in his life his demonic damsels, femmes fatales, or nudes with fleshy shapes of sensual bulge or dismembered limbs or focused genitalia became his signature images. His landscapes too with their piquant painterly refashioning of natural forms and by sheer force of their varied recurrence are currently a fresh subject-index of his style.

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