In conversation with Aditi Chakravarty who is an extraordinary painter and also a classical dancer. She has received numerous awards for her remarkable and detailed paintings. Her work mostly interprets the essence of nature and its glory. She has received many awards like the Best Entry Award in Professional Category, All India Exhibition of Art Society of India, Mumbai. In 2019, she received the Gold Medal for painting in the professional category from the Art Society of India, Mumbai. She has had a long extensive career undertaking solo exhibitions, group exhibitions, joint exhibitions and group exhibitions. Her artwork has been showcased in countries like Bangladesh, Italy, Germany, New York, etc.
In a recent conversation with melange, she talks about her journey in the world of art.
- Please tell us about your childhood.
Ans: My childhood was like any other child, full of energy and playfulness. I was very artistic – I loved sketching, painting and dancing. Since my father was a poet, most often our house was full of people. Artists like painters, writers, and poets, etc would visit us often, which gave us siblings an opportunity to showcase our artwork to renowned people and receive guidance from them. During those days, we didn't have access to mobile phones; we grew up amidst nature, not technology and that was the best part of our lives. Our house being in the hillside was in between greenery so it was natural to be adapted to nature. I was inclined towards art ever since my childhood and the inclination became my profession.
Please tell us about your educational journey.
Ans: Initially I studied in TC school. TC school had a subject called fine arts and my love and interest for art was persistent ever since. I had come to know about Government Art College and I had a plan to join it since the very beginning. Meanwhile, I was learning Bharatnatyam under Pushpa Bhuyan's guidance. My dad had told me to choose one in between art and dance but I knew I loved the two equally, hence I did both. I appeared for the entrance exam in Government Art College and cleared the exams. I continued dance as well. After joining Art College, I came in close contact with artists and received immense guidance and support. Right after that, I had my first exhibition in Delhi that gave me an opportunity to travel out of station. I learnt versatile things during my college days, I was in print making where I learnt lithography, etching, woodcut. During the first two years we had to study everything right from painting, sculpture, drawing, applied art, designing but in my 3rd year I took up graphic arts (print making) as my specialisation. I was taught print making under the guidance of Ajit Singh and Dilip Tamuly in there. I saw a different world in Delhi; the exhibitions were full of people appreciating art, something one wouldn't find in Guwahati in those days. We later went to Bombay after completing graduation to showcase our paintings when a few were bought by foreigners abroad too.
- What were the problems you faced as an artist in the initial days of your career?
Ans: I remember that most often we didn't have money. Either, we would earn really less or nothing at all. Often, the problem lies in the fact that the same lobby keeps receiving sponsorship and aid – be it cultural or entertainment, so artists like painters and sculptors don't get platform or financial support. Despite asking organisations for sponsorship or funding we hardly received any response from them. But, we never lost hope; we often sent our paintings to competitions, after selections our paintings were showcased in exhibitions and some even bought by people. We keep doing our work, no matter what be the shortcomings in terms of support or finance because after all the show must go on. Our job is to create an atmosphere to appreciate and recognize art. I recall the days when the State Art Gallery wasn't here. Our art Gallery was dormant for many years, hence we collectively decided to protest on the streets because we didn't even have a gallery to showcase our art work and later we succeeded on getting one.
- Both you and your husband are artists, would you like to shed some light onto your journey?
Ans: I knew my husband since Art College but we were just acquaintances. After graduation, we worked on some projects together. We would visit artists and pen down their journey together. We had planned on working on some documentation together. We used to visit Shobha Brahma sir's house, look at his paintings, talk and that's how we started spending more time together. Slowly we started feeling comfortable with each other and we decided to get married in 2002. Belonging to the same profession, we don't have a set particular time to discuss art, we can do it anywhere and anytime. We have an immense understanding and respect for each other's profession and the weight that comes with it. For instance, subtle things like not disturbing one another if we have been working the whole night are understood by both.
What were your parents' contributions with regards to your unconventional career choices?
Ans: My father went missing in the year 1994. He left for some work one evening in 1994 and till date we have no information about him. Without him, it was just the three of us. With my mother being a house wife, the unexpected turn of events forced her to become independent and take responsibility. My brother joined a newspaper as a freelance photographer right after his graduation. I too worked as a teacher in the School of fine arts since a long time. My father loved us a lot, and I knew that this situation was not a point to breakdown but to gather ourselves together and abide by him. He did a lot for us and if we are the result of it, we cannot spoil ourselves. We looked for him wherever we could, my brother went all the way to Nepal to search for him but whether he was abducted or he left, none knows. Every time I focus on creative work, most of my emotions sway away. He's writings are with us, and I find him there. My mother's contribution was equally important; she has taken care of everything around me during my absence. She gave me the freedom to work by taking charge of other responsibilities.
What inspires you to paint?
Ans: Initially, I started off doing figurative and narrative work. I used to get inspired by the work of my mentors. It was in around 1997-1998, despite being inspired by my teachers and trying to inculcate their work into mine, I still lived in my own dream world. I kept doing lithography etc and everyone appreciated my work until I started realising that there is something missing in my paintings. If I draw an eye, the empty background resembles limitation to me. I started focusing on the background as well, the plasticity of nature, the texture of flora, fauna and so on. It is easier for people to accept art when it is natural, not artificial. It is a challenge to bring the essence of nature in a painting that is a meagre recreation. I never stopped working, I kept moving forward. I am still learning one after another.
How do you manage to be a dancer and painter both?
Ans: Fine art and Classical Dance has a strong and deep connection. Dance is a physical and mental mode of expression; one finds a lot of things in it like movement, lines and geometrical form. The same is in art too, for painting one uses colour but for dance one uses movement.
Would you like to discuss the present day scenario of Painters in our society?
Ans: There are two circumstances to consider here. Firstly, the artists are doing their job but who is responsible for the welfare of artists? The Government should understand this. Artists will keep doing their jobs whatever it takes but it is the responsibility of the Government to provide them with a platform. Except Assam, every other State has seen some sort of progression and consideration by the Government. Especially visual arts, there has been zero investment in this field. This is an injustice for the Artist fraternity. This is happening because the people in lead are not interested in investing in art. Most of them don't understand the value of art. The prime focus of tourism in France and most countries is Art gallery but it is not given any significance here.
According to you, how can we solve this problem?
Ans: The educational system needs to recognize the value of art and incorporate it in the study structure. I also feel that it is important that qualified people from different places be brought here and trained to teach art. Even if we really want to showcase contemporary art, we have nothing to show. Though, people have personal art galleries, there has been no input made to safeguard the art and paintings on part of the Government. Artists like Pulak Gogoi, Nirupam Bora, etc have so many paintings and no place to store them, but still no effort have been made to take care of our own possessions. Artists go and execute their own shows in different places but there is no funding, support or sponsorships from official organisations. I remember doing an exhibition with Monika Devi and Prabin Kumar that lasted for 50 days at Rabindra Bhawan. It included dance, art exhibitions, public talk shows etc and continued from 24th August 2015-12th October 2015. One has to have the zeal to do it, one can do anything and everything.