The Art District13 Gallery in New Delhi is currently hosting an exhibition of images by Bengali artists Jayanta Roy and Sumantra Mukherjee.  The title of the show, Two Shadows One Image, draws attention to common theme of the artworks on display.  Rajeev Dhawan, the gallery manager here, says, “We decided to show the artworks of these two artists jointly because their theme is almost similar. If you look closely at the paintings you get a feeling that both the artists are trying to say something related to what the other one is

The focus of the exhibition is today’s generation — the rat race of contemporary life as it buckles under the weight of advertising, peer pressure and popular culture.

Guardian 20 spoke to both the artists and tried to explore the meanings behind their collective message.

An alumnus of the Government College of Art in Kolkata, Jayanta Roy has been a committed artists for 20 years now. A multi-faceted talent, Roy dabbles in different mediums like painting, sculpture and installations. “Our social life has totally changed since the time free-market economy was introduced in India,” says Roy. “The consumer culture and the ‘product’ have dominated our lives. After 1990, our society has totally changed. This culture has invaded in our life in such a way that our entire lives have been upturned.”

In his eight paintings displayed at the gallery, Roy has attempted to incorporate the vivid concepts of pop art, minimalism, Dadaism and conceptual art.

Roy primarily focuses on the aesthetics of advertising in his work. One particular painting, entitled Made in China, represents the face of the Communist leader Mao Zedong superimposed with images of Chinese products. Explaining the concept behind this image, Roy says, “China represents itself as a Communist country but the country doesn’t seem to follow it itself. Chinese products are everywhere in the markets and the consumerism is at an all time high.”

“India doesn’t have a good support system for young and aspiring artists. Here a fresh graduate from an art college can easily fall prey to market forces and that’s a sad thing to witness.”

Roy confesses that in his formative years, he wasn’t as drawn towards figurative art. “Earlier,” he says, “my work was very non-figurative in nature and from 2005 onwards, I have started moving towards figurative painting and gradually my work developed. Now I am a totally urban artist and I prefer showing urban culture through my work.”

Talking about his inspiration, Roy says that the culture he resides in has given him a lot in terms feeding his art. He says, “This Bengali culture and India itself has helped me develop my aesthetic sense. Apart from this, I frequently visit Delhi, Mumbai, Baroda and most of the urban landscapes in India which further help develop my art practice.”

Apart from working as an artist, Roy also designs sunglasses and spectacles for a Mumbai-based company.

Also exhibiting his work at the ongoing show is Sumantra Mukherjee, a trained draughtsman who works as a painter, sculptor and

Mukherjee, too, is presenting a set of figurative paintings of his at the show. His practice of painting and drawing is based on figurative forms, including
the portrait. And his theme, too, is similar to that chosen by Roy: generation next. 

 “Our generation after colonisation is a fusion of many things as we see deep-rooted Indian traditions to which we are not really connected but we keep up with them somehow. Through my paintings I try to narrate the confusion our generation is going through,” says Mukherjee about his paintings displayed at the gallery. “At the same time I sympathise with the the new generation and want to understand it. I want to know what it is going through.”

He talks about one of his paintings, named Kneel Down (Old Man), part of a series called “Kneel Down”. The painting, made on two separate canvases, represents an old man with a cake in his hand. “There was a time in Bengal when there was a boom in the underground western music scene,” says Mukherjee, “and it was then that I made friends with an old man who was well versed with western music. This describes the upper part of the painting. The lower part is totally imaginative, where I am trying to imagine him as a family person where he carries a cake for his son which is again a colonial influence. We are in a state of fusion.” Through this painting, he has tried to fuse the different aspect of Indian culture — which involves local elements (Calcutta’s cultural particularity) as well interntational (India’s colonial legacy). 

Talking about his inspiration, he says, “I am trying to study my generation and myself and that is what gets reflected in my art.”

Mukherjee, like Roy, is constantly striving to sustain himself and his family. “I do several other things in visual arts like illustrations, murals, logo designs and much more. India doesn’t have a good support system for young and aspiring artists. Here a fresh graduate from an art college can easily fall prey to market forces and that’s a sad thing to witness.”

Two Shadows One Image is on till 31 July at Delhi’s Art District13 Gallery

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