Prodosh Das Gupta’s retrospective show

Kumar Gallery, Prodosh Das Gupta, five decades retrospective

Kumar Gallery presents retrospective show of celebrated sculptor Prodosh Das Gupta’s art spanning five decades

Art Exhibition previously on in India.
From Saturday 01 November 2008 to Saturday 15 November 2008
Launch Saturday 01 November 2008, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (IST)

Egg Dance image

Published by anonymous on Thursday 30 October 2008.
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New Delhi: Kumar Gallery presents a retrospective show of sculptures and drawings spanning five decades (1940’s to 1990’s) by celebrated artist Prodosh Das Gupta from November 1, 2008 to November 15, 2008 at Kumar Gallery, Sunder Nagar, New Delhi.

A founder-member of the famous Calcutta Group (whose last living legend Paritosh Sen passed away last week), Prodosh Das Gupta brought the self-conscious individuality of a modern artist into sculpture. His love of the body- of man, woman or trees – links his work with the great tradition of Indian sculpture.

Says Virendra Kumar Jain, Founder Director, Kumar Gallery: “A creative artist can’t be held in bondage and Prodosh Das Gupta was no different in spirit from a freedom fighter. He inaugurated the new contemporary period of Indian sculpture. Though a great admirer of the concepts propounded by master sculptors in Europe, yet he was deeply rooted in the fibre of Indian philosophy. He was a profound scholar, educationist, poet and musician, writer on art and aesthetics. Till he passed away, he aspired for his work to achieve its true dimension. Kumar Gallery is also publishing a comprehensive book on the artist which will be available in the market as a limited edition copy.”

Prodosh Das Gupta was born in 1912 in Dhaka, now in Bangladesh and graduated from Calcutta University in 1932. Under the manifesto of ‘Art should be international and interdependent’ he co-founded the famed CALCUTTA GROUP in 1943. The other members of the group were Rathin Mitra, Prankrishan Pal, Sunil Madhav Sen, Nirode Mazumdar, Paritosh Sen, Kamla Das Gupta, Gobardhan Ash, Subho Tagore, Hemant Misra and Gopal Ghose. Although their individual stylistic approaches varied, they shared an innovative outlook and felt the need to enter the mainstream of world art, shaking off the tradition that no longer inspired them. The group chose to break away from the fashionable academic style in vogue at that time.

Prodosh Das Gupta was also the leading sculptor of the Calcutta Group which held its first exhibition in 1943-1944. Considered as one of the prominent pioneers who emerged at the juncture of India’s Independence, Prodosh Das Gupta reacted strongly against the decay that had set in modern life despite mankind’s great achievements in the field of technology. Prodosh was not fooled by outer glitter. On the contrary, he had the power to contemplate, and be struck hard by the awesome surrounding universe, and had no wish to conquer it. His works represent love, the humane values and affection for fellow men. He built his sculptural forms through the modeling technique, i.e., using clay or plaster, but the resulting effect was ‘lithic’, that is as if they are carved from a stone block maintaining the essential simplicity of the human form and scooping out just what is redundant.

His studies in Paris gave his figures a romantic touch. However, his return to India in 1940, added new shape and significance to these myriad influences. His depiction of the horrors of the World War II and the Bengal famine of 1943 made an impact in the second phase of his career. Over a period of time, however, there crept in doubts about the emotional excesses and probable sentimentalism in these works. In his own words, “this led me to change my methods of treatment of material to a more restrained order of basic forms, often instilled with and integrated to themes from everyday life.”

The years 1946 to 1950 were the most crucial years of his career during which he had to struggle to break free from the methods and techniques of pure academia that were ingrained within him. The young Das Gupta, having recognised the basic truth about organic form both from his Indian roots as well as from the great masters who inspired him, tried to instil the same philosophy and formal quality into his own work. It was during this period that some of his best-known works, such as Head & Torso, Toilet, First Born, and Pounding Corn took birth. His dabbling in abstraction began in his early years with works like Twisted Form (bronze), Cactus Family, Volume in Three Masses, and Symphony in Curves (Cement).

His Suryamukhi is one of the most power packed epitome of his entire sculptural oeuvre. It suggests the posture of a reclining figure of a woman in a mass of solid heavy form. Though realistic in approach, the artist has taken liberty in exaggerating her body parts with a relatively large pair of breasts. The placement of the feet, the mass cut away in between to create a gaping arch, the torso too, a play of spheres and arches, defining breasts and arms, the head flattened from the top, compressed into the body to eliminate the possibility of a neck, together look probable of a wait in anticipation. The resulting posture is suggestive of ‘birth-giving’. It has the connotation of the potential fertile soil absorbing energy from the sun’s heat so as to fructify. The fullness reminds of early Indian stone sculptures of feminine forms from the Mauryan and Sunga periods (such as from Barhut and Sanchi stupas of the second and first century B.C.).

In his paper ink drawings, he would be light as a bird on wings; he also enjoyed the various textures of a material quite as a painter may. At the best of moments Prodosh delights us, especially in curvilinear and ovoid forms. In his figurative and ink drawings, Prodosh has been able to reveal the energy in the human figure by his own unique emphases, stresses and gestures. It is how some of his works become impressive, powerful and moving, like the Woman and Child series. Among the artist’s other foremost works are the Egg Dance or the Egg Family where the figures symbolizes the human warmth and closeness. The Lying Amazon (1990) works out the form of ‘superwoman’, and which in effect is certainly most commanding.

Challenging this lengthy and arduous process of sculpture making, Prodosh also conveys his views in terms of Instant Expressionism. To quote Prodosh Das Gupta (text taken from the catalogue of One-man show, Dec 1979,Taj Art Gallery, Bombay): “In my recent experiments in sculpture, through a chance happening I hit upon the idea of making Instant Sculpture in a matter of a few minutes or even seconds. I made it a point to keep my mind blank and thus have the intuitive approach instead of the intellectual, by way of playing with a lump of clay without having any preconceived notion. In the process of the action ― squeezing, twisting, rolling, flattening, pinching etc. suddenly a beautiful form emerges, sometimes in a very realistic fashion, sometimes in a near-abstract form giving certain clues of verisimilitude ― a composition with human, animal or bird form. The interplay of gliding forms, one merging into another or one emerging from the other creates a sense of rhythm.”

In every case, whether it be his abstract sculptures, or his geometric simplifications of the late ‘70s and ‘80s, Prodosh’s works are governed by a precise rhythm that infuses them with life. Their dynamism, volume and swelling, potent with inner growth, remain the hallmarks of Prodosh Das Gupta’s art. Thus we see that by creating a language of solids in space Prodosh Das Gupta eventually went on to become one of the country’s foremost artists in the somewhat sparse field of contemporary Indian sculpture.

Prodosh Das Gupta passed away in 1994 and the current exhibition is, perhaps, the first mega-show to be mounted on the artist who deserved no less and much earlier!