By Abhishek Kumar, Rajesh Kumar and Vinay Seth
“Since 1983, I have dedicated myself primarily to the medium of tempera. Despite their distinction, my prints and paintings mirror the similar affinity for experimentation with space and form, image, harmony, and balance.” —Lalu Prasad Shaw
One of the oldest living visual artists today, Lalu Prasad Shaw has unfailingly been showcasing his perspective, vision, and ideas through his art for more than six decades. While going through the show ‘Lalu Prasad Shaw: Early and Recent Works’, and reading Abir Pothi’s discussion with the show’s curator Ina Puri, one can easily discern that the ‘Early’ part on display largely comprises Lalu’s prints from the 70s and 80s, and the ‘Recent’ works mostly consist of works done 2010 onward. The show displays Shaw’s work under five different segments: graphics, crayons, temperas, drawings, and academic studies. The showcase of these diverse works under one roof was quite appealing and visually pleasing— a testimony to the curator’s mature sensibilities for presentation.
I had the privilege of attending the exhibition on its preview and noticed that while going through temperas from Shaw’s three interconnected series— ’Bibi’, ‘Babu’, and ‘Babu O Bibi’, the viewers were left mesmerized. These artworks were so attractive that almost everyone present in front of them was trying to analyse them deeply. The way Lalu gracefully depicted women under different themes, was reminiscent of the murals of Ajanta caves. These paintings depict the ‘Bibi’ engaged in various acts of eating, as well as preening, such as managing her tresses. Various adornments are visible on her, meant to enhance her charm, such as bangles decking her wrists and earrings that make her earlobes look appealing. In his depiction of the middle-class gentry of a bygone Calcutta (now Kolkata), the artist’s subjects are either portrayed in the middle of their daily chores or when caught in a tranquil moment. While the exhibition displays some brilliant instances of the artist’s early work and fine line drawings, the latter-day works are equally significant. The Modernist Lalu Prasad Shaw’s art practice consists of charming renditions, visually simple in nature, project a refined and sophisticated characteristic.
The curator of this retrospective, Ina Puri very correctly points out in the catalogue, “As one of the foremost living artists in India to use tempera as a medium, Lalu Prasad Shaw’s oeuvre is unparalleled and unique, bringing alive the eternal ‘Mahanagar’ with its dramatis personae caught in dramatic moments of their lives. The virtuosity and mastery of the veteran is present in each frame, the reflections, interiors, and a nostalgic yearning for what is now past.”
‘Lalu Prasad Shaw: Early and Recent Works’, organised by Gallery Art Exposure and curated by Ina Puri is on view at Bikaner House till 25th September 2022.