Experimentalist by choice
Recipient of the National Awards in 1976, artist Amitava Das studied at the Delhi College of Art. A graphic-cum-exhibition designer by profession, he has played with various mediums and worked on various shows, mainly designing pavilions for India in major trade fairs and events abroad.
What is art for you? How does it define your personality?
My art is not separate from me. My art practice, my visual art and other forms have become part of my system or part of my life. So these two are not different things — just like we sleep and we eat, art has become a basic nature of my being.
Any true art should reflect ones personality because it’s not a group activity, it’s an individual practice. It is bound to reflect the personality of the artist or the time he is living in. Otherwise there will be no difference in applied art and fine art.
What has been your inspiration for the various pieces through the years?
Someone once asked Picasso ‘Sir what are you going to paint?’ he replied ‘If I knew it before hand there is no need to paint it!’ Inspiration comes from various sources in your life and your experiences. Inspiration is something we gather from all around us. It is just that you never know when that inspiration catches hold of you and your thoughts.
What medium or theme do you like work in the most?
I work in several mediums ranging from canvas to paper to using collage. These days there are so many writing instruments available such as markers, correction pens, etc. I prefer to use all kinds of material that I can lay my hands on: metallic colours and acrylic as well as oil colours on canvas. I prefer not to keep any favourite medium or theme. If I work only on a particular medium or theme it will create monotony, I need the space to shift over or to go to more unknown sources which is very important.
You have been present on the Indian art scene for a long time, how have you seen it change and how has it changed for you?
When I was a student I exhibited in a commercial gallery, which was quite successful. In our time there was no digital age — no computers, nothing! — that is one of the biggest change. Technological revolution and telecommunication is a major change and it was bound to affect everything, exchange of ideas, ease of learning. It has led to production of newer and better art.
You had your first solo exhibition in 1969 which was a different era. Now when you hold exhibitions, what change do you find?
Art has become a kind of business. It has become more organised and market-oriented. Earlier it wasn’t purely business — yes there was business, but it was more of romantics for the artists back then. The auction houses in this age have become more active than before. Also the buyers are not only collectors, some of them are investors as well, which I believe to be a major change. This commercialisation of art has also acted negatively I think because now in newspaper and other mediums we don’t have art space, it’s always the happening section or events section, you have to have a story otherwise you won’t appear.
Tell us about the designer you, who has been involved in the design of various publications, exhibitions, interiors and furniture?
In exhibition design, it was more of an architectural job plus various other aspects because in exhibition design you also have to concentrate on graphic designing, organising the whole event, designing of the attire for the hostess and so forth. Also, my work on interior and furniture design and my work on publications designs has given me a totally different dimension. These different dimensions reflect in my observations of the world in sense of art. This side of my being makes me get attracted to the design and structure of small things also.
You have used objects such as discarded bus tickets and crumpled paper for your works? How was the experience with these out of the ordinary medium?
Just to give a different dimension and different view to my work I had use those things. To experiment with more than just the regular elements. In fact something I’m using presently is a correction pen, something not very old, so at times instead of using a brush or other medium I use a correction pen for a particular effect. This effect is used by the tribal painters of Varli in Maharashtra, though they use a stick and white paint, where as I use an industrial equipment.
When I was working for the ITPO, I was looking after fairs abroad at that time. During those days globalisation hadn’t taken hold, it hadn’t had such an effect on our lives. During my visits to other countries to set up art fairs and exhibitions, I used to be fascinated by the stickers and the metro/ bus tickets, they were so well designed and structured. My designer side took hold of my curiosity for these small but brilliant objects of art and I started using them in my paper work, as a traveller does not have the equipments or the ease of an art space or studio. Thus, I started using small notebooks, keeping those tickets and pasting them in those notebooks, combining my love for drawing the notebook became my travelogue.
Which is your most memorable work?
I did a painting for T2 in Mumbai airport, it is a 40 ft. by 6ft. piece. It is not a direct painting it was installed with angles and LED lightings. This was made in 2012 – 2013, and installed in 2013.
What is your advice for the upcoming artists? Could you share something from your experience?
Always remember to be a seeker. A true artist will always go on learning as there is no end to one’s artistic journey. Whether it is a junior or a senior artist, the learning process never ends in this creative field. There is a lot of change from when I was at the starting stage, life now has become very fast, with all the technological advancements. One thing I would like to point out to the artists of new generation is that art is not a stagnant statement, it is continuous in its interpretation. The meaning of a piece changes from time to time for the viewers and the artists themselves.
These days artists work on a lot of social issues around them, which is commendable as it is bound to be as that is their observation. But these same artists also need to work on other things, things that they observe when they are alone, things that not just relate to the society.
Picture Credit: DAG Modern