A documentation of the late legend's life

The crumbling walls of buildings and the multitudes of people living in Kolkata figured prominently in his work. His drawings formed a fitting introduction to his paintings, revealing the predilection of the artist for forms: forms that were consist in terms of tone rather than line. His work was a powerful combination of realism and fantasy, where reality and fantasy evaporated and reemerged on the canvas. We are talking about one of India's prominent contemporary artists, late Bikash Bhattacharjee. A new book explores his life and works.

At 2007 Saffronart Summer Online Auction, his Oil on canvas 'King with Flute' (47' x 47') went for $87,400 (Rs.3, 496, 000).

Launching his creative career in the late '50s, his strengths were his exceptional technical mastery and his power to charge the tangible appearance of the surface with the reality of the depth beneath. The book, titled Close to Events-Works of Bikash Bhattacharjee, also analyses the technical and stylistic development of his art with detailed exposition of some of the themes and subjects in the major series of his paintings. The books is penned by noted art critic Manasij Majumder.

The artist was admired not merely for the near-illusionist evocation of realistic details, but for the obvious or subtle distortions in his imagery as a key to their complex multi-layered meanings. His realistic idiom was fascinatingly robust and compulsive, laced with rich irony, strong-veined allegory and lush visual metaphors. His portrait-based images enacted his personal experiences and impressions of the prevailing period with all its dark social and moral tones and textures.

The late artist was particularly inspired by the Kolkata cityscapes.He stood out among his contemporaries by making hard-edged chiseled realism the core appeal of his canvases when realism or naturalism of every shade was considered a retrograde trend. 'Close to Events..' (Pages: 250; Price: Rs. 2000) is a detailed documentation of his art and life. It analyses the techniques and styles through which his art developed.

It depicts the artist's early life in an old North Calcutta locality, the urban social ambience that shaped his creative personality and explores why he chose to remain 'close to events' and free from the dominant trends in post-Independence Indian art. The book is enriched with over 200 photographs, providing an insight into the artist's oeuvre. There are detailed illustrated explanations on the paintings, contained in the book. The sketches and writing used throughout the book has been taken from the late artist's own notes.

The artist created a varied cast of characters in his canvases - old men and women, children, domestic help. The ability to create an authentic milieu as a background to the characters heightens the drama. Female beauty remained a major preoccupation with him. His women subjects were a strange mixture of spirituality and sensuality.

The Author of the book, Manasij Majumder, a well-known name in the field of art writing in India, has to his credit other major titles such as Sakti Burman, Dreamer on the Ark and Art Moves, Works by Sunil Das. He first met Bikash Bhattacharjee in 1979. The writer, reminiscing on the late artist, mentions: He was one-year-old when his father died. He faced immense hardships and was witness to Partition and the pathetic lives of the poor in Kolkata. All his works are extremely metaphorical and allegorical in nature. All his creations were rooted in his experience. He was so overpowered by realism that he couldn't stick to abstraction that he first had attempted in the early 1960s.'

View artist Bikash Bhattacharjee's work in the Saffronart catalogue

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