Natural Calamities and the Art of Future: Thoughts on Bireswar Sen
When art speaks of harmonious life with nature we ignore. We prefer holiday packages and rejuvenation centers to the lessons of art. We like to read hotel menus than poetry. But then one day when nature strikes we accuse everyone for causing it except us. Art of Bireswar Sen was futuristic and it spoke of all what we lament today when calamities strike, but in a subtle and poetic way. JohnyML reveals the futuristic vision of Bireswar Sen.
|(Artist Bireswar Sen)|
Artists die but art lives on. Art lives on only when artists have very passionate lives and extremely truthful expressions. When a true artist works he/she does not think about the trajectory that the works would take in future. They may sit in somebody’s attic for many years till one day someone stumbles upon them, realizes the value of his finding and exposes it to the world. Art’s glory is not made for today but for tomorrow. That’s why art of the past allures us and projects us to future. Art of present, in that sense is just a preparation to create a past that would realize a future. Art incapable of creating a past will also be incapable of creating a future. Art that titillates the present dies in present itself. Endurance of a work of art is its ability to conjure up a future. The bottom line then is this: artists who are incapable of creating a futuristic vision dig their own graveyards in the present itself however glittering the plaques of epitaphs may be.
Bireswar Sen is one such artist who has survived time with his futuristic vision in art. He, in his works created a world where human beings co-existed harmoniously with nature. He did not look for the flamboyant and eye catching. Instead he looked for the liminal and sublime. Each time Sen put his brush on paper he transferred a part of his truth and existence in it. He did not paint for the posterity but the paintings themselves envisioned a future where people would long and crave for harmony with nature. Sen did not paint larger than life works like the Renaissance artists of the West. But equipped with a Renaissance mind he knew it was his mission to depict the larger truths of life. Sen was more like a poet; capturing the essence of the material as well as the ethereal worlds in limited words; words that emanate the colors and smells of life and throb with the heart beats of nature. And Bireswar Sen was a poet, or to be precise he was a man who loved poetry and taught poetry for a long time in his youthful days in the role of an English lecturer in Patna, Bihar.
It is interesting to look at the works of Bireswar Sen today, especially when we all lament over the death of thousands of pilgrims at the hands of nature’s fury in Uttarkhand. Today we are told that the calamities occur in these seats of Hindu Gods mainly because of human avarice. Pilgrimage and holidaying have become money minting industries today and to facilitate these we indulge in imbalanced development. Soil erosion due to deforestation and the resultant ecological collapse causes all hellish forces of nature to come out. And when that happens we look for those harmonious days when human beings had found the real harmony with nature. Art perhaps is not the answer or solution to calamities but art does contain clues and directions because the artists who have done such works are visionaries; a level higher than spiritual industry leaders, holiday makers, urban planners and the government itself.
Bireswar Sen’s works have the clues for getting human life out of the deluge of avarice. Born in 1897 in Calcutta in an illustrious family of barristers, scholars and writers, Bireswar Sen at a very early age itself was introduced to world art and literature. He did not know which of the breasts of Goddess Saraswati that he should drink most; literature or art? He drank equally from them and became an avid learner of literature and chose his career as a lecturer of English. But he maintained his passion for art by brining himself in the company of great masters like Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Kampo Arai and others. At the prime of his youth he met Nicolas Roerich, the Titan of world peace, philosopher and artist. Though he started off his painterly career as a follower of the Oriental style developed by Abanindranath Tagore, Roerich’s affinity for nature influenced him more than anything else in the creative world. He started painting with water color and gouache as his prime mediums and a pristine body of miniature format works came out as his oeuvre.
The places that have been washed away by flash floods and cloud bursts in Uttarkhand were also the places once Bireswar Sen haunted as a part of his journeys to experience the sublime. In the conventional sense he was not a landscape artist. His aim was not to chronicle the places the way Company School artists were doing at some point of time. Sen’s intention was to capture the immensity of nature and the diminutive significance of human beings in comparison with that. He drew them in papers not bigger than three inches. And often one needs a magnifying glass to study the details of his virtuosity. He was a romantic to certain extent because the works show the vastness and depth of nature, showing the fully glory of five elements and he always depicted his own surrogates in the form of sadhus, wanderers, bards, lonely people and so on. What are they doing there in the nature, one may ask. The answer lies in the body of Bireswar Sen’s works.
They do nothing; they do not construct buildings, hotels, pilgrim centers, yoga centers, restaurants, holiday inns, bars and anything that promotes tourism industry and real estate business. They just exist there doing what they are supposed to do. A wanderer wanders, a bard sings, a lonely man just looks at the immensity, a sadhu meditates, a mother goes back home with her child, a shepherd walks back leading his cattle to pen. These people are devoid of the deadly sins. They are attuned to live a life that the nature offers. And aren’t we trying to do the same actually after doing anything and everything that could prevent us from attaining that situation? If so, wasn’t Sen giving us directions through his works? In fact he was not. Instead he was seeing a future where people could go back to their original existence of simplicity and humility. But unfortunately we recognize this only when calamities afflict us, that too fade off as newer spectacles in the forms of tragedies and events take place and are transmitted to us as a part of our staple food.
Bireswar Sen was meticulous in documenting his works. He knew the size of his works is as insignificant as post card or even less, hence it was necessary for him to keep them together protected. Like a father, he made folders for each of his works and each folder contained a caption and other details. Past, for assessment demands distance and the distance is manifested in the present whereas future demands proximity to scrutinize the possible and the impending. While past is relief, future is anxiety, but a desired anxiety. Bireswar Sen’s works contain this anxiety and we go closer and closer to see his works. He continued working till he breathed his last in 1974. His works are now with the Bireswar Sen Family Trust that takes initiative to showcase his works in important galleries and museums.
The In-House show
|(A work by Rekha Rodwittiya)|
Soulink : Celebrating Life
|(a work by Swati Pasari)|
Sublime Galleria, Bangalore, presents a solo show of works by Swati Pasari. The show titled, ‘Soulink: Celebrating Life’ displays unique painting works and sculptures.
Twenty six paintings and five sculptures are on display at the show.
The painting works are figurative in genre and vibrant in colour and form. The movement in the works depicts rural life and their festive scenarios. The abstracts in the show also portray a sense of colourful celebration on canvas. The sculptures on display are various poses depicting musicians.
The artist intends to spread a positive message through her works.
The show is on view till the 29th of June 2013
The Slice of NatureStupa 18 Gallery, New Delhi presents a group show of artworks exclusively based on Nature. The show is aptly titled, ‘Slice of Nature’ and displays some very unique interpretations of nature by several artists.
(News reports by Sushma Sabnis)