Born in 1979 in West Bengal, Mrinal Dey completed his bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts (BFA) with a specialization in Painting, and his master’s degree (MFA) from Indira Kala Sangeet University, Chhattisgarh, in 2005 and 2007, respectively. Dey’s paintings are a satirical commentary about the self-inflicted trappings of modern life. The central figure, always outsized, symbolizes over-consumption and the acute sense of loneliness caused by consumerism. As the artist confronts the socio-cultural conflicts of our times through his paintings, the central figure is depicted in a manner that is eerily grotesque and yet identifiably human. At the same time, there is a surrealist overtone to his paintings, as dreams seem to flit in and out of the minds of the central figures. These figures, with their cold hard stares, transfix the viewer by sending a jolt of simultaneous awe and repulsion in them. Mrinal Dey, through his evocative art, raises questions about the present-day commodification of almost all people and objects, including art.
Dey believes that art cannot be apolitical, that it must have a specified standpoint. However, he does not want his art to be constrained under the labels of ‘radical’ or ‘anti-establishment’. The colours used, bold enough to stand out against the textured backgrounds, are an influence of the folk style of painting prevalent in his native state. Every element of Mrinal Dey’s artwork is a part of its narrative, including the empty spaces. In some paintings, the viewer is confronted by a man crouched inside a box, uncomfortably, trying to fit into a constrained space, symbolic perhaps of contemporary society. He attempts to expand his space on the limited canvas, yet, at the same time, seems to comment on the lack of it. Through the prism of artistic symbolism, Dey wittily reveals the fallouts of the contemporary world, usually disguised under capitalistic agendas.
Mrinal Dey is a recipient of several national and international awards including the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, New York, 2010; the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant, Montreal, Canada, 2008; ‘China Government Scholarship’, H.R.D. New Delhi, India, 2008, and a cash award from All India Fine Arts and Craft Society (A.I.F.A.C.S.) New Delhi, India, 2006, amongst others. He had held solo exhibitions at Gallery Beyond, Mumbai in 2017, Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi in 2016, and Ganges Art Gallery, Kolkata in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Dey has also participated in several group exhibitions and residencies across India, including the Kochi Biennale Residency Show, 2018-19 and at the Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai in 2011. The artist lives and works in Santiniketan, West Bengal.
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