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Bengal Beyond Boundaries: An exhibition encapsulating the region’s rich contribution to art over decades

Around three months ago when gallerist Vikram Bachhawat and artist Jogen Chowdhury began planning an exhibition on Bengal art to be held in the Capital, they were certain that they did not want to present a narrow view restricted to a specific period or genre. “We wanted to look at the rich contributions made over the decades, promote art from Bengal and give it the due it deserves,” says Bachhawat, director of Kolkata-based Aakriti Art Gallery.

The exhibition “Bengal Beyond Boundaries”, on at Bikaner House till July 15, is an outcome of that vision. Comprising works by over 100 artists from Bengal, the show curated by Uma Nair spans almost a century and includes over 290 works in varied mediums, from paintings to prints, watercolours and mixed media.

Broadly chronologically presented, according to the birth of each artist, the exhibition makes an attempt to give the audience an overview. While a wall dedicated to the Tagores brings together works of Rabindranath, Gaganendranath, Abanindranath and Sunayani Devi, some of the other artworks from the period include works on paper by stalwarts Nandalal Bose, Ramkinkar Baij and Benode Behari Mukherjee, who influenced generations of artists. There are Company paintings, Kalighat pats, Jamini Roy’s works famously influenced by folk art, and works by Kshitindranath Mazumdar and Hemendranath Mazumdar. Coming together with Somnath Hore’s lithographs are his works from the acclaimed White on White (Wounds) series. “When you talk about Bengal, the period the artist belongs to becomes important as it influences their work, and one finds similarities in their technique and thought process,” says Bachhawat.

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With its vast ambit, the display manages to include the most recognised names from the region with the younger generation of artists. “We were selecting works, not artists,” adds Bachhawat. If Chowdhury’s Woman with Mirror occupies a central place on a wall, on view is also KG Subramanyan’s illustration for the book ‘Saptaparni’ and Ganesh Pyne’s portraits. Paresh Maity dedicates his panoramic canvas to Rabindranath and his institution Santiniketan, and Chetali Chanda’s vibrant milieu is teeming with people.

The medium of sculptures is not ignored either, as finding place with the likes of Meera Mukherjee, Bipin Goswami and Ajit Chakraborty are works of younger masters such as Tapas Biswas, Subrata Biswas and Akhil Chandra Das.

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Days before the Kolkata-based gallerist was leaving for Delhi, a word of support also came from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who wished him success.

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