Lot 123
Samir Mondal


What makes Samir Mondal such a special painter?


Magic is what transforms sheets of empty white paper into amazing works of art. Water colours that bring alive faces, landscapes, flowers, butterflies. Images that will haunt you, not by their apparent beauty but by their secret power.

The power of madness.

Madness that taunts mortality, discovers genius, frightens away aesthetic arguments. To...

Pritish Nandy Samir Mondal: a brief sketch

Samir Mondal was born in a Bengal village called Balti. Like most of his contemporaries he came to Calcutta for his education. He graduated from the Government Art College in 1975. This was in many ways a critical period for the art of his region. Some of his elders had already thrown away the weight of such legendary movements as the Bengal School of Painting or the Calcutta Group. There was turmoil in the air necessarily brought about by bold experimentation and a youthful rebelliousness. When he left art college, Mondal was thus poised to see new horizons. Throughout his career since, he has never lost sight of them, has reached them and made them his own.

Mondal's most important contribution to the art of his generation is a sustained revival of watercolour. Actually, it is not the easy medium it seems. It presents a number of traps and handicaps. But Mondal has skirted them successfully by giving his paintings weight and depth, solidity and expressiveness. He has invested watercolours with the status of oils. There is no need to discuss the technicalities of this miracle. It is enough to say that, year by year. Mondal has projected a personality of watercolour such as was never visualised in this medium.

At one time Mondal was preoccupied with the depiction of nature. He first grappled with conventional watercolour themes such as birds and flowers and landscape in general when he started feeling the need for a change. "Watercolour is flimsy, foggy and weightless", he says, "It starts breaking on the paper." He therefore keenly observed the manner of oil-painting. He noted the structural quality of oils, their richness and heaviness. In his struggle to introduce these elements in watercolour, he developed textures and structural features as if they are oils.

In full command of his painterly expertise, Mondal now began to offer a long line of series of paintings. He was once deeply affected by the sight of a lame peacock. He promptly created the image of a lame peacock searching for food from garbage. This was the central symbol for living creatures fighting for survival. This series, ironically called Birds of Paradise, stunned connoisseurs as much as it impressed them.

Then came various female types clubbed together against their natural habitat in the series Women in Nature. There was also shelter pinpointing the existence of people seeking accommodation while still living alone. Alisha was built around an image of a teenage girl having a hesitant relationship with her mother. In Performer, Mondal looked at dancers from a new angle.

One of Mondal's most significant series was The War and the Butterflies. It developed the paradox of these two images, almost like that unforgettable last shot in Lewis Milestone's film-All Quiet on the Western Front of a dying soldier trying to reach out to a butterfly perched on the edge of his trench.

Mondal has exhibited in major cities, and having experienced a whiff of many German cities (under, the Indo-German Cultural Exchange Programme) and of Paris. He has also collaborated with the eminent poet and media person Pritish Nandy on a number of projects. He created the Mulla Naseeruddin series for The Illustrated Weekly in which each episode was represented by a separate painting. Mondal's full page portraits of film stars and other prominent personalities in The Sunday Observer have been widely appreciated.

But Samir Mondal has stood the test of all this dazzling versatility. His watercolours have never lost their purity, their inventiveness and their classic elegance.


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  Lot 123 of 134  



Winning Bid
Rs 13,650


Samir Mondal

Signed in English (lower left)
Watercolour on paper
10 x 7.75 in (25.5 x 20 cm)

Category: Painting
Style: Figurative


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