There is no direct reference to the popular Jagannath Temple in Puri in Tapan Dash’s solo show ‘Expressions of Inner Journeys’. But indirect references to one of the char-dham pilgrimages are abundant in the colourful figurative paintings. The elephants are a recurring motif and so are priests who can easily be identified by a broad patch of ‘tilak’ on their foreheads. An image of a goddess and walloping horses also appear in some of the canvases. The Delhi-based artist admits he has deliberately refrained from having a direct link. “The works are a recollection of my thoughts and what I observed in the temple. I have borrowed from my faded memories to create a body of works which also hints at a spiritual journey,” says Tapan.
Born in Puri, Tapan moved to Delhi in 1996 and since then has been using the canvas as a medium of expression. Usually, artists develop a thought first and then develop a narrative around it. But Tapan’s modus operandi is quite different. He lets the thought develop freely on his canvas, allowing them to come to life on their own.
“My paintings are rather spontaneous. I start working on a canvas without any thought. In fact, I start painting directly on the canvas. Unlike many artists, I don’t even make a drawing. My thoughts, emotions and concentration while I am painting are in tune with each other,” says the 47-year-old artist.
The 15 oil on canvas works are interspersed with the flowing unbroken lines of a Brahmin’s thread, the trunk of an elephant, the spout of a teapot, the hand of the Buddha, the smoke from a chillum, interweaving narrative aspects of personal and mythological significance. The curatorial note mentions that the hues of ‘gold, silver and opalescent paints create mystical pathways, almost imparting a sense of the cosmos and higher consciousness.
Scenes of breakfasting, siestas, offerings and pujas, all reminiscent of village life even in the present day have travelled repeatedly in his heart and mind on his journey to Delhi and his evolution as an artist.”
Journey on canvas
“In a way, these works also depict my personal journey. They are a bridge between my life in Delhi and Bhubaneswar. The elements like a cigar is a representation of a cosmopolitan city like Delhi, whereas animal figures are part of my growing up years,” he says.
Tapan wants viewers to draw their own inferences. The many elements offer clues to a world he inhabits and he hopes they can join the dots.
(Expressions of Inner Journeys can be viewed at M.E.C Art Gallery, Khan Market, New Delhi until August 14)