By Maheen Afshan F
Every Indian’s childhood is marked with certain notions which are relatable in every aspect and one among those is the myths and old folk tales. Where the world was reeling with Cinderella and Snow White, we grew up with interesting and nerve-wracking tales about the Gods and Goddesses. And as we grow up, these tales stayed with us to be passed on to the next generation in the form of stories, paintings, films and whatnot.
Artist Basuki Dasgupta took these golden tales, along with his precious childhood memories, and added a modern touch to them. ‘All forms of myths or folk tales develop from everyday stories and are a very integrated part of life that grows organically, and becomes a means of communication. Mythology lives today too. I see goddesses in everyday life. I rewrite the mythology in my own language.’
In an interview with Arts Illustrated, Dasgupta speaks about his latest series inspired by his mother, Everyday Goddesses and his short film Reflections filmed and edited by Manush John.
Excerpts from the Interview
You are called the creator of modern myths and folk tales. Can you tell us why?
Myths and folk tales are living traditions. Time goes by but the basic stories remain the same. All the forms of expression, whether old or contemporary, are built on emotion, crisis, fear, love, necessity and relationships. These forms of expression change over time according to the environment and surroundings. A contemporary context always has a strong impact on expressions. The changes influence the relations, the forms, the colours, the compositions and all the process of execution. The vibration during my time was the ‘brush and paint’ which I held to execute my work. I create textured surfaces and use bright colours to achieve a divine or spiritual touch.
Take us through the journey you went through while making Everyday Goddesses.
Everyday Goddesses is not just a concept I adapted for the particular exhibition. I had been carrying around the idea since my childhood as I see the repetitive mythology in daily life. I see the Goddess Durga, with her many hands, in my mother…
The series also consists of non-figurative paintings. What do you visualise when you are working on such paintings and what do you aim to narrate through those paintings?
I personally surrender to the spiritual divinity and the monumental power of nature. Mountains, forests, skies and rivers; all bring me positive energy. In my non-figurative works, I try to depict a relationship between myself and nature. I live at the end of a small town with an endless sky where I can spread my arms as wide as I want to hug the endless blue. I breathe easily.
You are a musician as well. Does the music you make inspire your paintings or is it the other way around?
Our traditions, artists, musicians and writers are some of my many sources of inspiration. I learnt from them the methods to overcome any psychological crises through different forms of expression. Most of the time, some sort of negative energy or crisis forces me to paint or compose music. The whole process converts my negative emotions into a positive energy and in the form of an artwork. Mostly I fail, but sometimes I achieve it. Whether music inspires me more or painting does, I don’t know. Both are my boats to sail from a negative world to a positive world and both touch me spiritually.
In the movie Reflections, I noticed that you didn’t just use a paint brush to make an art work. What would you say is your signature style?
Every artist has their own brush that evolve or develop from their personal character and experience. Likewise, every artist’s philosophy, concept and technique is integrated so they can develop their own signature. As for me, most of the time, I feel comfortable using my hands instead of a brush; I get a unique sensation when I feel the various textures on my canvas. A similar sensation reduces my anxiety when I feel the surfaces of the terracotta temples in my hometown, Bishnupur.
India is known for painting and artists who work on tradition, culture and mythology. But as the contemporary movement keeps evolving, where do you think India stands on the ancestry style?
I look at tradition and culture as living things with their forms constantly changing. Different cultures and traditions co-exist, come together, emerge, exploit or influence each other and take on a new form. We cannot call the Gupta period or the Vedic period as our cultural or traditional art. All are different phases of our culture like Gandhara Buddha which is a blend of Greek and Indian philosophy.
Evolution is a sign of a living energy. How much will one let these ancestral ideas and lifestyles guide them is relative and solely up to them. All creative people express ideas from memory, history and the past in their own ways. This can be referential or abstract, but based on their own realism. Whether it is a Picasso or a Mithila painting, they are all unique and based on their own, very real ideas.