The quietness of Art Houz’s air filled with intrigue and fascination as a small crowd piled inside on a chilly December evening. Showcasing Mrinal Kanti Gayen’s solo exhibition, ‘Tactile Memories’, the venue was lined up with 23 bronze memories from the Sundarbans. Currently, a professor at the Government College of Art and Craft, Kolkata, Mrinal spent a part of his childhood in Dakshin Kashiabad region of Kakdweep. His attention to detail and unique oeuvre pull the observer towards memories – frozen in time.
Mrinal’s work with the exhibition was a display of rhythm in stillness. It was a journey of faded gold and jaded hues, capturing movement and challenging a narration of stillness in its free-falling manifestation. Each piece, depicting an aspect from the Sundarbans, was a sculpted memory that explored the swampy marshes over usual presentation of the mangroves.
The choice of sculpting with bronze is an interesting aspect to explore. In Ancient Greek Art, bronze statues were considered the highest form of sculptures. In India, artisans from the Chola empire in Tamil Nadu created bronze statues via the lost wax casting method, with intricate designs and details depicting Hindu deities.
“It’s incredibly useful for attempting difficult forms. The sensation and structure of a piece is captured more effectively in bronze than any other.”
mrinal kanti gayen,
a raconteur in bronze
With a certificate of merit from the Academy of Fine Arts in Kolkata and a meritorious recognition from the Government of Nagpur, Mrinal has detailed layers within his work. For example, one of the pieces featured a man wading through a swamp, static just as he has caught a fish. The long and curved leaves, the rippled waters, flower buds, and vacant spaces that represent clear waters, outline rhythm translated into a 16”x 9” x 9” bronze sculpture; a weightless movement revamped into a weighted figure.
Although many artists work on landscape segments, Mrinal explained how he wanted to capture the sky and the land in one material canvas. “Instead of pursuing the horizontal format of designing and sculpting, I opted for the vertical structure, giving me enough room to experiment and incorporate hollow space into my work,” he said.
Two large sculptures, one aesthetically placed at the front and other at the very end of the exhibition, evoked a sense of light-hearted playfulness and humour tucked into its characters. Children skipping around and playing with cycle tyres, as animals graze and feed their little ones. The accuracy of the muddy waters and uneven land is accentuated by patterned textures and wiry webs running along the structures. Other sculptures showcase intimate and close moments between couples, children frolicking around the curved surfaces, a man mid-jump over the waters, a layered spiral of leaves and flower buds.
Another intriguing feature with Mrinal’s work was his distinct ability to capture light through clusters and display a sense of fluttering movements in stillness; from dragonflies nestled on leaves or gliding midway around this cluster, toads with big and observant eyes, or even little goats running around carefree. The placement of these pieces deserve appreciation as the studio light percolated in fragments through the pieces – a direct replica of sunlight trickling down the Sundarban marshes.
Mrinal spoke in Bengali, tears in his eyes and his feelings wrapping the audience in empathy through his emotive body language. Atreyee Bhatacharjee translated for the audience.
“The coconut trees, reflection in the waters, the mushy soils of the Sundarbans – were all such a wonderful part of my childhood. We used to listen to the radio by the riverside and just blissfully take in the melody. The love I had for these memories inspired me to pursue this dream into reality.”
mrinal kanti gayen
Sculpted, designed and curated over five years, ‘Tactile Memories’ is a representation of rhythm as Mrinal’s bioscope to his work. These pieces are reflections of life itself, for the artist. The works, titled Rhythm of Nature, Rhythm of Life, Rhythm of Light, and Rhythm of Moonlight imply the same.
Mrinal Kanti Gayen’s artworks have been displayed in several places, but he aspires to showcase more of them in South India in particular. Nature his muse, he aspires to explore myriad concepts over his career.