An untitled painting shows a man in the act of murder armed with a fish cutter,he is about to bring his hand down on his wife. This painting,by artists of Kalighat in south Kolkata,looks back at the infamous Elokeshi murder case of 1873 when a man hacked his 16-year-old wife,Elokeshi,to death. The work is a part of an exhibition titled Kalighat Recreated II being held at Arts of the Earth gallery in Lado Sarai. The works by patua artists of Kolkata reflect their keen observation of daily life with a grim sense of humour, says Meena Varma,director of the gallery.
Varma has sourced the art works from patua artists,and most displays are only 20 years old. The exhibition,however,throws light on this popular art form of Bengal. Kalighat paintings witnessed its golden years from the mid-19th century to the 1920s. These were produced by the painters,who lived near Kalighat temple,for devotees to take back as souvenirs. Patua is a community in West Bengal,whose traditional occupation is scroll painting,image making and other decorative work.
Characterised by their rhythmic strokes and superior brushwork,the paintings on display shed light on the contemporary life in Bengal that were often satirical. Though they started on a religious note,the Kalighat paintings became quite popular because of its strong social themes later on, says Varma. In a painting,Europeanised Babu,a babu can be seen trying to imitate Englishmen. The babu in a dhoti and a coat with a stopwatch in his hand is just one of their attempts to show how he was trying not to be too Indian.
The exhibition is on display at Art of the Earth,Lado Sarai,till June 24.