Line drawings of cityscapes and old buildings in water colours are now the stuff of school history texts. The ink and water colour series of Kolkata-based master illustrator Samir Biswas, on display in the capital, are documents for posterity.
Biswas, who sticks to art school basics of line drawing and realism, is showing his works at Gallery Windmill, owned by leading architect Pradeep Sachdeva, in Ayanagar, on the outskirts of Delhi. The show closes Oct 25. He is rated as one of the best line drawing artists in the country.
Line drawings are the toughest of all artistic genres to reproduce on paper for they require dexterity with lines, textures, feel for the ambience, spot drawing skills and geometric precision to convey the motions of life and the meticulous details of reality art.
Following the footsteps of Rathin Mitra, whose line drawings of Kolkata buildings and life in the metropolis graced many a newspaper and magazines for three decades between 70s and the 90s, Biswas captured the mobile soul of Mahanagar (big city) and its unique blend of the “old and the new” in his ink and water colour series titled the “Portrait of Kolkata”, some of which featured in mainline publications both at home and abroad.
Biswas, who worked as a graphic artist for the Kolkata-based ABP group that published the Ananda Bazar Patrika and The Telegraph, draws his subjects like a street corner artist – akin to a reporter dispatching from Ground Zero.
This gives his snapshots of the heritage landmarks and the old city squares of Kolkata – like the Park Street (before an overhead bypass was constructed to change the street’s built-scape), the busy Mahatma Gandhi Road in central Kolkata, façade of the Victoria Memorial – a lease of photographic life. The lines are rapid and fluid.
Biswas’ subjects are diverse – his ink quills and brushes travel from Chitpore Road, a colonial legacy, home to old trading houses, Muslim eateries, some dating back to the era of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, mosques, Hindu shrines and bustling markets, the fish markets of Mechua, Red Cross Place, Subodh Mullick Square, Nayanchand Dutta Street, Kulootala Street, the Muslim-dominated Jambazar to the elite Chowringhee, the scene of the bulk of his artistic action.
His portraits of the city are documents for posterity – a telling tale of a metropolis under siege by forces of globalisation like the realty sharks, builders, big brands and malls, which are eating into the history of the metropolis and its colonial soul.
Biswas, a Government Art College graduate, has seen Kolkata morph into a city of modern India. “I started sketching the city in the beginning of 1980s, when Kolkata began to change. My work at ABP ended at 3.30 p.m. and I went to neighbouring Dharamtalla with my sketchbook to draw the city on the move to the new millennium. The outdoor sessions lasted for an hour-and-a-half.
“The illustrations used to be published in the Kolkata Notebook column of The Statesman and the Hindustan Standard newspapers. My first album of Kolkata portraits was published in 1980,” Biswas told IANS at the Windmill Gallery.
Many of his prints are on permanent display at the prestigious CIMA Gallery in Kolkata, owned by Rakhi Sarkar.
Biswas, who is spending most of his time sketching heritage landmarks of Delhi, feels the new breed of contemporary artists have forgotten the art of pencil and line drawing – the rudiment of all artistic genres.
“I like contemporary abstractions, but black and monochrome lines on white paper look good. They can be preserved,” Biswas said.
The artist has also brought a separate section of water colours of the historic Murshidabad district of West Bengal and the countryside of the tea-growing north Bengal to the capital.