Beyond print and televised Mahabharata: the epic on canvas “for us caught in war”

Kathmandu (Nepal)

Kathmandu-based Bengali artist Kurchi Dasgupta from Kolkata has interpreted the Indian epic Mahabharata in her new series, “The Mahabharata: An Impression” through oil, gouache and mixed media on canvas.

Kurchi Dasgupta grew up in Kolkata and did an MA in Comparative Literature initiating her into translation in which she excells by rendering modern Bengali masterpieces into English. She has also done brief publishing of books and CDs where the visual combined with the auditory. Besides, she has done book illustration and screenplays and was CEO of the Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Films in Kolkata. She moved out to Nepal in 2005 and working out of Kathmandu, she had an exhibition of paintings on world cinema in a solo in London. "Painting, to me, is more a journey into the self and its location. It is an effort to detect and crystallise the elements that form the basis of our selves - across borders. In all my efforts I have tried to recontextualise everyday reality by drilling into the depths of the subconscious, and try and provide the viewer/participator with a new set of tools with which s/he can can perceive and interpret things around, and within ..."

Comprising approximately 25 artworks, Kurchi’s creative series tries to unravel The Mahabharata’s multilayered experience for the viewer/participator.

The driving idea was to document her response to the epic as a visual artist impelled by her location in terms of history, culture, gender and exposure to contemporary art practices.

“What I found immensely reassuring is the epic’s defiance of the conventional and its irresistible pull towards the paradoxical and the ‘multi’. It is not just a tale of how a race, if not humanity, is wiped off the face of the Earth – it is also the tale of how stupefying chaos may at times progress into unity and peace – that definitely justifies its relevance to the world we live in,” said Kurchi.

She has covered a wide range of themes. While renditions of the Adi Parva try and express the all-encompassing, pieces like Draupadi, In Disguise, The Wheel, Arjuna and Yudhisthira try and delve into the world the characters inhabit.

The Forest series and The Game of Diceare instances of how key incidents find a place in her repertoire.

While ‘Glimpse of Heaven’ is self-explanatory, ‘Hell or Heaven’ explores the human mind instead.

“Certain motifs recur in my works – handlebars to hang onto as I try and make sense of the breathtaking chaos/coherence duality. The epic’s structural complexity, thematic expanse, historical reach and spiritual intensity are such that one stands inevitably humbled before its presence.

“Therefore, I have humbly watched the spiral return again and again, slowly evolving into a symbol of Time (or perhaps Krishna) renewing itself through an endless loop of life and death, of beginnings and cessations (incidentally, the epic’s thematic core is in fact the cycle of yugas),” said Kurchi.

She further explained: “The braid streaking across canvases at unlikely moments is a recurring reminder of the many women whose lives, sung and unsung, hold the epic together (mention of Draupadi, Kunti or Gandhari must essentially have left out so many other voices).

“Reading The Mahabharata without tackling the issue would be anachronistic. The braid is also a substitute for roots at times – of history or “itihasa”. Human figures – almost machine-born in their uniformity – are strewn all over. Caught in their webs of identity and namelessness, these figures are but reminders of the human condition. Of us caught in the futility of war and destruction.”

Kurchi’s works have already been shown in London twice – a collective at The Brick Lane Gallery in 2007 and the solo World Cinema: A Dialogue at the BVB Millennium Gallery (West Kensington) in 2008. She will be showcasing an extension of The Mahabharata: An Impression in London again in September, 2010 as a solo (at The Nehru Centre).

[Source – Nepal News]

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