by Georgina Maddox
Artist Pratul Dash presents his new body of artwork that looks philosophically at land and its elements through the prism of personal memory
24x7: A Global Discourse, acrylic, oil, ink on canvas, 84’’ x 288’’
(Comprises six canvases, each canvas of 84’’ x 48’’), 2022/23
‘A Bend in the River’ is an exhibition featuring Pratul Dash’s new work that presents an alternative way of looking at the everyday and the mundane. He brings to it a philosophical bent of mind and invites viewers to contemplate nature from his personal view and memory.
One has been observing Pratul’s work over the last decade and what has been noticeable is that he is highly sensitive to his environment and its wildlife. His earlier work has been largely figurative with an allegorical twist. However, what we see presented before us in this solo is an almost abstract interpretation of the earth and the atmosphere around it. The minute and detailed works have taken Dash around five years to create where he has taken time out of his busy day as an educator and his regular art practice to work on these new larger-than-life works that go into minute details.
Memory of Unrecorded Records, Mineral colour and Archival Ink on
Fabriano Acid free 650 gsm Paper, 41”x 90’’, 2023
Of Blood, of Birth, of Death, Archival ink on paper, 112” x 66”,
(Comprises 12 panels, each measuring 22’’x 28’’), 2020
Hope in a Tempest, Acrylic, gold foil and archival ink on canvas, 60” x 78”, 2023
Pratul is an important contemporary voice in the Indian art scene; his fascination with ‘fear and fantasies’ accelerate contemporary life and its constant change in unwarranted ways. As a keen observer, he reflects poignantly on the idea of the earth. He contemplates who it ‘belongs’ to, presenting a philosophical take on the agitation over its geo-political boundaries. Moreover, the work is open to interpretation.
“Dash leaves the immediacy of places and spaces and explores the innards of an apparent world, which is possible only through digging into dreams and memories,” observes Bhavna Kakar his gallerist at LATITUDE 28, who presented the show at Bikaner House. “There is some desperation in this self-consuming life and it is a sort of omniscience and omnipotence of the artistic self as the sole negotiator of his world,” she adds, observing that the chronicling of the desperations of our times is softened with hints of how we as a species could overcome it by trusting in our own goodness and regaining those lost worlds of innocence and trust through our memories.
“Coming full circle, Dash’s style has again evolved in a completely new direction, yet the themes and preoccupations that consume the artist have not changed.
“As an artist, Dash finds new ways to express himself and his innermost ideologies and self-inquiries, leaving one to always wonder about what is going to come next. The works in this show are inspired by landscape, memories both fragmented and time-based, self-prognosis, and contemporary commentaries,” says Kakar.
“In this work I contemplate upon the world from a celestial standpoint,” says Dash.
He creates a sensation that at once seems familiar and yet strange and unsettling in its configuration. Besides his paintings, one is made aware of his contemplations of the land with his filmic expression that hints at the depleting resources and fragmentation of natural beauty. He also captures visuals of the farmer’s protests and footage from a journey to his homeland, in Odisha, bringing the two together in a strong comment on the land.
Left to right: Spherical Soliloquy I, Water colour and archival Ink on paper, 60” x 44”, 2021;
Spherical Soliloquy II, Water colour and archival Ink on paper, 60” x 44”, 2021;
The Tidal Trance, Minerals colour on Fabriano 350 gsm acid free paper, 80” x 56”,
(Comprises 8 panels, each measuring 20"x 28"), 2020/23
Whether it is his work Tidal Trance where he pays attention to the tides with his detailed drawing of an aerial view of the water mass with its tidal pool and its heaving waves or the poetically rendered Crescent Moon floating over the hilly terrain, the artworks capture the viewer’s attention, demanding a deeper engagement with his concerns through the visual encounter.
Left to right: The Crescent Moon, Archival ink on Fabriano acid free 650 gsm paper, 30” x 41”, 2022
The Brain, Archival ink on Fabriano acid free 650 gsm paper, 30” x 41”, 2023
Frays of Earthly and Celestial Bodies, Mineral colour and archival ink on
Fabriano acid free 650 gsm paper, 41” x 30”, 2023
The artist traverses his own memories through the canvas as he presents an encounter with nature where all forms of disruption and rhythm are laden with a language that is not unlike that of the universe and of existence itself.
The show will continue at the venue till 7 October 2023 at Bikaner House, New Delhi.
(The images of the artworks are courtesy of the artist Pratul Dash and the gallery, Latitude 28.)
Georgina Maddox is an independent critic-curator with almost two decades of experience in the field of Indian art and culture. She was assistant editor at India Today’s Mail Today and senior arts writer for the Indian Express and the Times of India. She is currently working in the media as an independent critic for various publications and has published articles in Open Magazine, India Today, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and also in Elle Magazine, The Hindu and Business Line, Sunday Magazine BLINK, TAKE on Art, Time Out, and online with US based E-magazine, Studio International, STIR world and MASH Mag.