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Partha Dasgupta

A ceramics master whose lyrical sense of the Zen flows into his sculptures; a sculptor who imbibes the traditional with his advanced sense of post-modernist design to turn around the Durga Puja pandal as living, breathing installations; an installation artist who has been at his pen-and-inks since his school years, religiously finishing two works every morning before going about the business of the day; a keen drawing artist who layers his paintings with the philosophy of his ceramic work, working on tone and texture on a monodimensional canvas to recreate perspectives.

Born into a family with a vivacious cultural ambience, Partha’s ancestral roots lie in Maimansingh and Dhaka, in Bangladesh, and Partha spent his early childhood at the Kasba residence of his maternal uncles. The early brush with form, figure and colour is closely connected to this mamabari: Partha’s grandfather’s brother, Suresh Sengupta, and uncle Santiranjan were idol-makers; artists who crafted the famous Creek Row Kali Puja idols and also the Durga idols for the Chittaranjan School, Kasba. Prafulla Pal, one of the best known patuas of Kalighat, was a student of Sureshbabu. Uncle Santiranjan, Partha recalls with a smile, was nicknamed “Paglamama” due to his arty disposition. “It didn’t take me long to become his assistant,” says Partha. Music also played an important role in the growing up years for the youngster. “My elder brother was a direct student of Pandit Kishen Maharaj. I was fortunate to be brought up in a rich cultural ambience at home,” Partha says.

One would observe twin recurring motifs in the artist’s drawings in later life. The goddess Kali reappears in her myriad avatars, and that’s the formal expression of the recurrence. On a deeper level, the works — often in pen-and-ink, primarily in charcoal, pencil and zero-tipped dry brush — possess a fluid humour. Without being judgmental, they are commentaries on the world around us: a characteristic similar to the cartoons that were Partha’s constant companions as a child. “I used to be voracious reader, and of course, my Indrajaal Comics publications were highly prized possessions. I used to copy the drawings of Tarzan in toto; the realism of the images fascinated me.”
It was no coincidence, then, that the judge for a local sit-and-draw competition where Partha stood first was Shaila Chakraborty, one of the best known cartoon artists that the country has seen. The acquaintance with Chakraborty would be a turning point in young Partha’s life; though he never received any formal training under Chakraborty, Partha eventually met Ranajit Roychowdhury, a teacher through the legendary cartoonist. The desire to take up art as his profession blossomed and took shape right from that period.