Amitava Das

Amitava Das was born in Delhi in 1947, and graduated from the Delhi College of Art. As a student, he experimented with a few styles of painting, sketching reality as he saw it, and recording his perceptions through a series of selective drawings. In fact, all his canvases have a common, striking quality: the stress on background and the layers of colours laid on the surface through which the images emerge. "It is this paying attention to detail that helps me define the space in my paintings", he explains. 

The basic concept of my work is life around me. Throughout my life, I have been an urbanite and have reacted to anything that has happened - either political or cultural. But obviously, my paintings are my thoughts and I think through them. Painting to me has become a kind of a language."From the gentleness and resignation in his earlier works, Amitava has now moved on to canvases that depict the violence and avarice of modern times. Working with a variety of mediums, Amitava uses watercolours, oils, and pastels to portray his thoughts and feelings evoked by his observations of the life around him.

Amitava further adds, "my work is based on human situations, where man is both the creator and the destroyer. It is an on-going process." In his work, the natural and artificial are cleverly fused to show the interdependence of the man-made and natural worlds.

Sympathetic and gently probing, Amitavas paintings are peopled by figures of men and women, animals, trees, birds, clouds, the sky, earth, sun, and even the wind. They are all about humans who maintain their dignity, even while suffering, bearing pain without a murmur and with patient resolution and who have an ability to bend before adversity without breaking. Over these images presides the blue of the sky, light winds that ruffle the surface and the life-giving sunlight. The whole universe is encased in washes of colour, each finding its appointed place in the scheme of things. 

Rather than focus on the outward signs of a degenerate society, Amitava tries to show the inner struggles of men placed in difficult situations. Surprisingly, although the subject matter of his paintings is not cheerful, his canvases do not have an atmosphere of gloom. Instead, they have a gentle glow of hope pervading them.However, of late, the artist in him has been unable to ignore the increasing isolation and barbarism of a materialistic culture. As a result, his work is tinged with aggression and the myriad faces of cruelty. But, irrespective of his subject matter, Amitava continues to remain a keen observer of the world around, translating his thought processes into semi-abstract paintings.
As a young artist, Amitava Das was strongly influenced by the existential philosophy of Sartre and Camus as well as the poetry of Jibananda Das and Shakti Bandopadhyay. The existential dilemma of a man thrown into a world as a stranger is characteristic of his work. In his paintings, he introduces a single figure within a dense, turgidly rendered space. Amitava’s affiliation is primarily to expressionism, even as his art appears to spring from an enigmatic subjectivity. In contrast to the fine linear quality of his drawings in which figures are built up through an accumulation of staccato lines, his paintings are realised through strong paint application and an unambiguous role of colour. In Amitava’s art, there is a collapse of the traditional aesthetics of beauty and equilibrium. His works draw largely from an existential concern over man’s identity and essence. He does not pass moral judgments on whether the figure is a victim, or perpetrator, or even an unexplained presence in a wasteland. In his more recent work, though, the style has changed and become even more abstract. Amitava experiments with medium and materials, sometime even creating new ones. The medium used by the artist for conveying similar ideas becomes central to the content of the works. In the Seventies, Amitava was part of New Group and Artists’ Forum, and in the same decade won the National Award of the Lalit Kala Akademi. In 1989, he won a fellowship to Germany to study exhibition and graphic design. Amitava lives and works in New Delhi.