THE CONTEMPORARY ART PRACTICE OF TRIPURA: AN OVERVIEW
In the history of art in Tripura, the first credit goes to the King Birendra Kishore Manikya (1883-1923 ). He stands alone in depth of sensitivity and delicacy of style. He was not only a painter but a sculptor too. His artistic essence exemplifies a skilful representation of the academic technique. His works are western in style and technique and Indian in subject. He can stand in the same stature like great master Raja Ravi Varma. His famous masterpieces like Sannasi, Jhulan,Banshi Siksha proved that, how he was a premium artist in this region. His activity was restricted to the state, but his influence as an artist was widespread. Gradually his art practice spread throughout the state. Maharaja’s interest was not only in painting or sculpture but he had a very good sense on Architecture, Music and Design too. He had great collections of books on Art history which included both Indian and in western context. Rabindranath Tagore the great poet helped him many a times for collecting books. Maharaja wrote many letters to Tagore regarding the cultural context. As an artist his style was original and it has been reflected on his followers. To mention among them were Samarendra Kishore Debbarma, Mahendra Debbarma, Kumar Narsingh Chandra, Agni Kumar Bhattacharya, Thakur Anil Krishna Debbarma and Rajkumari Kamala Probha Devi. They propagated and promoted a contemporary Indian style of their own in the art practice, which has gained a lot of importance.
Besides them eminent artist Dhirendra Krishna Debbarma started his career under the patronage of the Royal family. But he stayed for a very short period in Agartala. Another important artist Ramendranath Chakraborty (1902-55), a student of Nandalal Bose had started his early career as an artist at Ujjayanta Palace during the time of Maharaja Bir Birkram. But this talented artist did not stay long as a court painter and had to go back to Kolkata where he joined as a Principal of Govt. Art College. He invariably preferred oriental to western trends of art which he improvised and transformed, so his conceptual and visual manifestation was truly Indian. During this time the other important artists were Shamacharan Chakraborty and Sashikumar Hesh. The death of Maharaja BirBikram on 17th May 1947, who was a great art lover, brought the practice of art in the state on stand still.
But the art practice which started from Royal family, gradually spread to the society. Many common man showed interest in the visual art and went out side for their education on art. After completing their education, they came back and started practicing art seriously in their respective streme. One of them was the great master, Hrishikesh Debbarma(1927-1987). He was also a part of the Royal family. He did his art education at santiniketan, during the year 1958. He was the admirer of Abanindranath Tagore, and followed the style and techniques of ‘Bengal School’. His painting is a mixture of emotions; attitudes and feelings, which represents a culminating point in his experiments with styles and media. Most of his works correspond with the romantic theme which reflects the daily life activities.
Nalinikanta Majumdar (1903-1985) started his drawing and painting from the very early age. Nalinikanta was a great painter. He received formal training from ‘Indian Society of oriental Art’, Kolkata where; he was influenced by the ‘Bengal School’ in the style and technique. Thereafter, Nalinikanta attended the studio of Abanindranath and Gaganendranath, was also close to the Jorasanko Thakur Bari. Nalini Kanta started working in water colours and Tempera. Significantly, in his work the life and nature of Tripura reflected very much. He did receive a sympathetic response from writers or critics like Suniti Kumar Chattapadhya, O.C.Ganguly and Kalidas Nag. Nalini Kanta exhibited his works in Kolkata & abroad which received National and International acclaims. His works were published in many prestigious magazine or journals like Manchester Gardian, Daily Mail, The Time, Prabashi etc.
In the mid fifties another young artist who came on the forefront was Sumangal Sen (1932-2005). He did his art education from Kolkata Govt. Art College. He was the student of famous painter like Atul Bose and Basanta Ganguly. Dr. Sen was prolific contemporary artist, an art educationist and a writer. As painter he had significant adaptability. He was the founder member of the Govt. College of Art & Craft, Agartala. At that time of sixties and seventies many young artist namely Salilkrishna Debbarma, Prasanta Sengupta, Sakti Halder, Bijan Bandhu Chakrabarty, Bimal Kar, Bimal Deb, Chinmoy Roy, Parthapratim Deb, Dharmanarayan Das Gupta, Bipul Kanti Saha did a large number of works on different mediums. In this time two major artist groups was formed for a very short period; one is ‘All Tripura Fine Arts Society’ and another one was ‘Vibgiour’. In the years between seventies and eighties many young artist established themselves namely Swapan Nandi, Sanghamitra Nandi,Aparesh Pal, Barun Chakraborty, Partha Pratim Ganguly, Tapashree Ganguly, Dilip Dey, Pradip Chakrabarty, Dipika Saha, and later on Harekrishna pal, Jibankrishna shil,Tapasi Debbarma, Debashish Biswas, Mitali Gangopadhya, Kajol Dev etc. They have significantly contributed their innovative ideas in the contemporary art practice in Tripura.
