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Bold colours, rich imagery, and layered strokes mark the exceptionally striking work of Kolkata based artist, JIBAN BISWAS. Growing up in the midst of lush greenery in the heart of Bengal, it is not surprising that the artist’s work represents his deep connection to the countryside. His paintings bring out his love for animals, and subtly reflect his bewilderment with the complexities of urban life. In an intimate conversation, the emerging artist reveals much about his work, inspirations and thoughts on the art world today.
(Painting by Jiban Biswas titled 'Relation 2')
How did your tryst with art begin?
Art has always had a role to play in my life. I grew up 20 minutes away from Santiniketan, the hub of art, culture and heritage in Eastern India. The inspiring atmosphere there drew me towards art, especially as I came across many talented artists and their works. When I was 7 or 8 years old, I began helping my uncle with making pratimas (idols) of Maa Durga, which was another inspiration. I started painting in 2001, and eventually came to Kolkata to study art at the prestigious Government College of Art and Craft. I’ve been painting for 15 years now.
(Painting by Jiban Biswas titled 'Relationships')
Animals feature a lot in your work, especially the cow. Is there any specific reason for this?
My art represents my thoughts and experiences. Animals are familiar to me since I grew up in a rural environment. My paintings feature a lot of cattle. Because my home was along the river, cranes and crocodiles feature as well. The 'cow' is special to me. It represents the ordinary man – simple and unsophisticated, trying to keep up with modernity.
(Painting by Jiban Biswas titled 'Nostalgia 3')
What themes do you pursue in your work?
My paintings are an attempt to reflect the changes in lifestyle and relationships brought about by modernization. Therefore, nostalgia plays an important part in my work; a reminder of simpler times.
(Painting by Jiban Biswas titled 'Emotional Attachment 5')
What is the significance of the motifs in your paintings – the designs on the figures that you paint?
The figures of animals or humans that I paint have ‘tattoos’ or motifs on them. These tattoos are significant because we are not born with them, yet they reflect a lot about us. I look at them as ‘masks’, giving us a new identity. Religion is the same as well. No one is born with a religion, but society thrusts upon us a ‘religious mask’, and we hold onto that stamp until the end.
(Painting by Jiban Biswas titled 'Relation 1')
Who are your inspirations?
Ganesh Pyne and Vikas Bhattacharya are two Indian artists I really look up to. I have pictures in my studio of great international artists and their artworks, like Picasso and Dali. They are big sources of motivation and inspiration as well.
What does it mean to be an artist in India today?
I consider myself fortunate to be an artist and I love what I do. But being an artist in India today is not an easy task. Majority of art in India is made keeping interior decoration in mind. This not only changes the entire process of producing art, but also takes away the very essence of artistic expression. Earlier, a good piece of art work would take years to finish – but today to meet the demands of customers, “emergency works” are created by artists, which lose out tremendously on originality and perfection.
(Painting by Jiban Biswas titled 'Emotional Attachment 2')
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a series called the 'Cosmic Cow' – a representation of urban life in cities. My subject is the cow, seen in these paintings with headphones, tattoos and piercings, almost having acquired a new, modern identity!
(Jiban Biswas working on his new series, titled 'Cosmic Cow')
What plans are in store for you?
I aim to keep painting and maybe also venture into sculpting someday. But as of now, I am a full-time painter. I teach at the Birla Academy of Art and Culture twice a week, and hopefully will continue to do so. It is my way of giving back to the art industry.
Explore a collection of the talented Jiban Biswas's paintings on Artisera.
(Jiban Biswas with his wife)
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