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echnology and Tagore are the two main staples that sustains Samit, feeds him with cerebral inputs and stimulates his psyche to create visual translations of the stormy ideas germinating at random in him with creative inputs. He gets into such mental hurricane at predictable intervals but manages to observe the flow around him while remaining at the eye of the storm, dead safe. One would be confronted with the task, rather difficult at times, of deciding what to praise his art for. Is it the image he manages to create at ease, or the technique developed in creating it, or perhaps his ability to immortalize fleeting moments of life and its near total absence in a busy metropolis.

Samit has cultivated his passion for photography to perfection and has sharpened his probing eyes to zoom in on to what would eventually emerge in his frame, pregnant with unusual messages, out of the mundane and often discarded trash of the society. Several years ago he stunned his viewers with a series of B&W takes on the homeless Delhiites forced to sleep in the open in winter. Rented piles of quilts, and randomly piled bodies of the poor multitude, seem to disappear under the shapeless quilts in search of elusive warmth. Composed and cropped and edited, and printed on archival paper with precision and care, the series easily conveyed the message of the cruel nights of Delhi in the winter and the plight of piled bodies trying to delve deep into the stitched quilts to stay alive.. The series of artist’s proofs, characterized by a near absence of pre-meditation, was as interesting a visual treat as was his series on the architecture of the Tagores in Santiniketan. Rabindranath’s enjoyable experiments with constructed space was used by Samit to take off with the conceptualized space of his own version, mostly mental as well as elemental.

His present series of discarded clay images of local deities retains these qualities and has gone a lot ahead in creating space for a muted satire on the society he grew in. These images in sun-dried clay, created for ritualistic offering, are remarkable for being truly life-like and even recognizable at times with known faces of the local society. There was a time when the inmates of the society took great pains to observe all the rituals associated with the deities under worship and then took it to the river for immersion in the water as prescribed in the books. The days have changed since then and the people today derive pleasure mostly by ignoring the same prescribed rituals and, more often than not, throw the worshipped images on the roadside to decay. Samit has found in those discarded images a collective shadow of the societal nosedive, from its solid foundation of religious self reliance to the depth of borrowed modernism of foreign origin. Through the lens of his camera the unusual anthropomorphism of the apparently life-less images emerges with stunning visuals and conveys the intended message of a pained humanity. The progressive decay of the clay images, and their weathered looks, acquires added dimension by the play of natural light. The visual angle chosen to capture the depraved moods has yielded him the right imagery and therein lies the mastery of Samit Das. He has a superb ability to position his camera always at the right angle and at the right time of the day to view the situation, pregnant with eloquent silence.There is a strange parallel between his photography and his paintings. His digitized images on archival paper appear more like paintings while his art on canvas appear to relly heavily on his photographer’s eyes, probing with concentrated emotion to click the right situation. While his lens-work generates static motion and ecstatic emotion, his painted images manage to draw his viewers into an world characterized by dehumanized urbanization.

A strange element of nocturnal calm pervades his painted space with a progressive loss of transparency more like a painted metaphor for urban Smog, inescapable and omnipresent. Under the haze of diffused illumination emerges his ‘eye-line’ to replace the usual sky-line of the city, in various shades of gray ranging between rusty reds and warm sepia. His skies seldom retains its lively blueness and, in one large canvas, he has painted the sky with an inky-blue in which the Industrial filth got solidified on the nocturnal sky. Sky-scrappers raise their gothic outlines aiming to stab the sky with its razor-sharp edges. The curious interplay of muted shadows and fading lights fill the cityscape to emphasise the dehumanization of urban architectural space. The artist in him seem to cry aloud on the civilized cruelty perpetrated on built-up apaces much against the concept of space Samit always admired at Santiniketan.

Not that he dislikes urban space altogether and has painted the same in many more instances with an enjoyable frame of mind and mood.Gothic savagery of urban sky-line is substituted in those canvases with a calculated abandon of angular space that manages to create an amusing visualization of the city in which life and death, growth and decay, emotion and frustration, joyful celebration and suspended animation are curiously metamorphosed in and as simple elements of pyramidal forms viewed upside down. Painted mostly in black and white, and in shades of thoughtful gray, his ‘eyeline’ series of canvases elevates the inert cityscape into metaphysical essays on human civilization that is characterized by its latent spirit of growth out of chaos, of emergence of life amidst the opposing forces of construction and destruction.

Art of Samit does hardly remain limited towards achieving just that.It appears, in not a few of his works, as an organic evolution of image making that owes its origin to his passion for technological advancement in mechanized image-making. His extensive use of laser-engraving in this present series has yielded a curious element of deliberate alienation and the resultant visual appearance has blended well with his intended vision of the city viewed as a passive crusader. He has seldom limited himself with using paint and brush alone and-loves to incorporate dimensional additives to create his ‘collages’ as a visual metaphor for the ‘city’ in which numerous forces work together at any point of time. His photographed images are etched on acrylic sheets and are collaged with images painted over on yet another and transparent sheet, emphasizing the anemic shilluette of his intended cityscape. The end result speak eloquently about his matured sense of artistry, contemporary and hard-edged with a palpable feel of life in life-less. I like to believe, noticing his vertical rise in artistic skill and command over his idiosyncratic visual language, that few will fail to recognize his dedication.

ARUN GHOSE

Kolkata.

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