How Vinita Dasgupta Put India on the Global Map With Her ‘Pop Meets Folk’ ArtworksCreators And Collectors
Global in appeal, but with a heart that’s truly Indian, is a good way to describe Delhi-based artist Vinita Dasgupta’s art. Having received international acclaim at a young age, Vinita has unified her love for pop culture, folk art and the abstract in her pieces, through her love for experimentation and a sensitive perception of her surroundings.
(Vinita Dasgupta standing next to her artwork, 'Storyteller - Let Me Fly!')
An Early Love for Art
Born in Kolkata, Vinita Dasgupta’s childhood was spent between the City of Joy and her grandmother’s village in Bengal. Although her family moved around a lot because of her father’s job, growing up in a traditional Bengali house meant that Vinita was culturally inclined since a young age, having trained in classical dance, while always being artistic.
Vinita remembers she started painting at the age of five. Her parents always supported her love for art and never stopping her from scribbling, even when she did it on their books! “My father constantly bought foolscap paper, brushes and colours for me, and my mother, who is very knowledgeable about art, guided me” says Vinita. An understanding of colours came to her naturally, as did composition and design, so choosing a career in a creative field was an obvious choice.
“While growing up, I was fond of fashion designing, but ended up becoming an artist,” she shares. Vinita completed her Masters in Fine Arts from the College of Art, New Delhi, and her art career began soon after that.
(When Cloth Speaks by Vinita Dasgupta, 2009)
The Confluence of Pop and Indian Traditional Art
Vinita Dasgupta’s earliest artworks show heavy influences of Pop Art, as she tried to depict how pop culture was overtaking Indian tradition and culture. A lover of black and white movies, she also created many works influenced by Bollywood. Vinita enjoyed blending pop art with traditional Indian art styles, evident in her somewhat abstract and kitschy compositions of film stars and her numerous self-portraits.
(Left: Bang the Dabang, 2011; Right: Let's Play Monroe, 2011)
As her artistic journey went on, Vinita matured and delved into deeper layers, becoming recognized for the use of a particularly complex technique in creating her works.
Uniqueness of Technique
A look at Vinita Dasgupta’s more ‘known’ works of art, and what stands out is the uniqueness of it. One is left wondering how she creates the collage-style artworks, using what she describes as the ‘rolled canvas technique’. Intricate and time consuming, it gives her artworks a 3D look. Vinita starts by drawing her composition on a canvas. She then prepares her tiny collage materials by printing or painting on another canvas, and then cutting them into small pieces and rolling them, before pasting them on the canvas with the original drawing.
The technique originated ‘accidentally’ while experimenting in 2010, after Vinita visited Raghurajpur for an art camp - a small village in Orissa, known for Pattachitra art. Inspired by the local folk artists and their depiction of mythological stories, she returned to Delhi and began experimenting with different mediums. A year later, she finally developed this signature style which has earned her much fame in India and abroad.
('Katha' by Vinita Dasgupta)
Since 2010, Vinita Dasgupta has made around 60-70 artworks using this method, spending between 2-5 months on each piece! “Making an artwork using this technique, is like solving a puzzle. It is a very challenging process, and I enjoy that,” says Vinita, about what keeps her motivated for such long periods of time.
The Storyteller Series
Vinita Dasgupta’s best known artworks, made in her signature style, are from the Storyteller series, which she first began working on in 2011. “Storyteller” is her way of recounting the stories from her childhood, told by her grandmother. “My grandmother was a strong woman who migrated from Bangladesh to India. She raised her family single-handedly, and has always been my inspiration. She was my storyteller, telling me about the beautiful places of her childhood, and the local art she grew up with”, recalls Vinita.
('Storyteller - LLXI' by Vinita Dasgupta)
The artworks in the Storyteller series appear at first glance, to be a pop-art inspired tribute to old cinema, music legends and classical dancers, but when you look closely, they are also a homage to Indian folk art and Hindu mythology, reminiscent of the innumerable storybooks Vinita read as a child, and her exposure to traditional art forms while growing up. The subtle use of blue, amidst powerful black and white canvasses splashed occasionally with red and yellow, is her tribute to Lord Shiva, of whom she is a devotee.
('Storyteller II' by Vinita Dasgupta)
The series feature a lot of iconic, strong women from different backgrounds, and Vinita explains why. “The women in my family are very strong headed and inspiring, so portraying strong female characters comes naturally to me. I also portray male personalities, but I’m naturally drawn to strong female characters such as Marilyn Monroe, who I frequently depicted in my works,” she admits.
The Climb to Success
Vinita Dasgupta remembers selling a big artwork for just Rs. 5,000 during her college exhibition, which gave her the confidence to move forward. And she has come a long way since then, finding success not just in India, but around the world. Working with renowned international galleries, Vinita’s clientele is spread across Europe, the US, and India. Works from her Storyteller series have even found place at museums.
She recalls a fond memory from her exhibition at a gallery in Lisbon, Portugal. “I had a solo show, and around 600 people showed up for the opening! There was a huge crowd, with hardly any walking space. People were taking my autograph and interviewing me, it was such a fabulous experience! That day, I felt like a star, not an artist – it’s an experience I will always remember”, she recalls.
(Photo of Vinita Dasgupta by Vijay Pandey; Image Source: artblogazine.com)
At just 33 years of age, Vinita Dasgupta has already done a lot to put India on the map with her bold, young art that has so much to say about culture and globalisation. What makes her artworks so captivating is that they are never just one story. They are each multiple tales and tellers, wrapped into her carefully constructed layers. The longer you look at Vinita’s artworks, the deeper they get, and soon all the storytellers become noticeable one by one - the characters she portrays, her grandmother, and Vinita herself, the most poignant of all.