The idea of establishing an art Institution in the capital Agartala was a major step which was taken in the year 1975. The development of contemporary or modern art in Tripura has been intimately linked up with the development of art education. Late Sumangal Sen was the founder principal of the institution. But this Institution had a long history of struggle. This Institute had no permanent building for longer period. But at present, the institute has got a permanent building with all the modern facilities that are required in an art institution with four major streams like Painting, Sculpture, Advertising art and Art History. The institute has a group of young faculties imbibed in fresh exposure and openness to carry forward the mission to establish a serious art practice in the state. Several eminent artist and scholars visit the college frequently from across the country. Lectures, Discussions, Workshop, College annual exhibitions, festivals keep the art atmosphere alive.
This art Institute had produced some finest teachers as well as artist like Bimal Kar, Bimal Deb, Chinmoy Roy and Bipul Kanti Saha. Bimal Kar who was a student of Kolkata Government Art College had his training under the famous artist, Satyen Ghosal. As an artist his subject matter concentrated on daily life, religion, landscape and portraiture. His work was traditional but contemporary in style and treatment. In the mid sixties one important artist of the state was Chinmoy Roy. He was a student of Santiniketan. In his earlier work, Roy made his compositions with emotional out bursts. In the later works he has given a new sensibility and ex
Another important personality worth mentioning is Rameswar Bhattacharya, ex principal In Charge of this Institute. He is a professor of Sanskrit. This educationist contributed a lot in the development of a serious art practice in this region. ‘Ishani Kala Sangam’ is a painting/sculpture workshop-seminar which is running for the last Ten years, goes to his credit. In this workshop many artists from north eastern states, West Bengal and Bangladesh are participating. ‘Ishani kala sangam’ make a major role and a platform for the young artist in this region.
Besides the art institute, few organizations have played a major role to develop a serious art practice in this province. ’Rabindra parisad’ is such an organization where for last fifty years they are arranging an Annual exhibition. Practicing artists /students from different parts of Tripura are participating there. ‘Tripura Fine Arts Academy’ is another association, who are organizing their annual show for the last twenty five years. In the last four to five years many younger artists of the recent times are playing a serious role, namely Joydip Bhattacharya, Paltu Barman, Santanu Dhar, Mrinmoy Debbarma, Subrata Dey,Manish Bhattacharya,Kaberi Chowdhuri, Pushpal Deb,Sourav Debbarma,Prasanta Sinha, Suman Bhattacharya, Ramayendu Das,Biplab Das,Rajesh Bhowmik, Sajal Chakrabarty, Abhijit Bhattacharya,Biswaranjan Debnath, Shamaprasad Bhattacharya, Pramit parno Paul. Most of them had also travelled with their works all over India and abroad also. The new developments were largely individual and significant for their artistic experiments. The works of these artists mentioned above are important for two reasons; first, for their own experimental work and second, as most of them as teachers are able to support and guide many young artists. These promising artists are seriously engaged in their works with a contemporary sensibility. There are artist groups like Kirat, Karukrit, Raft, New Bud, Rider, Dustbin etc. But the problem is that in this particular periphery no art market has grownup. The isolated land surrounded by Bangladesh and lack of communication mess up the potential of serious art practice. In the year 2009 the City Centre Art Gallery was formed by the Government. But no private gallery owner or connoisseur was found. Still a change has been noticed (specifically socio political, economic and cultural) for the last few years and that is very significant for serious art practice in Tripura.
Pramit parno Paul
(Pramit parno Paul is an assistant professor in the Dept. of Art History at the Govt. College of Art & Crafts, at Agartala, Tripura. With a master degree from Rabindra Bharati University, he is also pursuing his PhD from Assam University.)