Artist Pratul Dash’s works feature the impact of urbanisation and visual metaphor of the human-Nature conflict. He tells Medha Dutta that his art touches on issues such as migration and displacement of the self. His recent exhibition, ‘The Twilight Zone’, was showcased at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. Excerpts from the interview:
What do you wish to communicate through your paintings?
My goal this time is to sensitise people to the environmental dangers we are facing. If my art can affect even five to ten people, and get them to understand and make a difference, it will be worth it. Earlier, my works were quite edgy, but this time around I’m using pure aesthetics to say what I want.
Your work this time reflects Nature a lot.
Yes, I have used a lot of Nature elements in this series. Many of the paintings feature starry skies, with a lot of movement in them, reflective of a twilight zone that I wanted to capture.
Some of your art works look straight out of Salvador Dali’s world.
You can say that a bit of surrealism is reflected in my work. Though Dali was entirely different. He painted his dreams, while my art is based on my reaction to society—whether they are climatic changes or mindless operations. Mindless growth is a concern that we
need to address.
What do you fear the most as an artist?
Like I said earlier, mindless growth. For example, Johannesburg has water to last them only till the first half of April. Bengaluru is next on the list according to the World Health Organisation. I find this immensely frightening.
Identify one work among these which you think defines your vision the most.
Definitely the painting titled ‘Saving for the Future’. It is like a documentary. One of the most evocative paintings in the series are set against a vivid yellow background. I’m the protagonist with a mask which looks like a mix of a tiger and an owl. This painting symbolises the tenuousness of the hold we have on nature’s vanishing bounty.
What do the butterflies and birds in your paintings show?
The butterflies on my canvas are flying not because they are happy but because they are disturbed. In a painting that depicts birds in flight on a closer look shows they are actually falling. Through such images, I want to portray the state of Nature as it is today.
Blue is a pre-dominant colour used in your works.
Previously, my paintings used to have grey tones a lot. This palette was meant to depict the ‘grey areas’ in life. Just like individuals evolve, so do painting styles. I see the colour blue as a representation of my thoughts. It is also linked to the idea of romanticism in me.
What is on the cards for the near future?
I have completed quite a body of work, but the paintings could not be exhibited here this time due to lack of space. A solo sometime next year is in the pipeline.
Had you not been a painter... I would have been a chef
Artists you would like to have a cup of coffee with. Frida Kahlo, Claude Monet, and Marina Abramovic
Favourite Indian artist. Nainsukh
Who has most inspired you? My art professor in Italy
A work of art that has stayed with you. Pablo Picasso’s Guernica