Independence has brought us a self authoritarian freedom along with an idea of Nation which ideologically exists without fragments. The different shades of culture are indeed prominent in our country but the very claim of United India is a conceptual proposition. The politics of regional and racial seclusion is not new to this land but the prolonged disturbance has caused much national harm. The North eastern states of India had been nationally neglected since Independence. To the larger India probably North-East creates a mental image of Mongoloid faces which are seldom viewed as an exception to imagined ‘Indian’ physiognomy. This racial seclusion has triggered many events of violence leaving strong imprints on young minds. It often becomes a vantage point for larger communal apathy. Acts of constant violence do become reference points for many artists. These north-eastern states seldom lose their individual identity and are viewed as a separate entity/zone called ‘North East’. It is not only the political and geographical ignorance but also the historical and cultural seclusion in operation which coerced many artists to question their existence.

The present sellection features Mantu Das (b.1986) & Mrinmoy Deb Barma (b.1982), two recent  graduates of Painting Department of Kala Bhavan, who renders such political and cultural abysses of their own states. Mantu, being a native of Assam take recourse in the local myths and other oral narratives, accommodating such alphabets in his visual vocabulary. He unveils various cultural gestures of his time. Fragments of dying cultural past are often quoted in his images. Much like Brueghel or Bosch, he works with dual narration. He tries to relocate proverbial realities into his own urban cultural space. His images are not at all social reformation statements; rather they are speculative enquiry into his own cultural past. Mantu at times comments at the ongoing violence in his state but mocks the administrative system. Visual satires play a very important role in his process. Mantu is interested in mapping different cultural trajectories into one single frame. His city becomes his muse and thus reflects its presence dominantly in most of his canvases. Mantu not only narrates events of mass violence but directs his attention to domestic violence. Multiple gestures are reflected in Mantu’s paintings where seldom he depicts himself as a protagonist of his play. He functions as a commoner who seldom acts as a numb spectator within several acts of violence. He plays with contradictory idioms, placing them one aside other, creating a visual irony.

 Mrinmoy was always sensitive towards the growing environment of violence in the North Eastern states. Mrinmoy has grown seeing various acts of devastation around him. Such events are etched in his memory which resurfaces in his canvases but with a tinge of humor. It’s a terror stricken world but amazingly the terror is unrealized. Tom and Jerry runs across the frame creating menace with their little acts of devastation. They appear to be immortal as despite of their innumerable attempts to overpower each other, they survive triumphantly, somewhat resurrect to claim their position.Mrinmoy Debbarma speculatively points towards such violence, catering it ironically as a visual pleasure. He mocks the entire process of violence. In today’s world of commoditization the acts of violence are also consumed by the people. Thus the new age entertainment tools and popular media are constantly promoting violent gestures disguised under the gimmick. Debbarma’s memory of his troubled native land Tripura, remains in his subconscious but he attempts consciously to readdress the issues through the make believe world. His images are not disturbing but they speak of the regional upheaval.

He constantly questions the reasons and investigates for the authority responsible for such acts. His concern with the violence is primarily entangled with the global politics of power mechanism, where the feeble is devoured by the stronger. His references from the graphic novels, animations and video games are all extensions of such idea. American superheroes who are fancied as modern day messiah, fails to stop the devastating acts and appear as mere puppets, proud of their existence. Other characters becomes engrossed in their own avenge ignorant of the larger scenario. In Mrinmoy’s paintings the civilization and culture reduces to debris of industrial junk, as our Indian mythic heroes sometimes make their appearances saving the urban jungle with their miracles. Here juxtaposed reality is addressed. His surface has lustre of the graphic commoditized entity. The usage of industrial print along with the painted photorealistic surface creates a duality by merging two opposite tendencies.

Soujit Das
Soujit Das

Dr. Soujit Das teaches art history at the Government College of Art & Craft, Kolkata. His doctoral research was titled ‘A Critical Review of European Figures and Christian Themes in Imperial Mughal Paintings (1580 A.D.-1658 A.D.).