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Artist Profile3
Peeping into Sanjay Bhattacharya’s artistic realm
For Sanjay Bhattacharya, incidentally school was probably the most boring place he visited. He never relished it, at least during his childhood. He was more intent on reading books and imbibing knowledge through informal studies. Interestingly, he was not aware of a hidden artistic inclination or talent though he showed an enormous determination and capacity for hard work. No surprise, he would invariably score poorly but started picking up nuances of art as time passed by.

After he finished his early schooling chores, he decided that he would not be pursuing bookish curriculum. In an effort to fine tune his artistic skills, he joined the Government College of Arts & Crafts, Kolkata where he completed his graduation in 1982. He then was associated with an ad agency as an illustrator. The job brought him to the capital city of India, New Delhi. His very first assignment was to come up with one an ad on tyres. The job profile did not suit his artistic self, however much he tried. It was only expected that he would leave the agency; he did so just months later to join Hindustan Thomson Associates where he got the opportunity to freelance, allowing him to afford a rented place and luxury of time to work on a series of watercolors and oils that were displayed at Dhoomimal Gallery in 1988. All the five watercolors were bought, encouraging him to pursue his passion.

His first inspiration, so to say, was the Phantom of the famous comics. He used to draw the character on the walls and on the doors, everywhere he could think of, but now his imagination traverses different wide ranging themes and motifs. Among one of the most renowned students of painter Bikash Bikash Bhatacharjee, he has moved beyond the fantasy world, coming closer to realism, looking to blend the outer and inner realities, juxtapose or even confront both at times. Fascinating figurative images of this renowned contemporary artist seem closer to those in the works of many Dutch realist painters or some of the French painters from 18th century.

His watercolors and oil paintings allude to dual nature of realities, simultaneously evoked by quaint architectural elements such as old, empty houses. They’re of immense interest to him, as they tell the tales of a bygone era – the people who lived, who shared, fought and loved there. There’s a peculiar residue of color and texture in their slowly decaying walls, when one closely observes them. One can notice dark bedrooms carrying dressing table, chairs, old style table, or bedstead with ornately carved head-board set placed against sunrays seeping through in some of the artworks. Not sticking to empty houses, he has painted the emotions of those who occupied them like a mother carefully combing her daughters' hair.

Born in 1958 in Kolkata, he did a Diploma (Fine Arts), Government College of Art & Craft, Kolkata (1977-82). Apart from several solos, among his selected group shows are 'Edge of Reason- and beyond, into pure creativity' courtesy Indian Art Circle at Lalit Kala Akademi, Delhi (2013); 'Masterclass', Dhoomimal Art Gallery, Delhi (2011); 'Reprise', Aicon Gallery, New York (2011); 'Holy Now', presented by Religare Arts Initiative at Gallery 27, London (2010); annual exhibition of Chawla Art Gallery, Delhi (2010); 'Home and the World', Aicon Gallery, New York (2010); 'Harvest 2008' by Arushi Arts at The Stainless, Delhi; 'Sanjay Bhattacharya 1981-96' at Art Today, Delhi; and 'Rajiv Gandhi: Landscape of a man', NGMA and Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, almost two decades ago, among other shows.

His most recent solo show, entitled 'Emerging Krishna', was held at Religare Arts Initiative, Delhi. The series was a poignant exploration of captured moments and altered ways of seeing. Done in three different media such as exquisite photographs, canvases and sculptures, it was a delightful exploration of light, color, composition and mood. The works exuded sublime spirituality, with a resonant reverence and that of his 17th century Spanish obsession with the mirror image of reality. Curator Uma Nair mentioned in an accompanying note: “In a complex and mixed society, we can look at this show in two very distinct ways. First, at the canvases and then the photographs or vice versa, but wherever you begin, there is the charisma of a darshan to an urban audience, the touch of the past, a setting against the bricks and rusted embers of time. Sanjay gives us Krishna as an icon of a symbolism, a silhouette framed in the pantheon of remembrance.”

Many of his works revolve around the lives of families from lower rung of the society, barely surviving. He has also done realistic portraiture, including that of India’s late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and India's only Air Marshal Arjan Singh. The artist is equally fascinated by the city of joy, Kolkata – its streets, people, sound and a touch of nostalgia like the faded British grandeur. Summing up his processes and philosophy, Sanjay Bhattacharya has stated, “For me, subject, composition and backdrop, become the idea of an artist’s landscape, so what I see is a juxtaposition of many elements from the past and the present to create a new way of seeing. This theme is about that, albeit through the element of abstraction, I’ve left many layers open to interpretation for the viewer to decipher, and also to respond to.”