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Amitava Das

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1947, Delhi, India
Lives and works in New Delhi

Amitava Das has been a well-known name in Indian art circuit for quite a long time. His works mainly bring out contradictions, where opposites come together in the same plane through an intrinsic weaving of the whole pictorial plane.



Graduation in Painting, New Delhi College of Art, Delhi, India

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Abstract forms in his works bring out the chaotic harmony of nature

Amitava’s canvas is populated with creeping organic and inorganic, abstract forms that create an effect which reminds one of the growth of a creeper, a tendril of a plant that is indomitable, unruly and unorganized yet harmonious in its own way, symmetrical in its own growth. His works often brings out this contrasts that exist in the nature and somehow it also gets metaphorically transmitted to human live. Like his painting Din Ratri (Day and Night) showcases a similar theme where two forms tend to get closer yet they are apart like day and night. As Gayatri Sinha points out, "Amitava believes that with this body of work, he has moved away from an issue based art, of immediate and strong reactions to the inflow of beamed images of violence to works of an empiric reality, of the co-existence of the sun, moon and the seasons in harmonious inter-dependence, of the contemplation of nature in time."

Amitava Das, Din Ratri (Day and Night), 2011, acrylic on canvas (diptych), 48 x 96"

Silence amidst the cacophony of urban spaces

Amitava's works give a sense of silence amidst the hullabaloo of life. A sensation one can get being in an urban space where there are places and events that tend to give you serenity amidst the most noise. The artist’s works is a kind of refuge where he tends to find a space where he can get that peace of mind which is why there is a presence of vacant space, a space which harmonizes the protruding forms that often figure in Amitava's works. His pictorial space at the same time creates a contradiction where amidst the urban anxieties there lies a way out where a man can hold himself and prevent himself from getting entangled in the anxieties of an urban life.

Amitava Das, Untitled, mixed media, 39 x 39”

He creates abstraction through a variation of texture

Though primarily he was figurative painter his interests grew towards abstraction which slowly led him to abstract forms and compositions often replete with textures, dots, geometrical and decorative shapes and which helped him to create another vocabulary of image making. This was more metaphorical and symbolic in nature. “I started using texture as an element in itself-surface quality became the language,” This brings out the very crux of his works which often foreground the turmoil and disturbance that our society passes through, that our human kind passes through at different points of time, says the artist himself. The texture in its formal quality also has a dominant presence which builds up the sense of protrusion and a kind of force that pervades the pictorial surface with subtle movement like that of the organic tendrils. Though it seems that his forms might get out of the frame of the canvas, he subtly confines the space where the form grows within the frame creating different patterns. The effect of tactility is achieved as the artist works towards a palpable dimension, creating on his canvas areas of density and darkness. This is arrived at by use of the thick applications of oil on an acrylic base that thus illuminates the painted forms in relief.

Amitava Das, Untitled, 2013, mixed media on paper, 44 x 30”

Pen and Ink is his most frequently used medium

Many of Amitava Das’s earlier works were done in pen and ink which are different in their treatment in terms of form and rendition than his paintings. There is a sense of anxiety and pain which can often be encountered in his works done in pen and ink. The deformed, distorted figure and form and the pervading black that surrounds or dwells in and out from the form and figure enhances the sense of anxiety. Being in an urban space Amitava has often ventured into the dark allies of urban life, how claustrophobia it can get, how a life gets caged within the concrete jungle of urban life. His human figures are derived from his imagination and memories. “…would explore Gray’s anatomy as source material, and Leonardo’s mechanical drawings, that in fact presage and anticipate his robotic figures of the 1990’s. His essential rendition of the figure has come through a process of discernment and selection that goes back to his student days,” Gayatri Sinha aptly notices in his works.

Amitava Das, Untitled, 1972, pen and ink on paper pasted on mount board, 7 x 6”

A presence of Violence in his works

Amitava’s work has a recurring presence of violence, it is stark and subtle at times but there is a constant reaction of a responsive mind towards his own time and space which often brings in certain elements which reflects hard hitting truths of our society. Even his excrescence forms that often appear in his paintings bring out element of a rough, beastly force that proceeds forward to engulf everything. As he says “In, my earlier painting, silence was the language. They were noiseless, but not dead. Now there is violence, borne of protest…  I am indignant that we are losing our values.” This brings out the very crux of his works which often foreground the turmoil and disturbance that our society passes through, that our human kind passes through at different points of time.

Amitava Das, Untitled, 1995, pen and ink on paper pasted on handmade paper, 5 x 8”