Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Sunday, May 11, 2008

MagazinePublished on Sundays

A radiant light
An already lush landscape comes alive under the artistic gaze.

An Enchanting Journey: Paresh Maity’s Kerala, Art Alive Gallery, Rs. 4,000

Sometimes, one just has to deal in clichés to arrive at the inescapable truth. Here the cliché is a landscape artist taking a trip to the ultimate Eden. Art aficionados worldwide rejoiced at the result of a similar trip Maity made some years ago to X’ian in China, then Venice; this time, 50 artworks, drawings, watercolours, oils and mixed-media, alongside this splendid coffee table book, is up for the aforementioned art-lover’s delectation.

It’s all fluid, with no sharp edges portruding anywhere. Maity traversed Kerala for all of two years; “two years and a lot of silence, a lot of working hours,” in the artist’s own words, led to this cornucopia of images. “It’s beautiful, lyrical, romantic, mesmerising.” This is Maity on Kerala. He could well be talking about the portfolio that resulted from the trip.

Distinct touch
“Watercolours on paper present a great challenge,” Maity has said. “It has a grain and a subtle quality that easily makes the brush stroke look for light and spaces within spaces.” However, the viewer/reader is left in no doubt that the Master has achieved what he set out to do. Setting up his easel in a boat, on the ground, by the seaside, Maity has proceeded to draw Kerala as Kerala has been drawn a million times before, yet bringing to the clichéd perspective, touches all his own. And so there you have it, the elephants, the backwaters, kathakali dancers, the nendre golden bananas, Chinese fishing nets, lit villakkus in the gloaming. Kochi harbour, Kovalam, the monsoon, Munnar, all infused with a magnificent moodiness.

The colours are typically Maity, vivid, in-your-face, evocative of the many vagaries of the climate, the mood, the people and the place. The black and white sketches literally dance, the artist’s depiction of “The Lake” is probably the best piece in the book. Basically, he is just doing what he does best: rendering a beautiful landscape in the most beautiful manner. Iridescent, full of radiant light, the shadows induced in compelling fashion, the paintings look back at the viewer with such a pure gaze, you could be forgiven in thinking that what you see is what you get, that there are no complexities to what is depicted on canvas.

Renowned lensman Nemai Ghosh (known for being Satyajit Ray’s photo-biographer) accompanied Maity on his Kerala sojourn, clicking the artiste at familiar work in unfamiliar locations. Journalist Ravi Shankar in his lyrical essay, which is actually an excellently potted history of the State, labels Maity a latter-day Parasurama in the act of genesis. Apt, indeed.

Impressive evolution
Maity has been in the consciousness of the art world for just two decades now but has accomplished so much in that time. He has held 50 solo shows, the Kerala oeuvre being his 50th, taken part in many art camps, won many prestigious awards. His works hang in the British Museum, the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi and form part of many a private collection. It has been a gradual trajectory, from figurative work to abstract but always true to nature.

Maity visited Kerala on the invitation of the Kerala Tourism Department. An inspired invitation, indeed, and now, art-lovers owe the KTD their thanks. The Bengali artist has said that he found a resonance of his native State in Kerala. Be that as it may, Maity has seen Kerala and the truth is, Kerala will never be quite the same. As plugs go, this one is sublime.


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