Recognizing the achievements of veteran painter Paritosh Sen

Veteran painter Paritosh Sen has just received the Legends of India Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to the contemporary Indian art. The West Bengal governor, Mr. Gopalkrishna Gandhi, was present at Rabindranath Tagore Center, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), Kolkata to felicitate the veteran artist.

Considered a pioneer of the modern art movement in India, the artist is known for his excellence in using the human figures for expressing his views on contemporary life. The Legends of India Selection Committee chose Paritosh Sen for the award for his keen effort to ‘promote the art of painting as a form of high creativity’.

His drawings and paintings are noted for their strong lines and bold, stylised strokes. Although color is an important aspect of his paintings, it is the human figure, expressing a myriad of emotions, which dominates his art.

A recurrent subject in his works is his depiction of scenes from everyday urban life. These activities are rendered from a cynical and detached perspective, which is typically his viewpoint. Even as he paints urban themes, it is the human figure, which dominates his art. His female nudes reflecting various vignettes of daily living are two-dimensional, albeit assuming a semblance of voluptuousness.

Paritosh Sen has had a long, illustrious career. He formed the Calcutta Group along with some other young artists of Calcutta with an idea of ushering in a new thought in Indian art. He received a Fellowship for 1970-'71 from the John D. Rockefeller III Fund. His style of representation was influenced by his exposure to Western Modern art, and has traces of cubism.

Widely traveled, Paritosh Sen in his youth had had the opportunity to meet the great modern masters of our time, such as Pablo Picasso. All these varied influences and experiences left a lasting influence on him as an artist. A figurative painter, he makes use of bold lines against a two-dimensional picture plane for his take on contemporary life. For example, the Famine in West Bengal and the Partition of India were the major influences in his earlier. His works recorded and reflected the turbulent socio-political situation.

Outlining his artistic philosophy, Paritosh Sen has mentioned: "The success of a painting lies in the artist's willingness to deal with each painting on its own terms." A painter, illustrator, tutor and writer, all rolled one. A prolific writer, he has published many works in both Bengali and in English, including a series of autobiographical vignettes. His works have been exhibited in India and internationally, in Paris, London, Germany, Tokyo and the US.

Most intriguing are his self-portraits that border on the caricaturist style — passive as well as contemplative, consistently reflecting the elapse of time. In his earlier works the artist portrayed himself as a grey-faced figure. His subsequent renditions had a colored face, sometimes in brilliant yellow and green shades. Through the objects placed alongside like a clock, symbolic of the ephemeral aspect of time, and tablets and a glass of water, signifying his routine, the artist gave a personal touch to these.

The bold two-dimensional shapes, starkly delineated forms and large staring eyes - the features of his Paintings from the mid-50s have – are carried through even to his recent striking large-format paintings. He uses two dimensional, structured planes but still creates an illusion of voluptuousness.

Many of his works reflect his adeptness at handling mundane themes with a hint of humour. This retrospective of paintings and drawings from the past six decades by one of India's greatest Modern Masters is on at the Lalit Kala Akademi and Art World until April 18.

To view Paritosh Sen’s works in the Saffronart catalogueclick here

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